L’Europe sociale mérite plus que de la communication…

Mardi 7 Novembre 2017

Lettre ouverte au groupe S&D sur le pilier des droits sociaux

Mardi 7 novembre dernier, j’adressais aux membres du groupe S&D une lettre ouverte, co-signée par de nombreux collègues de la commission de l’Emploi et des Affaires sociales, pour contribuer au débat sur le pilier social.

Brussels, 7 November 2017
Dear colleagues,

As you will have learnt, the negotiating teams of the three institutions reached a
deal last Friday on the text for the inter-institutional proclamation on a European
Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR). This proclamation is to be made in the context of
the forthcoming Social Summit in Göteborg, 17 November 2017.
While any positive move in the direction of a stronger Social Europe is always
good to make, it is worth to strike a serious note of caution before our Group,
and our political family, join the celebration of the EPSR, and it is important to
keep our heads clear.
It is equally important to assess this development and our best attitude to it in
the context of the forthcoming European elections. One year and a half away
from the vote, we need an assertive, vocal and clear political strategy of our own,
through which we embody the progressive alternative to conservatism
Let’s indeed not forget that the proclamation will be made by three leading
members of the EPP family – Jean-Claude Juncker, Donald Tusk, and Antonio
Tajani. We should not be naive, but lucid. They will use this moment to position
themselves as the defenders of a social Europe, to fill in Jean-Claude Juncker’s
empty triple A social agenda and despite the fact that this Commission has so far
had very limited initiative in the social field, and despite an EPP Group constantly
obstructing our best efforts to take social rights further in the European
We should not have a short memory. The dire management of the financial crisis,
through which brutal austerity provoked a double-dip recession, threw many
million Europeans unnecessarily into long term unemployment, and made poverty
and social exclusion explode across Europe, is primarily to be attributed to an
EPP-led European Commission under José Manuel Barroso and to an EPP-affiliated
German Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schäuble. If Social Europe today is in such a
poor state, it is largely the responsibility of the EPP family.
A careful analysis of what the EPSR is, and what it is not, is necessary before
undue enthusiasm takes over in our ranks. The EPSR is not a Social Protocol
annexed to the Treaties, as we have been calling for so long, and today there is
no evidence to support the idea that the Pillar would later on be transformed into
a Protocol. Furthermore, what would be the value added of this, as the principles
included in the Pillar are essentially already in the Treaty and in the Charter. The
EPSR is not a new set of social rights. The EPSR does, in itself, not create any
legal progress for Social Europe. The Pillar is essentially a recuperation of social
principles and rights already contained in politically and legally more important
texts – the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and the Charter of
Fundamental Rights.
The contested paragraph 14 in the preamble inserts a complete firewall between
the principles and rights, and their possible legal enforcement: “For them to be
legally enforceable, the principles and rights first require dedicated measures or
legislation to be adopted at the appropriate level”. The EPSR falls very much
short of the EP resolution voted in December 2016. In its paragraph 1, the
resolution demands that the EPSR should not be “limited to a declaration of
principles or good intentions but reinforces social rights through concrete and
specific tools (legislation, policy-making mechanisms and financial
instruments)…”. However, this is what has been agreed, leading in essence to a
proclamation of rights pre-existing since years in more important texts.
The EPSR illustrates well the political trap we need to get out of as social
democrats, following the termination of the grand coalition. One year and a half
away from the European elections, we need an assertive, vocal and clear political
strategy of our own, through which we embody the progressive alternative to
conservatism. Uncritically joining a political choir dominated by EPP voices may
not be the best way to achieve this.
Instead, we should remain critical in the face of this exercise of political
communication led by conservatives. We should insist on the fact that Europe
needs far more than political communication in the social field, at a time of still
high unemployment, extreme levels of poverty unseen in decades, and rising
inequalities. Instead of spending a full three years of this mandate to arrive at
such a proclamation, the institutions should have invested this precious time in
strengthening workers’ rights in actual legislation and reinforcing policies and
instruments to fight poverty and reverse inequalities. This is the message an
assertive and engaged S&D Group should be heard by.

Co-signed by:
– Anderson Lucie
– Arena Maria
– Balas Guillaume
– Berès Pervenche
– Bayet Hugues
– Cofferati Sergio
– Denanot Jean-Paul
– Ertug Ismail
– Gebhardt Evelyne
– Gomes Ana
– Graswander-Hainz Karoline
– Kaili Eva
– Köster Dietmar
– Krehl Constanze
– Martin Edouard
– Mavrides Costas
– Massimo Paolucci
– Panzeri Pier Antonio
– Pirinski Georgi
– Regner Evelyn
– Rozière Virginie
– Sant Alfred
– Schlein Elly
– Steinruck Jutta
– Tang Paul
– Tarabella Marc
– Ward Julie
– Zanonato Flavio