Europe is a human adventure, pursued by and for man. The birth of the European community was determined by the need to ensure peace and stability, and also by the desire to give our people progress and improve living standards. These demands remain valid today.
If Europe becomes an abstract entity, or if it keeps only to the economic and monetary path, it will lack what is essential; the will and the support of the people, without which nothing great can be achieved.
It is time for Europe to rediscover the Europeans. At a time when 18 million of them are out of work, and more then 60 million are threatened with exclusion, the duty of the European Union is to respond to the concerns of its people.
These concerns are well know: employment, their children’s future, security, the environment – the major issues of everyday concern to men and woman, which must be affirmed as European priorities.
Europe needs to become once again a synonym for social progress. It needs to assert this one simple idea: we live and we shall live better with a strong united Europe than without it. If we do not emphasize its social and human dimension, the people will have no desire to embark on this great collective adventure.
This is why France wishes to initiate the debate on a social Europe, and why it is presenting this memorandum to its partners in the Union.
Over the course of their history the countries of Europe have laid the foundations for a social model that distinguishes Europe from the other continents.
Throughout Europe, the men and women enjoy protection against the hazards of existence and a guaranteed income after they retire.
Throughout Europe, the role of the social partners in economic and social life is acknowledged. Nowadays, the social dialogue enables the most practical and solid progress to be made in the fight against unemployment, by promoting linked work and training, creating new ways of organizing work, and encouraging a sharing of productivity that is more favourable to employment.
Throughout Europe, the State lays down the basic rule concerning employment relationships and guarantees national cohesion.
Throughout Europe, social protection systems are deeply rooted in the identity and culture of the people.
Contrary to what some believe, these social achievements are an asset to Europe. They have been a factor for economic growth because they have ensured social cohesion. In the future they will enable countries of Europe to adjust to a new society where work will take different and more diversified forms, and to the new economy that is emerging before our eyes.
The globalization of the economy has accelerated under the fourfold impact of the end of the Cold War the unification of the world capital market, the emergence of new economic powers and the progress of technologies, especially in the field of information. It should endanger a long new cycle of growth, based on the spread of progress, price stability, the development of trade and capital flows, the opening up to international trade of major demographic powers, and access the consumption for countries that are not solvent at present.
But globalization also exacerbates competition and calls for continuous adjustment by States, undertakings and people. It is based on the gradual elimination of the remaining barriers to free movement and hence the greatest possible degree of deregulation. Its keyword is “flexibility”. Globalization has not created exclusion, but it accentuates it by leaving behind all those who cannot keep up with the ever faster rate of adjustment. In the United States, as in Europe, it has led to the emergence of an “anxious class”.
Can a new way be defined, the way of a growth that benefits everyone, of globalization without exclusion, combining progress and protection, adjustment and confidence in the future? The establishment of a European social model may provide some answers.
The answer is clear. Employment needs to be made the European Unions’s priority. This means that employment has to become a decisive criterion in all initiatives, all action, all expenditure.
This rule applied first to the European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund, which represents more than ECU 20 billion per year. These funds must be used for employment. France wants the European Social Fund – whose appropriations are not even used up in their entirety – to be used primarily to prevent exclusion, to prepare workers for the changes at work that they will have to face and to encourage States to conduct new vocational training policies on a joint basis.
It is with the same concern that we must approach the information technologies, from the components to the multimedia industries, from the computer to the internet. Faced with the United States’ dynamics, Europe needs to pool its resources. We have to prepare for our industrial and scientific future, and to promote all the applications and the new services that give substance to the information society, because those new services are creators of jobs and wealth.
This is also true, of course, with regards to the major transport networks. It is unacceptable that 14 projects approved more than a year ago should still be dormant. Let us begin with the appropriations at our disposal.
It is also the case with regard to research. Let us implement programmes that will first be of benefit to our undertakings. In this way we shall develop our capacity for joint research and be able to face up to the United States and Japan.
