Social policy central to future recovery, says French MEP

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In an interview with EURACTIV France, French Socialist MEP Pervenche Berès highlighted the importance of including a social dimension in the battle to solve Europe’s economic problems, and questioned the decision to award the European Parliament’s important economic committee chair to an English Liberal MEP.

Berès lost her influential position as chair of the European Parliament’s economic affairs committee (ECON) following the European Socialists’ poor performance in June’s European elections, but was instead given stewardship of the employment and social affairs committee (EMPL). 

Berès, who believes that employment and social protection must be central planks in any future recovery strategy, provocatively questioned the decision to replace her as ECON head with an Englishwoman, Liberal Democrat MEP Sharon Bowles.

“It’s not her personality,” she insisted, “but many people believe that this crisis has demonstrated the limits of the liberal economic theories so fervently defended by the UK”. 

She therefore believes it is a “double paradox” to have an ECON chair who is both British and an economic liberal, particularly given that the committee deals extensively with the euro area and the European Central Bank. 

The French MEP does not see her new committee chair as a demotion, arguing that the move is a “coherent” one. “As a socialist, with between 27 and 28 million people currently unemployed in Europe, the challenge is colossal,” she said. 

However, while stressing that the EU has the power to “project hope” in these matters, she acknowledged that the Union is “relatively weak” when it comes to real intervention. 

Nevertheless, she outlined the priorities for her stewardship, citing the recurring issues of the Working Time Directive, the functioning of trade unions and the directive on workers’ mobility as well as other themes she would like to focus on, such as the remuneration of business CEOs and the social and environmental responsibilities of European enterprises. 

The other key point for Berès is the “inclusion of a social dimension in the redefinition of the financial system”. 

Finally, discussing how the EU can emerge from this crisis, Berès explained that for her, the answer in the “energy-environment-employment” trio of priorities. 

“The way we rebuild the financial system is essential,” she argued, predicting that a “tough battle” lies ahead between those who wish to return to self-regulating financial markets and those who believe more regulation is now imperative. 

“I’m still not sure which direction the majority from 7 June [European elections] is heading,” she concluded, adding that “this will be the among the first tests in the coming months”. 

To read the interview in full (French only), please click here.

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