EU: Tripartite Social Summit.


Wake up call to defend the collective interests of Europe to avoid ending up in misery and poverty

family

© photocredit European Union

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The Autumn Social summit held a discussion on “Addressing Europe’s common challenges: generating growth, creating jobs and ensuring fairness”. More particularly, participants at the Summit expressed 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.

In his opening statement, the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, underlined that: ” The Brexit referendum had some characteristics unique to Britain. But we would be foolish to dismiss what the vote told us about the popular view of globalisation. It is a very negative assessment also widely shared across Europe. Responding to this is the key motivation behind the Bratislava declaration. Bratislava means a necessary shift of emphasis away from lecturing citizens about the benefits of European integration and taking far more seriously their genuine fears about security. Both in the hard sense of securing borders and public order, but also in a soft sense, of securing people’s prosperity and way of life. We need a Europe that protects its citizens, a Europe which they can look to as a place of shelter. The summit was also clear that the European Union has a shared responsibility to create a promising economic future for all.”

The President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker stressed: “The EU has a clear roadmap and a strong commitment to deliver jobs, growth and social fairness in Europe. Many actions have been undertaken over the last two years – from the Investment Plan for Europe, the deepening of the Single Market based on clear and fair rules, the roll-out of the Youth Guarantee, the launch of a new Skills Agenda, to the ongoing consultation on a European Pillar of Social Rights. Unemployment is decreasing but there is still a long way to go. Social partners have a key role to play and the recent agreement on a “new start for social dialogue” should pave the way for further actions at EU and national level. We look forward to discussing EU priorities at this important point in time.”

From the side of the rotating presidency, Slovakia’s Prime Minister, Robert Fico, said that “We need to improve the communication with each other – among Member States, with EU institutions, but most importantly with our citizens. We should inject more clarity into our decisions. Use clear and honest language. Focus on citizens’ expectations, with strong courage to challenge simplistic solutions of extreme or populist political opposition in our countries. Social dialogue can contribute to social harmony and to implementation of the commitments which we set ourselves at the Bratislava Summit. We offer to our citizens in these months a vision of an attractive EU they can trust and support. Today’s tripartite social summit will allow us to become familiar with the opinions of the social partners on this important subject. The social partners in particular are in direct contact with working people, employees, and they know the situation on the labour market as well as the business environment, which can help to address today’s challenges”.

BusinessEurope’s President, Emma Marcegaglia, representing employers, said ” Europe is at a crossroad. We need strong and efficient EU institutions pulling in the same direction to strengthen the EU three key economic pillars: the single market, the common international trade policy and the euro. Delivering trade agreements negotiated in compliance with the mandates given to the EU is essential for the credibility of the EU and for job creation. Productive private and public investment must increase. We therefore support the extension of the Juncker investment plan and urge the EU and all its member states to remove obstacles to investment. The EU social partners also underlined that companies and workers must not pay the price for Brexit. Our aim is to maintain as close as possible economic relations between the European Union and the United-Kingdom, while preserving the integrity of the Single Market. Cherry-picking between free movement of goods, services, capital and people is not an option”.

For the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) General Secretary, Luca Visentini, said “Trade unions and employers agree that European solutions are needed to the many crises facing Europe. We call for more public and private investment across Europe to drive growth and quality jobs. Such investment requires a golden rule to exclude it from EU deficit and debt targets, and call on the European Commission to develop an ambitious industrial policy for Europe. We support the closest possible economic relations between the EU and the UK without compromising the single market and the free movement of people. We want to engage with the negotiators to find solutions that minimise the damage to companies and workers, and workers’ rights. The EU needs to strengthen social protection, and give social Europe the same importance as the EU’s economic governance.”

The views cited in this text are those of the individual / organization concerned and do not collectively constitute the point of view of the Council or the European Council.

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Today’s Tripartite Social Summit could not have been better timed. We needed this meeting to hear from the social partners on major political issues including Brexit, trade policy and our work-plan for the months ahead reflected in the Bratislava Roadmap.

This was the first time the social partners met formally since the British referendum. There was whole-hearted agreement around the table as regards our approach to Brexit. I really appreciate social partners’ strong and impartial position, especially when it comes to the support for our common rules and principles, namely the Single market and four freedoms. Today I saw that people who gathered here feel responsible not only for the interests of their organisations but also for Europe as a whole.

When it comes to the trade deal with Canada I would like to thank the social partners for their engagement and our rich discussion, during which I felt quite a wide support for CETA. On the other hand, it is clear for me and our social partners that in the age of globalisation, people expect trade agreements like TTIP or CETA to be safe for workers, consumers and companies. We have to understand all the doubts and reasons behind them in order to build public support for trade. Because, in the first place, these are the interests of our people that must be protected and respected, and I want to make it very clear.

As you know the challenge now is to find consensus to move forward with the CETA agreement, while addressing the concerns of Belgium. Negotiations are ongoing as we speak, because they have turned out to be politically more difficult than many expected. We know that some work is still needed and we fully respect that. Personally I hope that we will find a way forward on CETA during the European Council.

This week leaders will also discuss trade defense instruments. For trade to be free, it needs to be fair. And this is why making progress on our trade policy also means having the right tools to defend Europe from unfair trading practices. We will do our best to make it happen.

