Through a series of emergency measures the European Eurozone has managed to recover international confidence in the Euro. The Euro has come into calmer waters. The value of the euro against the dollar is back to its old level. The European Central Bank monitors the 200 largest European banks. The ECB has also agreed, to act as soon as possible a country has to pay too high interest rates on their loans. There are special emergency funds to help forward those countries that are no longer able to borrow on the international market at a reasonable rate. A special European Commissioner maintains strict surveillance of national budgets, so that they do not exceed the 3% norm. In the event that this happens, a country receives automatically a high penalty.
So with the Euro it is going better now, but not with the European economy. The economic crisis is getting deeper and not just in countries like Ireland, Greece and Portugal the first to be hit by the debt crisis, but also in countries such as Spain, Italy, France, the Netherlands and Belgium. The only country that has so far managed to escape from the economic crisis is Germany. Some people go so far as to think that Germany is benefitting from the economic misery of the other European countries. Others believe that Germany, in contrast to those other European countries, has become a global competetor.
European leaders realize of course that the economic crisis has not only political consequences, such as the growing political distrust towards 'Brussels' ('Brussels' is no longer the solution but the disease), but also may lead to more social tensions. Hence, the European leaders last December decided that the roadmap for the completion of the European Monetary Union (EMU) should include a social dimension, comprising social dialogue. President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy called for proposals on the social dimension of the Economic and Monetary Union. To assemble the views or institutional stakeholders, social partners and civil society organisaties, Europe is holding a hearing on "For a social dimension of the European Economic and Monetary Union".
In response to this invitation the Executive Committee of the European Trade Union Confederation ETUC made the following declaration: “The ETUC considers that the proposal to discuss a social dimension of the EMU is too restrictive. Our commitment to the process of European integration depends on the fact that Europe is not a free trade zone, but an area whose objectives are economic and social progress. Therefore a discussion on the social dimension of the EMU is only acceptable if it triggers social progress in the whole of the European Union.
ETUC opposes current austerity policies. They are implemented to the detriment of working people and citizens who have been made the variable of adjustment. This is not acceptable. These policies are also counterproductive and are having a negative impact on the EU’s economy. The financial sector has been saved, at an unsustainable cost. There can be no social dimension whether in the EU or in the EMU without a change in these policies. The ETUC will continue to mobilise towards that end.
ETUC considers that a roadmap on the social dimension of the EMU, in the framework of increased policy coordinations should aim at upward convergence to deal with inequalities, poverty, unemployment and precarious work that are ethically unacceptable and are creating a social emergency. There can be no sustainable economic governance and coordination of policies if these injustices are not addressed.
ETUC demands new large scale investment plans equal to at least 1 % of EU GDP annually to promote sustainable growth and jobs. The current Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) proposals are a retrograde step and totally inadequate to meet our objectives.
The ETUC strongly underlines that social partners must be included and fully involved on an equal footing in the debate about the design of new coordination instruments. There should be effective guarantees at all stages that trade union rights and fundamental rights will be respected and promoted, particularly the autonomy of collective bargaining.
Contractual arrangements in the form of memoranda have been put in place undemocratically and have imposed the wrong policy mix. They infringe collective agreements, industrial relations and social dialogue. This should not apply to any contractual arrangement. Financial support has been made conditional for such contractual arrangements. The ETUC opposes this unfair and undemocratic approach.
On the basis of the Social Compact it has already proposed, the ETUC will further develop its position and press its policies in the context of the debate on the social dimension of the EU and EMU.”
In this declarartion you can read the dilemma the European labor movement currently is facing. The ETUC calls for more European coordination by a stronger 'Brussels' while the political unease in the EU member states about the growing power of Brussels increases. The ETUC enters with this declaration in a strong political debate that touches also many national and nationalistic sentiments like for example the delicate question of the so called cheap labor migrants coming from Eastern European member states. It will not be easy for the ETUC to handle politically this debate within and outside its ranks.