On October 3, Germany celebrated its 28th anniversary of reunification. As a Western German, a ‘Wessi’, I remember very well the fall of the Berlin Wall, my instant travel to Eastern Germany to meet with my Eastern German friends. But even after 28 years, divergences between the East and the West are still strongly felt. Eastern Germany is lagging behind economically, and some areas still suffer from major brain drain of young people. Not few there still feel as second class citizens.
When we compare that to the integration in the EU, it goes without saying that we are too impatient. The latest enlargement took place in 2013, and yet we expect the EU to be the most homogenous and happy club, with common views on how to achieve an ‘ever closer Union’. Clearly, this is not the case.
Given its heterogeneity, the EU lives of compromises, of respect and of empathy at all levels – between the EU level and the member states, between the South and North, the East and the West. This, however, becomes increasingly tricky when we think of sensible issues such as taxation, migration, austerity measures or breaches of the Union’s liberal democratic values. In these cases, finding compromises or showing respect and empathy for the viewpoints of others seems difficult, as it leads to having to reconsider own core principles and identities.
Often, we only like the EU when we can ‘impose’ our way of living and thinking on others. Then we fight for the ‘ever closer Union’ and consider ourselves as good Europeans. The moment someone else’s idea may get imposed on us we speak of intrusion, we scourge the bureaucratic monster in Brussels for its unworldliness, we call for more solidarity and the respect of (our) values, and we speak of subsidiarity, brandishing our endangered identity against bloodthirsty ‘eurocrats’.
We should be aware that compromises are not a sign of weakness but that compromise means respect and equality, that it precludes submission, that it is needed if we want the EU to survive.
Last Sunday, October 7, was International Decent Work Day. Taking its roots in Article 7 of the UN’s International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, just and favourable work conditions should be ensured for everyone.
Those include fair and equal wages, safe and healthy working conditions, equal opportunities, a limitation of working hours, and adequate holidays. In the light of the 20 principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights, solemnly proclaimed by the Council of the EU, the European Parliament and the Commission on November 17 2017, the need to ‘deliver’ “fair working conditions” is more urgent than ever.
CESI has continuously and consequently ‘seized’ these principles – through a plethora of advocacy initiatives, projects and conferences on core labour rights, adequate social protection and effective interest representation for all workers. According to CESI, ‘all workers count’, and in the EU’s common market a basic level-playing field in employment and social affairs is essential to prevent competition and race-to-the-bottoms between Member States at the expense of workers. European minimum standards should apply for everyone, be it on information and consultation rights, posting conditions, paternity leave rights or working time.
This ‘seizure’ is part of our daily work. Not only on October 7. Because decent work is a human right.
Picture: Klaus Heeger © CESI 2018