Strengthening the social pillar of the European Union must not remain a pipe dream for very much longer. It is necessary to implement more social rights and EU regulations and to understand that social policy encompasses all political sectors. The dialogue event of the Citizens Forum Europe and the Vienna Chamber of Labour did not only address this issue, but also a number of further demands.
On Friday, 12 November 2021, AK President Renate Anderl, Vice Chancellor Werner Kogler (Greens) and the Vice President of the European Parliament (EPP), Othmar Karas discussed Europe’s social future with interested citizens at the AK Educational Centre in Vienna.
“We don’t give enough thought to the social division in society. This division is also an issue of democracy. The EU should have adopted ILO Labour and social standards as a Directive a long time ago”, demanded Parliament Vice President Karas. AK President Anderl pointed out that the EU was confronted with a “double challenge”: “Corona has exacerbated the social and economic crisis. And on top of that, society faces a socioeconomic transformation”. Vice Chancellor Kogler agreed, “People’s social security involves the economy, work and the environment”.
The concerns and questions about the EU of the attending audience focussed on employment (no transfer of jobs from Austria to low-wage countries), expansion of educational programmes and European education standards as decisive factors for equal opportunities as well as fair wages for care staff from East and South-East European Countries in Austria. AK President Anderl emphasised that fair wages had to apply to all and that corporations should no longer be able to benefit from tax loopholes.
The panellists agreed on implementing a fair wage as an important measure to establish a social Europe. The Vice Chancellor called “the disagreement regarding the EU minimum wage“ in the ruling coalition of ÖVP and Greens “difficult to understand”. The ÖVP is opposed to the proposal to implement a Minimum Wage Directive. But: “the government’s last word has not yet been spoken”, added Werner Kogler. Kogler called the rejection of a EU minimum wage by ÖVP Ministers “gallery politics”.
The Reform of the European Stability and Growth Pact was also debated. This concerns the economic framework conditions, such as the debt rules, for the Member States of the European Economic and Monetary Union. Due to Covid-19, these have been suspended until the end of 2022 and are currently in the process of being reformed. Austria and some other EU countries supported the strict adherence to the existing regulations. For Vice Chancellor Kogler it is perfectly clear: “Fiscal rules must be compatible with good social policy.” The negotiations on reforming the Stability and Growth Pact have just begun; the aim is to complete them during the French Presidency in the first half of 2022.
To create more social justice in the EU, AK President Renate Anderl demanded among other to “enshrine a social progress protocol in EU law”. EU Vice President Othmar Karas supported the idea “of treating the social pillar in the same way as other competencies in the European Union”.
AK Factsheet: Zeit für ein soziales Europa (German only)
AK and ÖGB letter on the EU Social Summit in Porto (German only)