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