Addressing Europe’s common challenges: generating growth, creating jobs and ensuring fairness
Invitation letter by President Donald Tusk to the members of the European Council
We will meet later this week to discuss three major issues, namely migration, trade and Russia.
As regards migration, we are slowly turning the corner. Our actions are best seen on the Eastern Mediterranean route, where we observed a 98% drop in the influx of irregular migrants between September of last year and this year. The European institutions have increased their efforts in helping third countries to take their citizens back. By June this year, Frontex had already returned twice as many irregular migrants as in the whole of 2015. Additionally, the EU has recently concluded an agreement with Afghanistan, which allows for more efficient cooperation on migration.
On the Central Mediterranean route, arrivals are at the same level as in 2014 and 2015. That is why at our October meeting we should focus more particularly on the work done with countries of origin and transit in Africa. The President of the European Commission and the High Representative will present where we are in implementing an effective Partnership Framework of cooperation with individual countries, the so-called ‘migration compacts’.
As for our trade policy, at the European Council we have a special responsibility regarding the agreement with Canada. There is still work to be done, but I hope we will find a way forward.
Trade is a powerful engine for jobs, growth and better living standards. Yet the benefits of trade are being questioned. I am convinced that together we can deliver a trade policy that is fit for today’s concerns and tomorrow’s challenges. But ultimately it hinges on our ability to adequately protect ourselves, and our citizens, when unfair practices arise. Because for trade to be free, it needs to be fair. The European Council will therefore discuss the modernisation of trade defence instruments and our ongoing negotiations of free trade agreements with key partners.
Over dinner we will have a strategic discussion about Russia. The objective is to address our overall, long-term relations with this important neighbour. Looking ahead to the decisions we will need to take in December, our main asset in dealing with Russia remains our unity. To date, regardless of our differences, we have always managed to remain united. And we must stay this course.
In the same context we should also discuss the dramatic developments in Syria. The High Representative will present the outcome of the Council’s discussions, and we will adopt conclusions.
Let me conclude by saying that a lot has happened since we last met at the June European Council. 27 Member States have initiated work on a common future and outlined a Bratislava roadmap, which helps guide the works of the institutions. The best way to prove the relevance of the European project is to deliver on the concrete issues which matter most to our citizens.
As for the proceedings, we will start on Thursday at 16.00 with a traditional exchange of views with the President of the European Parliament, followed by the family photo. At our afternoon working session Robert Fico, as Prime Minister of the rotating Presidency, will present the implementation of the work carried out by the Council, followed by a discussion on migration. Over dinner we will have a broad debate about Russia. The Prime Minister of the Netherlands will inform us about the ratification process of the AA/DCFTA with Ukraine. We will adopt conclusions on Syria. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom will present the current state of affairs in the country. Finally, I will outline my suggestions for improving our working methods. I hope to get your agreement to start applying them as of our December meeting, including by starting the European Councils much earlier. We will conclude on Friday with a discussion on trade and the adoption of remaining conclusions. I look forward to seeing you in Brussels.
The guiding theme of this Social Summit (*) is “Addressing Europe’s common challenges: generating growth, creating jobs and ensuring fairness”. More particularly, participants at the Summit are invited to express their views on the following sub-themes:
√ the main challenges in view of the annual growth survey 2017;
√ putting the New Skills agenda for Europe into practice: the key role of the social partners;
√ the integration of refugees into the labour market and society: lessons learnt so far.
The European Union is experiencing a gradual but sustained recovery, which has been accompanied by a modest pick-up in economic growth as well as moderate improvements in labour market performance and in the social situation.
However, economic growth still remains uneven across the EU and important differences can be observed regarding the development of employment and social conditions between and within member states.
Structural reforms remain key to increase competitiveness, ensure strong and sustainable growth, support job creation and improve the social situation throughout the EU.
The social partners have an essential role to play in meeting the longer-term economic and social challenges, such as job creation, economic growth, skills, and making business competitive in a global context, both at the European level and in the member states.
The expertise of the social partners is particularly important in relation to the new skills agenda adopted by the Commission in June. The development of skills is the best tool available to help make globalisation more inclusive. As machines improve and technology evolves, the need for unskilled work diminishes. It is all the more important that the opportunities that flow from digitalisation and other technological advances are made more widely accessible to the European workforce and businesses.
STATEMENT OF THE EUROPEAN SOCIAL PARTNERS
Europe is faced with unprecedented economic, social and political challenges. These challenges – insufficient competitiveness, lack of growth and employment, migration, security issues, and the need to redefine EU-UK relations – require European solutions.
European social partners strongly believe in the European Union. Populism, nationalism, xenophobia, anti-European sentiments, isolationism or protectionism can only create a downward spiral that will damage everyone. European and national commitment can and must go hand-in hand.
European employers and European Trade Unions regret but respect the decision of the United-Kingdom to leave the European Union. They are determined to contribute to finding solutions to mitigate the negative effects of this decision for companies and workers across Europe. Companies and workers must not pay the price for Brexit.
Our aim is to preserve as close economic relations between the European Union and the United-Kingdom as possible, while preserving the integrity of the Single Market, and fully respecting the four freedoms linked to it, i.e. free movement of goods, services, capital and persons.
European social partners also insist on the need to improve Europe’s attractiveness as a place to invest and create jobs.
After a decade of under-investment, increasing efficient and productive private and public investment is essential for Europe’s present and future growth and employment, particularly on fields like physical and social infrastructures, circular economy, digitalisation, innovation and research, education and training for better skills, etc. We therefore support the extension of the so-called Juncker Plan for Investment (European Fund for Strategic Investment – EFSI), drawing the necessary lessons from the first year of application on the need to improve additionality, facilitate cross-border projects and support countries experiencing difficulties in mobilising this instrument.
In parallel, EU and national efforts to remove obstacles to investment and job creation in Europe must be stepped up.
To reverse the relative decline of European industry including SMEs and given the importance of manufacturing and related services for growth and job creation in all sectors of the economy , we call on the European Commission to include an ambitious industrial policy strategy in the 2017 work programme.
Having efficient European institutions is essential to devise balanced and efficient European policies benefiting all Member States enterprises and workers. Europe needs transparent, democratically accountable and well-performing institutions: the European Commission, the Council and the European Parliament have to be united and determined in working together to improve the capacity of the European Union to address enterprises’ and workers’ needs and expectations.
At the same time, a well-functioning social dialogue at EU, national, sectoral and company level is important to devise efficient policies that will increase European prosperity and ensure social fairness.
The statement on “a new start for social dialogue’ co-signed in June by the Commission, the Council and the social partners is our common roadmap to design and implement policies for growth and job creation. We count on the European Commission and on the Council to live up to their commitment to implement it and support us through capacity building projects to further strengthen national social partnership for efficient social dialogue and industrial relations, where necessary.
The joint statement is agreed by the four social partners representing European trade unions and employers: ETUC (the European Trade Union Confederation), BusinessEurope, CEEP (the European Centre of Employers and Enterprises providing Public Services) and UEAPME (SMEs, trades and crafts)
(*)The Tripartite Social Summit is a forum for dialogue between the EU institutions and the European social partners at the highest level. The summit is co-chaired by the President of the European Council, the President of the European Commission and the Head of State or Government of the rotating presidency, currently the Slovak Prime Minister. Employers will be represented by BusinessEurope and trade unions by the European Trade Union Confederation [ETUC.]