Tomorrow we will also discuss migration. I am glad to say 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. Now we must reduce the flows across the Central Mediterranean route. To that end, we need to do more on returns of irregular economic migrants. Leaders will discuss this issue in more depth, while the High Representative will update us on the progress with the African countries. Concrete results are expected already in December.

Tomorrow we will also 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 continue to do so. This will also be crucial when it comes to Russia’s role in Syria.

Remarks by President Donald Tusk

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businesseurope

Speaking at the Tripartite Social Summit on 19 October, in presence of President Tusk, President Juncker and Slovak Prime Minister Fico, BusinessEurope President Emma Marcegaglia underlined that the challenges facing Europe are unprecedented and that we need to increase growth and employment, improve security, tackle migration issues and deal with the decision of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. Ahead of the European Council meeting on 20-21 October, President Marcegaglia stressed the importance of trade, saying “If we don’t bring home the agreement with Canada and shoot our common trade policy in the foot, we cannot win our battle for competitiveness, growth and employment“.

Together with the other social partners, she also clearly said that “companies and workers must not pay the price for Brexit. We want to maintain as close as possible economic relations between the European Union and the United Kingdom, but not at the expense of the integrity of the Single Market. There can be no cherry-picking between the four freedoms”. As manufacturing industry is the central growth and job creation driver for all sectors of the economy, including services, President Marcegaglia also called for the inclusion of a structured European roadmap on EU industrial policy strategy in the Commission work programme 2017. “If we do not wake up now to defend the collective interests of Europe again, we will all end up in misery and poverty” concluded President Marcegaglia. [Read More] [Full Speech]

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EU common challenges will not be solved without SMEs
SMEs are recovering but the right framework conditions for competitiveness are needed to create jobs

ueapme

Brussels, 19th October 2016 – Today, at the Tripartite Social Summit, the European Social Partners met with the Presidents of European Council and Commission, as well as with the Troika of Head of States, to discuss the current EU common challenges: growth, jobs and fairness. UEAPME(1) President Ulrike Rabmer-Koller focused her intervention on recalling that SMEs, as the backbone of the economy, can only create jobs with a boost in invest-ments and with the right framework conditions for competitiveness. More flexible working patterns will be crucial to seize the opportunities related to digitalisation. Additionally, the refugee crisis is still topical and good economic perspectives are needed to facilitate the refugees’ integration across Europe. Finally, a stronger involvement of Social Partners in the European Semester process is necessary for ownership of reforms. Therefore, capacity building, especially for SME associations in some Member States, is a precondition to a new start for social dialogue.

After the Tripartite Social Dialogue meeting, UEAPME President Ulrike Rabmer-Koller stated:

“Our latest EU SME Barometer(2) shows that SMEs’ recovery continues despite obvious uncertainties notably due to the Brexit. There is new optimism for micro-enterprises and for the construction sector. This new optimism should foster new investments which in turn should boost growth and job creation. It is therefore crucial to ensure that SMEs can finance their investment projects. This is why I appreciate President Juncker’s European Investment funds’ support to SME finance and why I asked him to increase the SME window in the planned prolongation. However, we must not overburden our regional banks given that they will remain the number one source of finance for SMEs.”

The general challenges to overcome are still the low growth and lack of investments, very high unemployment rates, migra-tion and new challenges due to digitalisation. On these subjects, including the upcoming Brexit negotiations, the EU Social Partners issued a joint statement(3) ahead of the Summit.

“In this context, the European Pillar of Social Rights should support labour market reforms through benchmarks. The social acquis is broad enough, adding new regulatory burdens will hamper the SME development. Furthermore, the necessary reforms for improving the functioning of national labour markets will require more ownership and involvement from national social partners. This is one of the key outcomes of the joint statement ‘A new start for social dialogue’ signed in June with the Commission, Council and EU Social Partners. As part of the necessary efforts, social partners’ capacity building should be enhanced notably for our SME organisations to fully play their role.”

After the Tripartite Social Dialogue meeting, UEAPME President Ulrike Rabmer-Koller stated:

“Our latest EU SME Barometer shows that SMEs’ recovery continues despite obvious uncertainties notably due to the Brexit. There is new optimism for micro-enterprises and for the construction sector. This new optimism should foster new investments which in turn should boost growth and job creation. It is therefore crucial to ensure that SMEs can finance their investment projects. This is why I appreciate President Juncker’s European Investment funds’ support to SME finance and why I asked him to increase the SME window in the planned prolongation. However, we must not overburden our regional banks given that they will remain the number one source of finance for SMEs.”

The general challenges to overcome are still the low growth and lack of investments, very high unemployment rates, migra-tion and new challenges due to digitalisation. On these subjects, including the upcoming Brexit negotiations, the EU Social Partners issued a joint statement(3) ahead of the Summit.

“In this context, the European Pillar of Social Rights should support labour market reforms through benchmarks. The social acquis is broad enough, adding new regulatory burdens will hamper the SME development. Furthermore, the necessary reforms for improving the functioning of national labour markets will require more ownership and involvement from national social partners. This is one of the key outcomes of the joint statement ‘A new start for social dialogue’signed in June with the Commission, Council and EU Social Partners. As part of the necessary efforts, social partners’ capacity building should be enhanced notably for our SME organisations to fully play their role.” [European SME umbrella organisation, UEAPME]

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