In search of social Europe ‘in practice’ at Porto summit

Costa said at the first social summit, the trade unions were not even at the table but at a demonstration outside. [EPA-EFE/MARIO CRUZ]

Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa hopes that the Social Summit in Porto on Friday will be a milestone in the EU history with the achievement of a general agreement subscribed by European institutions and, for the first time, social partners.

“If we succeed at the Social Summit to obtain for the first time a compromise in which the Council and the Commission sign an agreement with the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), with Business Europe, which is the association of European SIBS, with the confederation of European small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), with the confederation of general services companies, then it will be the first time in the EU history that there is a general agreement bringing together all social partners and European institutions,” Costa told Lusa in an interview.

Costa said at the first social summit, the trade unions were not even at the table but at a demonstration outside.

“This time, we will all be at the summit, on Friday afternoon, heads of state and government, trade union leaders, business leaders, members of civil society, academics, on the different panels, in an open, transparent and frank discussion about what the future of social Europe should be,” Costa said.

Lisbon hopes to achieve a common declaration of support or political endorsement of the European Commission’s action plan.

“The European Commission presented the action plan which was subject to public discussion and launched it. Now we have the opportunity for the social partners to be able to say not only that they agree, but also to sign a document in which they commit themselves to support the implementation of the action plan.”

Asked about the social issues that are left out of the Social Summit, Costa said that there is a set of legislative initiatives that the Commission has already put on public debate, namely the directive on the reconciliation of family and personal life and the minimum wage.

“In some of them, there is a big divergence between the member states. But those will not be discussed at this summit. At the summit we will discuss the action plan. These are following their own rhythm, their own debate in the Council’s own bodies, more specifically in the Labour and Social Affairs Council”, he said.

On the issue of the minimum wage, he said some of the member states that oppose the directive are not doing so because they are against the minimum wage.

“They are opposed because the minimum wage is imposed by law or may come to be imposed by law, which is the case in the Nordic countries. The Nordics certainly have a more advanced social model, but they have principles. For them, the State cannot intervene in the social dialogue between the partners to fix the minimum wage”.

In other words, for António Costa, the issue of the directive on the minimum wage may not be concluded during Portugal’s EU presidency of the EU Council.

“But I am convinced that we will get there,” he added.

PARIS. Meanwhile, the Elysée has said French President Emmanuel Macron will defend “adequate minimum wages” at the Porto summit.

This is because the European Pillar of Social Rights first discussed at the Gothenburg summit in Sweden three years ago does not aim to set such wages. And the EU treaties do not allow the creation of a minimum wage to be imposed when it does not exist, the Elysée added.

Besides assessing “the progress that has been made” in the three years since Gothenburg, the Elysée also said that Macron will give his “full support to widening the scope” of the youth guarantee and hopes to create an “individual right to training for every European” by the end of the year.

The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, will also visit Portugal where she intends to “carry the voice of cities” by defending “the action of local authorities, pioneers in the fight against climate change and for social justice”. She will also meet Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa at the summit. (Mathieu Pollet | EURACTIV.fr)

VIENNA. On the other hand, Austrian Labour Minister Martin Köcher of the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) has rejected the idea of an EU-wide minimum wage, claiming the EU lacks competence in the area of labour policy, and that the issue falls within the sole competence of member states.

PRAGUE. The Czech government, which considers all the goals of the action plan realistic, has expressed concern over the targets regarding adult training and employment policy.

“Probably the most problematic will be the setting of a national goal to meet the European target regarding adult training, which from the point of view of the Czech Republic is very ambitious. Furthermore, the indicator used does not include non-formal training, which complicates the fulfilment of the EU goal even more,” Labour and Social Minister Jana Maláčová told EURACTIV.cz.

“This goal will be problematic not only for Czechia but for a number of other EU countries as well,” she added.

Other problems might come from insufficient funding because the government reallocated EU cohesion money in the EU’s long-term budget for 2021-2027 to the detriment of the European Social Fund, with employment policy, one of the three main targets of the Action Plan, suffering the most.

The missing cohesion finances could, however, be compensated by different EU resources, like the EU just transition fund or the recovery and resilience facility.

NICOSIA. According to a paper seen by EURACTIV.com, Cyprus will focus on women’s role in the post-COVID era.

“Women were hit harder by the crisis, as they are over-represented in the first line of duty against the pandemic. The EU average in the health, social services, hospitality, retail, education and care sectors is revealing in this regard,” the non-paper reads, adding that the Porto summit provides a good opportunity to address the multiple challenges faced by women.

The paper highlights that the pandemic with its negative socio-economic effects has revealed deep-rooted gender inequalities and has put at risk the progress achieved over the last decades.

Nicosia says the pandemic’s extraordinary measures, not only have impacted on the proper functioning of our Single Market and the Schengen Area, but also affected the personal freedoms of our citizens, especially women.

“This unprecedented situation has resulted in longer periods of unpaid care work, due to underlying inequalities between women and men in the form of unequal sharing of domestic and care tasks within the household, foregoing more time of their paid work and eventually of women’s earnings.” Read the full story.

(Pedro Morais Fonseca | Lusa.pt, Mathieu Pollet | EURACTIV.fr, Ondřej Plevák | EURACTIV.cz, Oliver Noyan | EURACTIV.de, Sarantis Michalopoulos | EURACTIV.com)

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