European Social Conference: Joint Declaration of Ministers

At a time when Europe is getting ready to celebrate the 60th anniversary of its founding treaty, the Treaty of Rome, we, the Ministers for Social Affairs, Labour and Employment, gathered in Paris at the invitation of the Prime Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, affirm our support for the creation of a European Pillar of Social Rights. We welcome the initiative of the European Commission, which launched a broad public consultation on this major initiative in March 2016. We now call upon it to present ambitious and concrete proposals in the coming weeks. It is within this context that today we make this joint contribution.
 
At a time when so many of our fellow citizens are questioning the European project and its achievements, it is absolutely essential that we build a strong and effective European Pillar of Social Rights. In order to become stronger in the face of current tensions, Europe must protect its citizens. It must achieve economic and social convergence in order to guarantee a fair distribution of wealth and strengthen social cohesion throughout the European Union. It must strengthen its commitment to tackling poverty and social exclusion and to eradicating child poverty. We are convinced that the European Union remains a unique opportunity for the mobility of young people and workers, for workers’ employment prospects and for the economic prosperity and social protection of all European citizens.

This is why we must continue to promote an ambitious and protective European social model. Today, more than ever, it is our responsibility to convince our fellow citizens of this and to make it a tangible reality in all Member States.

The European Pillar of Social Rights must be based on a number of objectives.
 
The first, historically, forms the basis of a social Europe: the definition of common rules relating to working conditions and occupational health. We must strongly reaffirm this objective on which Europe was built and give it its full scope. This must result in giving greater weight to the social rights contained in the Treaties and in recognising that economic freedoms cannot take precedence over social rights. Decent minimum wages must gradually be introduced to tackle in-work poverty while promoting wide-ranging and effective collective agreements, at the same time respecting national practices and the role of social partners in each Member State. Furthermore, with the changing nature of work in our societies, we must lay the foundations for new rights: for example, with the rise of the digital revolution we should turn our attention to ensuring European employees have the right to disconnect.
 
The second objective to which we are committed: a labour market which is accessible to all and socially just.
 
Accessible to all means allowing everyone to benefit from the opportunities that exist in other Member States, whether this means establishing a more ambitious programme providing financial support for the mobility of apprentices and those engaged in vocational training, creating a European student card that would give access to certain services (such as student residences, student refectories and libraries), or helping people obtain their first job. This goes hand in hand with providing targeted support for those young people who are least likely to find employment, in order to help them into work, in particular by continuing the European Youth Initiative and the Youth Guarantee, for which the budget needs to be increased.
 
Just means reaffirming the fundamental principle of equality between men and women, by defending the principles of non-discrimination and equality at work, promoting good and stable jobs, and in particular by taking measures to promote a fairer distribution of family responsibilities.
 
As part of the ongoing revision of the 1996 directive, we are also committed to significantly strengthening the fight against fraud relating to posted workers. All exploitation of workers undermines our social models and confidence in Europe. We must ensure equal treatment and remuneration for all workers. We must also improve the coordination of social security schemes, so that all workers can retain their social security cover when moving to another Member State, and related social security contributions are paid to the right place.
 
It is also vital to reinforce the duty of care of contractors towards their subcontractors: anyone who manages a construction site, a project or who runs a business cannot turn a blind eye to the social practices of their subcontractors.
 
The third objective : a guaranteed social safety net for all European workers so that they are better protected from the hazards of working life. The creation of “activity accounts” giving workers a lifelong universal right to training and, in broader terms, a safety net, irrespective of any career disruptions, is to be encouraged. New forms of employment are currently shaking up the labour market, through digital platforms. We need to understand this new reality in order to protect all workers regardless of how their work is carried out, and to guarantee social protection and the portability of their rights. This could be achieved through a framework directive on decent working conditions for all types of employment, as proposed by the European Parliament.
 
This pillar must ultimately be based on increased social dialogue, since the European Pillar of Social Rights also upholds the conviction that the representatives of employees and employers, who are the closest to economic and social realities, must be at the heart of any reforms and the regulation of our labour markets. The views of social partners should be better integrated at every stage, at every level and in all relevant policy-making institutions.
 
We will strongly convey these convictions to our counterparts and the European institutions. In this regard, we welcome the summit to be held this forthcoming 25 March on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, and the European summit which Sweden will host on 17 November in Gothenburg, both of which will be an opportunity to reaffirm the importance of a strong social Europe.
 
We are also committed to holding this discussion in each of our Member States, together with national parliaments, social partners and the representatives of civil society so that they are involved in this ambitious European plan.
 
While across Europe populisms are gaining ground, Europe must be an effective social shield for its citizens. We now declare: the diamond anniversary of Europe, as we celebrate 60 years of our common destiny, will either be social or not!
 
Signatories:
 
Marisol TOURAINE, Minister of Social Affairs and Health (France)
 
Myriam EL KHOMRI, Minister of Labour, Employment, Vocational Training and Social Dialogue (France)
 
Nicolas SCHMIT, Minister of Labour, Employment and the Social and Solidarity Economy (Luxembourg)
 
Michael FARRUGIA, Minister for the Family and Social Solidarity (Malta)
 
Ylva JOHANSSON, Minister for Employment and Integration (Sweden)
 
Alois STÖGER, Federal Minister of Labour, Social Affairs, and Consumer Protection (Austria)
 
Andrea NAHLES, Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs (Germany)
 
José VIEIRA DA SILVA, Minister of Labour, Solidarity and Social Security (Portugal)
 
Giuliano POLETTI, Minister of Labour and Social Policy (Italy)
 
Michaela MARKSOVA, Minister of Labour and Social Affairs (Czech Republic)
 
Lodewijk ASSCHER, Minister of Social Affairs and Employment (Netherlands)
 
Branislav ONDRUS, State Secretary at the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and the Family (Slovakia)

2 March 2017


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