Parlamentary European Forum: “Who profits from the EU? Future scenarios for social policies between solidarity and austerity”
The status quo, issues and future scenarios for a more just Europe were all topics of discussion at the Parliamentary European Forum held in the Bundestag on 22 June 2017. The event was organized by the Young European Federalists (JEF) and the Europe-Union Germany, together with the Insitut für Europäische Politik (IEP). Making use of the “fishbowl” format, the young participants had the opportunity to engage in a one-on-one discussion with the panelists.
The panelists agreed that there is a need for action and that Europe is running out of time to achieve concrete goals before the upcoming European elections in 2019. The reason for this, according to Gabriele Bischoff, member of the European Economic and Social Committee, is that despite investing so much time into analyzing the EU’s problems, policymakers often get lost in the ensuing debates and little is action is actually taken. There is an acute danger that countries might attempt to undercut one another and engage in “wage dumping”. This cannot be allowed under any circumstances. According to Bischoff, the reason for countries’ lack of interest in transforming into more ‘social’ states can be traced to their lack of a say within Europe. If one demands that states undergo social reforms then these governments should also be allowed take part in the decision-making process, rather than solely receiving policy guidelines.
Susanne Wixforth of the Deutscher Gewerkschaftbund (German Federation of Trade Unions), sees the causes of “social dumping” as being rooted most prominently in the Posting of Workers Directive (PWD). These and many other policies need to be reformed. The problem, according to Wixforth, was that policies are often only reviewed in terms of their economic consequences. Investigating their social consequences as well in advance would be an important step towards a more social Europe. In order to create a more just Europe, she appealed for abandoning deregulation policies, establishing more common European values and for a European Parliament with the right of initiative.
Prof. Dr. Miriam Hartlapp of the Freie Universität Berlin found the roots of injustice in Europe to exist at an even earlier stage: as soon as they are submitted, proposals for new legislation can only be altered to a certain extent. For example, a liberally-oriented proposal could not undergo a change of direction. Additionally, she considered the probability of bringing states to undergo social reforms without binding collective treaties to be low.
Norbert Spinrath, MP and European Policy Spokesman for the SPD Parliamentary Group, emphasized the enormous benefits of harmonizing living standards across Europe. Higher wages would mean increased purchasing power, through which the market would grow and all could profit. In addition, harmonizing social standards would combat one of the leading causes of migration. According to Spinrath, one must be ready to take more risks in political decisions and to cooperate more often with other countries in order to achieve the aforementioned goals.
Report: Nadja Schweizer