According to Paul Magnette, the social pillar of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) must be strengthened with a proposal for a European minimum wage, "even though we are not going to set the same minimum wage level across Europe".
Paul Magnette is a Belgian politician (Socialist) who began his career as a professor of political science at the Free University of Brussels (ULB). He was Federal Minister for Climate, Energy and Environment (2007-2011) and Minister of Public Enterprises (2011-2013). He is now mayor of Charleroi.
He was speaking to EurActiv’s publisher and editor, Frédéric Simon.
European leaders this year launched a reform of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), to give it a more "social" dimension. This process is expected to conclude with proposals at the European Council in December, what are your expectations?
It is a great thing but we have now been trying since thirty years to correct the asymmetry we created in 1986-87 with the Single European Act, which was exacerbated by the way we built the economic and Monetary Union (EMU), without a political and economic pillar in 1991-92, with the Maastricht Treaty .
The Amsterdam Treaty has already redressed this a little, and there are some interesting things in the Lisbon Treaty, so I hope we can still get a number of things done this time. But honestly, I would not say it's a plaster on a wooden leg, but the progress made are tiny compared to what needs to be done in order to truly re-balance the European project .
Okay, but in practice?
We really need to move forward on the European minimum wage, it is extremely important, and Mr Andor made a proposal in this direction. Although we will not secure the same level of minimum wages across Europe, at least it establishes the idea that a minimum wage is needed, just like one century ago, a debate had to be founded on the fact that a progressive tax was necessary. And that should allow organising some form of convergence.
Just as there was a “snake in the tunnel” for the single currency, there would be a snake for wages?
Yes, for example. I also believe – although this is a fairly technical discussion – that the Directive on the posting of workers needs to be reviewed. It does not sufficiently allow member states to perform checks, monitor, and ensure that there is compliance with the rules of the country in which workers operate.
Last question, there is a super-poll in Belgium next year with both European, federal and regional elections. Assuming that the socialists make a good score, would you see yourself coming back to Brussels, maybe this time at the European Commission?
No, because I am committed to working to recover my good city of Charleroi and I want to keep to my commitments. Although I am very attached to Europe and I hope one day that I will be able to devote myself to Europe, but not in 2014.