In all these areas, Europe can score points in the battle for employment. In the fight against unemployment, Europe needs to be voluntarist and innovative. For example, it can continue to establish a new employment relationship and promote new ways of organizing time. This is the means whereby employees can reconcile their family life and their working life and undertakings can develop a flexibility that may create jobs. Accordingly, France is in favour of te Directive on part-time working proposed by the Commission.
The second requirement is to reinforce the way in which employment policies are followed up.
The Essen European Council identified five common priorities for employment and against unemployment: developing training, making growth more productive of jobs, reducing the indirect costs of unskilled labour, improving the operation of the labour market, and stepping up our action to help young people and the long-term unemployed.
These are sound objectives. But we still have to achieve them! Report, discussions and debates are not enough. What we need is a real follow-up to the decisions taken.
This required economics and employment Ministers to work together.
It then requires that all the players involved, political leaders and social partners, are able to exchange and compare their experiences and practices. Accordingly, it is time to reform the Standing Committee on Employment and extend its terms of reference so that it becomes a genuine monitoring unit for employment policies and a generator of proposals.
The third requirement is to fight against “social dumping”.
Europe today is a single market. If comparisons is to be given free rein in that market, it must not be at the expense of the workers.
France is concerned that Community social law should be applied equally everywhere and that is application should be assessed periodically with the social partners.
Likewise, the freedom to provide services is a basic principle. However, France does not accept that workers coming from different States are performing the same tasks in a given country should not be treated in the same way. If we want to avoid “social dumping”, within Europe, the Directive on the posting of workers needs to be adopted as soon as possible. It must make it possible for the same basic rules on pay and working conditions to be applied from day one to all workers who are EU national coming to work in a Member State.
In international trade, the Union must ensure the application of the fundamental social standards which guarantee respect for the dignity of human beings. While it is natural that each country should make the most of its advantages to increase its wealth through trade, Europe cannot allow exports to be competitive through the use of forced labour and child labour, or as a result of the fact that employees have no freedom of organization and negotiation.
Going beyond the social dimension, let us give Europe its full human dimension.
The future of Europe lies first of all with the young Europeans.
Much has already been done for them: during the years 1995 to 1999 the SOCRATES programme of student exchange will enable more than a million of them i.e. 10% of the students of Europe, to pursue part of their studies in a country other than their own.
But we must go further. Young people in education, be it general, technical or vocational, or on work/training basis, need to be still more mobile if they are to enrich their culture and increase their chances on the labour market. Let us take initiatives to ensure that this necessary mobility is realized in terms of attitudes as well as in practice. Several avenues could be explored: the compulsory learning of two foreign languages: the systematic twinning of schools in different countries: the creation of European summer universities: the expansion of activities pursued jointly by young Europeans (such as the restoration of historic monuments).
In another sphere, why not set up a European voluntary service scheme for young people, so that they can perform tasks of general interest outside their country or origin? Social cohesion, the fight against delinquency, the problems of tough neighbourhoods, environmental protection – these concern the whole of Europe. Why not mobilize the young people who want to make a stand for solidarity and improved living standards?
The problem of drugs poses a grave threat to young people.
For so many European families, drugs are a dramatic feature of everyday life. If Europe wishes to be really credible, it must face up squarely to the scourges of our contemporary society and fight them efficiently.
France wants practical measures to be adopted as soon as possible to prohibit effectively the production of and trade in all forms of drugs. National laws need to be harmonized, in the spirit of the Madrid European Council conclusions, which were adopted on France’s initiative. The European Union must have effective instruments at its disposal: this is on of the issues at stake in the Intergovernmental Conference.
The Union also needs to make progress in providing young people with information and raising their awareness, starting in the schools. Drugs must be fought where they do the most harm.
A more human Europe is one that takes measures to deal with exclusion.
In Europe today there are 52 millions people in poverty, 3 to 5 million homeless or poorly housed, and nearly 9 million long-term unemployed. What distress lies behind these cold figures! Faces with such urgent needs, Europe cannot remain indifferent.
The first imperative is finally to adopt the new programme against exclusion, which has been delayed indefinitely, as indeed has the programme for older people.
