17th Aug 2022

Berlin to stress EU 'social' side in birthday text

Members of the European Parliament on Wednesday (14 March) received some more specifics on the text of the EU's 50th anniversary declaration when talking to German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who revealed that Berlin wants to stress the EU's "social dimension."

Less than two weeks to go before EU leaders will sign the birthday declaration at a meeting in Berlin on 25 March, MEPs like the rest of Europe have been left in the dark by the German EU presidency on what exactly the text will look like.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Wednesday's debate with Mr Steinmeier took place with no draft text on the table, sparking some vocal criticism towards Berlin from the Greens and Liberals in the EU assembly.

"To debate the declaration without having seen a draft is bizarre," said liberal leader Graham Watson.

"I'm sure the spin doctors in the Bundeskanzleramt [the office of chancellor Angela Merkel] are still at work... but don't feel surprised if many of us feel we're being bounced," he added.

Daniel Cohn-Bendit, chief of the Greens, stated "I am opposed to secret deliberations in smoke-filled rooms."

"I don't believe in sherpas and networks," he added, referring to Berlin's covert working method which involves confidential talks with member states' so-called "sherpas" - special appointees for the birthday declaration as well as the EU constitution issue.

But Mr Steinmeier was spared criticism from the parliament's largest two groups – the conservatives and the socialists – which include the German CDU and SPD parties forming the government coalition in Berlin.

The German minister said the Berlin declaration will contain four parts, more or less confirming earlier reports on the structure of the text.

The first part will be on the EU's achievements, like peace, stability, prosperity, including a strong reference to the the bloc's 2004 enlargement. Particular characteristics of EU integration – such as the equality of all member states – will also be mentioned in this part, according to Mr Steinmeier.

The second part will cover EU values, such as human dignity, freedom, tolerance and mutual solidarity.

The third part – termed the "heart of the declaration" by Mr Steinmeier – will discuss current and future challenges. These are set to include climate change, a common EU foreign policy, "common responses" to illegal immigration and the fight against crime and terrorism.

The social dimension

The German politician highlighted that Berlin "really wants to underscore the social dimension" in this third part of the declaration.

"Europe stands for a social model based on economic competition but reconciling that competition with social and ecological responsibility," he stated.

A strong social paragraph is important to France which in 2005 saw a failed referendum on the EU constitution partly due to fears that the EU would become too liberal.

But too much social talk in the declaration is disliked by free market-oriented states like the UK and the Czech Republic.

The final, fourth part of the text will mark a "commitment" to take necessary steps in the "reform process" of the EU before 2009, Mr Steinmeier said.

This vague kind of reference to the need for institutional reform was already used by EU leaders in conclusions last June, when dealing with the question of what to do with the disputed EU constitution.

Contrary to what German diplomats had originally envisaged, the text will not mention deadlines for re-negotiating the EU constitution, which was rejected by France and the Netherlands, nor will it refer to words like "constitution" or "constitutional."

Meanwhile, Mr Steinmeier avoided the topic of future enlargement, which had emerged as a subject of controversy surrounding the declaration during an EU leaders' dinner last week, with France opposing explicit calls for further expansion of the bloc.

Draghi's grip on power finally unravels

Italy looked set to lose its highly-respected prime minister Mario Draghi on Thursday, after his attempt to relaunch his grand coalition government ended with right-wing parties joining the populist Five Star Movement (M5S) in deserting him.

Italy back in chaos, as Draghi quits over 5-Star snub

Italy was plunged into fresh political turmoil on Thursday as prime minister Mario Draghi announced his resignation after a key ally within his grand coalition government boycotted a parliamentary vote.

MEP accused of 'disrespecting' female moderator

Some 100 representatives of civil society organisations, including Transparency International EU and Oxfam, accuse German Green MEP Reinhard Bütikofer of disrespecting a moderator because she was a woman of colour and want him reprimanded.


Albania's post-communist dream has lessons for Ukraine

Comparisons between post-communist Albania and current-day Ukraine are fascinating — and make many pertinent parallels. Ukrainians have a similar determination to belong to "the rest of Europe" as Albanians.


Finally, the victims of Utøya got a memorial

A legal battle between locals on the one hand and the state and the labour youth organisation on the other side postponed the inception of the memorial in remembrance of the victims of Anders Behring Breivik.

News in Brief

  1. Tens of thousands of Jews quit Russia since start of war
  2. Russia says GDP forecasts better than expected
  3. Spain 'hopeful' for new gas pipeline
  4. German troops return to Bosnia over instability fears
  5. Next UK PM candidates reject Scottish independence push
  6. Russia will not allow British spy plane overflight
  7. Discrimination in Germany remains high, new figures show
  8. US weighs plan to revive Iran nuclear deal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  2. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  4. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us