Social Policy : Social Agenda Gets Mixed Review from Meps
Most members of the European Parliament welcomed the social agenda presented in July by the European Commission as a necessary initiative, especially given the impact of globalisation. But while right-of-centre members welcomed most of the elements in the package, left-leaning MEPs consider that it does not go far enough or is even unacceptable.
Parliament debated the package in plenary on 1 September in Brussels, in particular the anti-discrimination and European Works Councils directives. A resolution will be put to the vote at the session on 22-25 September, after the debate on the patient mobility directive.
Vladimir Spidla, the commissioner for employment, social affairs and equal opportunity, presented the "largest package ever submitted by the Commission," noting that "economic and social goals are two sides of the same coin and must be closely coordinated to people's benefit".
For French Employment and Social Affairs Minister and President-in-Office of the Council, Xavier Bertrand, "2008 must be the year for relaunching a social Europe," even though Paris, as MEPs pointed out, has not made this one of its priorities. Bertrand explained that the EU Presidency intends to translate the European social agenda into "practical measures". In particular, he stressed the concept of flexicurity', calling for both more security and more flexibility in employment.
Joseph Daul (EPP-ED, France) praised the Commission's package while calling for a greater effort on "the basic issues such as demographic change, globalisation and poverty". He welcomed the proposals on European social dialogue. "The social field remains fundamentally an area for the member states and this can and must change," he said.
The Socialists were very critical of the majority Conservatives for failing to embrace the necessary economic and social measures. "Europe is governed by the right and is headed in the wrong direction," commented PES group Chairman Martin Schulz. He added that "many people are afraid that Europe no longer guarantees social protection". For the Socialists, the social agenda is unsatisfactory in particular due to the absence of a proposal on economic services of general interest.
Graham Watson (ALDE, UK) said the agenda "constitutes a welcome step forward". He backed the proposal to revise the adjustment fund, which is based on a liberal principle that "a job is the best source of welfare".
Jan Tadeusz Masiel (UEN, Poland) commented that "the social dimension is what differentiates Europe from other powers". He urged the Commission to "send a strong signal to member states to strengthen the social acquis, which serves the EU".
Jean Lambert (Greens-EFA, UK) welcomed the package but noted that Parliament is looking for "concrete action".
Gabriele Zimmer (GUE-NGL, Germany) declared that his group would reject the social agenda, which is vague, of little relevance and "will not bridge the social divide". …