Europe urged to rethink its social model

A panel gathered by Pierre Jonckheer MEP (Greens) and European social think tanks discussed a report on social developments in 2005 and questioned the redefining of the EU project around the growth and employment paradigm.

On 7 June 2006, three of the report’s co-authors summed up their contributions at a conference in the European Parliament.

P. Pochet, Director of the European Social Observatory (ESO), introduced its three scenarios on the future of the European Social model, namely: a reaction of social actors; a new Lisbon-style compromise between endogenous growth economists and the “reformist left;” or returning to subsidiarity with major social decisions being taken at national level.

E. van den Abeele, lecturer at the University of Mons and associated researcher at the ESO, analysed the pros and cons of the “Better Regulation” initiatives, warning against excessively cutting off administrative burdens to the detriment of necessary regulation levels – which would respond to a “hidden political [liberal] agenda.”

For P. Defraigne, Director of Eur-IFRI, “the battle of the European Social model must be fought on both internal and external grounds.” To do so, the EU must successfully answer the threefold “globalisation-immigration-financiarisation” challenge.

M. Jepsen, ETUI-REHS head of department, wondered "why Europe is doing away with what it is all about," thus alluding to the lack of EU assertiveness vis-à-vis anglo-saxon social values.

C. Degryse, co-editor of the "Social developments of the EU," criticized the "insidious tentative redefinition of the European project around growth and employment policies, as well as on a stiff deregulation agenda."

Daniel Cohn-Bendit MEP, President of the Greens, asked the question: what kind of social model are we entitled to expect, as long as the EU keeps failing to advocate democracy as a major element of "global governance," especially in booming Third World economies such as China?

Other comments revolved around the widening gap between the Union and its citizens and possible ways to re-structure European trade unionism.

The 7th Report on "Social Developments in the EU 2005" is the result of research carried out by experts of social policies with the support of the European Trade Union Institute for Research, Education and Health and Safety (ETUI-REHS).

Following the French and Dutch rejection of the draft constitutional Treaty, the publication seeks "to examine the European social model from both the inside and the outside; the governance of the euro zone; the political priorities outlined in the financial perspectives for 2007-2013; and recent and forthcoming enlargements."

It also highlights the important role of political, economic and social stakeholders in debating the "better legislation" initiative, the Lisbon strategy, European social dialogue and the issue of pensions. According to the authors, "the forum for debate plainly acquired a strong European dimension in 2005," so "perhaps the way out of the present crisis might therefore be to devise a coherent new project and promote the emergence of political players who are prepared to implement it."

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