The second imperative is to provide Europe with the means to contribute to security in the neighbourhoods where the social nexus is disintegrating. Such neighbourhoods require specific policies to restore activity and employment, to ensure that the environment fulfils the aspirations of the people. But nothing will be done if there is insecurity. It is a battle to be fought by each country, but Europe must play its part. This too is the price to solidarity.
Lastly, we need to promote the rights of the European citizen.
The European Union is based on a set of principles and rights which constitute our moral and cultural heritage.
The defence of that heritage requires Europe to combat vigorously the resurgences of racism and xenophobia from which our continent has suffered so much. France is following with interest the work of the Consultative Commission set up in 1994 by the European Council. It approves the suggestion to set up a European Union monitoring centre to deal with racism and xenophobia. Such a body would be a valuable instrument in the fight against the forces of hatred. In this area, the most effective weapon is vigilance.
Over and above the basic freedoms guaranteed in our democratic countries, a Charter of Fundamental Rights would recognise the economics and social rights of citizens, and alos the particular function of the public services, which play a vital and original role and must be protected from an excessive and indiscriminate application of the rules of competition. France calls on the European Union to take the initiative here to make the necessary adjustments to the Treaty.
We must associate the social partners with Community action to a greater extent.
On 14 December 1995 the social partners concluded an agreement to help reconcile family working life by means of parental leave. This is the first agreement concluded pursuant to the Protocol on Social Policy, and is an example to be followed. In each country, collective negotiations have enabled progress to be made on social rights. The same thinking, with the same objectives, should be applied at Community level.
Likewise, let us encourage the discussion of new topics of European interest, such as the adjustment of working time or new forms of employment.
But France wants to go further, and it wants the social partners to be systematically consulted on all texts with a social dimension. This can be done in the Standing Committee on Employment, providing it is reformed as we propose.
The social dialogue also means a joint study of the future of social protection.
France calls for a wide-ranging debate to be held in Europe, with the involvement of all players concerned, on the challenges that our social protection systems will have to meet. It would be for the Council of Ministers to take the initiative here.
The questions that arise are fundamental ones. How can the ageing of our population be reconciled with a proper level of social protection? How can social protection be made more favourable to employment? How can we reduce exclusion, which has steadily increased over the last twenty years even as social protection has become more generalized?
Of course, this debate will not produce uniform answers, since the systems of social protection are intimately bound up with the history and the very identity of our national societies.
Nevertheless, the same problems are facing all European countries and they can all gain by listening to each other. The most urgent task is to guarantee social protection, of which we are justly proud, by adapting it to the requirements of today’s and tomorrow’s world.
The Social Protocol is a milestone in the history of Social Europe. To it we owe such major advances as the Directive on the European Works Council, the Agreement on parental leave, and the craft Directive on part-time working.
In order for the Protocol to play an even greater role for all members of the European Union, whether present or future, France proposes that it be incorporated into the Treaty.
Europe could then exert greater influence on working conditions, social protection, the defence of workers’ rights and the reintegration into society of those who are excluded from it. It would also be better placed to ensure the equal treatment of men and women, in particular on the job market.
Indeed, every aspect of Europe’s action on the social front would be facilitated and strengthened by such a step. The intergovernmental Conference provides the opportunity to take it.
In addition to its historical and political dimensions, the enlargement of the European Union also has a social dimension
France wholeheartedly supports the enlargement of the European Union. Europe will at last be one again. Let us ensure that reconciliation is also an opportunity for our societies.
Together we have begun to prepare the ground for the application countries’ membership. The social and human dimension should right away be placed at the heart of the accession process. A simple idea should preside over enlargement, namely that our task is to win support for the value of the European social model and, having due regard to national traditions, to work to consolidate the social dialogue.
The construction of the wider Europe – for so long an impossible dream but today our joint endeavour – should not lead us to adopt a low profile where human needs are concerned.
With such avenues to explore, initiatives to launch and decisions to take, social Europe has a long way to go.
France wants its partners to see that Europe’s future is at stake here. The European Union, which does not have the self-evidence of nationhood, has to command the interest, arouse the hopes and win the hearts and minds of it citizens.
May we learn how to reach their hearts and minds. Only a Europe inspired by humanist values will be accepted and loved by its citizens.