European Commission President-designate Jean-Claude Juncker said on Tuesday (15 July) that he would work towards the introduction of a minimum social wage in each member state of the EU.
Addressing the European Parliament before a vote to confirm his appointment, Juncker announced, “All countries in the European Union, we set in place a minimum social wage, a minimum income, a guaranteed minimum income.”
He has previously said he favours each EU country setting a minimum wage as a proportion of its own median income, which varies widely between Luxembourg at the top, and Romania and Bulgaria at the bottom.
In comments designed to win over centre-left lawmakers, the centre-right former Luxembourg prime minister also vowed to protect public services in Europe from what he called “the whims of the age” – an apparent reference to privatisation and restrictions on state aid.
France has long spearheaded the campaign for the introduction of a European minimum wage. In a report called “Methods for the introduction of European norms for a minimum wage,” the Treasury’s General Directorate, which works under the Economic Ministry, put forward several proposals on how this could be achieved.
Out of the 28 EU member states, only seven do not have a legal minimum wage: Cyprus, Austria, Denmark, Finland, Italy and Sweden. In Germany, an agreement has been reached between Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU party and the Socialist Party (SPD).
Minimum wages in the EU vary considerably, the French report noted. These differences are linked to disparities in quality of life and productivity between the countries of the European Union. In Western European countries, the minimum monthly salaries in 2014 are approximately €1,200 gross. In the southern countries, it varies between €600 and €800, whereas in Eastern Europe, the figure is closer to €400.
At the moment, it is not possible for European legislation to intervene in matters of salary. Paragraph 5 of article 153 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) prohibits the EU from adopting legislation on pay.
While Germany's grand coalition finally produced a draft agreement over introducing minimum wage, other EU member states have been calling for an EU-wide wage floor.
French socialists, for example, believe Europe should be more uniform on labour policy and see the German measure as a step in the right direction.
Employment and jobs has been a central issue throughout the European election campaign. According to Eurostat, the unemployment rate in the EU was 10.7% of the population in December 2013 with 26.2 million unemployed. This figure is in line with those of 2012.
Within the eurozone, unemployment rate rose from 11.7% to 12.0% in one year. Youth unemployment is a major concern of the European Union. In 2013, it reached 23.5% for those under 25. In the eurozone, youth unemployment is 24% for those under 25.
- 15 July: Parliament formally approves Juncker as next Commission President.
- 16 July: EU leaders meet in Brussels to discuss candidates to succeed Herman Van Rompuy as Council President and Catherine Ashton as EU foreign policy chief.