Monday

18th Dec 2017

Opinion

MEP Ulvskog is wrong about the social pillar

  • The social pillar calls for a uniformity that would undermine European unity. (Photo: European Parliament)

Swedish social democratic MEP Marita Ulvskog claims, in her reply to my criticism of the EU pillar of social rights, that it "is not and was never intended to be a detailed set of policies for how member states should manage their social systems".

As vice-chair of the European Parliament employment committee, Ulvskog should be aware of the policies she advocates and the reports she votes in favour of.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The central idea of the social pillar is to move the design and management of member states’ social systems from national to the European level.

The European Commission, in its communication presented on 26 April, states all various instruments available will be mobilised at European level in order to enforce the pillar.

However, the communication is only the commission's first guideline on its own position. Other positions go much further.

The European parliament adopted a resolution on the pillar on the 19 January.

Marita Ulvskog voted in favour of this report, which called on the commission to "put forward proposals for a stable European pillar of social rights that do not stop in the declaration of principles or good intentions, but help to strengthen social rights through concrete and specific tools (legislation, mechanisms for policy making and financial instruments)”.

Further, it specified that the parliament “recommends the establishment of wage floors in the form of a national minimum wage”, as well as “including legislative proposals as regards maternity leave, paternity leave, parental leave, careers’ leave, access to quality care services and flexible working time arrangements”.

It should be clear what the full implications of the social pillar are.

It is not more European because it is decided in Brussels. Different traditions, preconditions and priorities characterise the different EU member states.

Neither is it more social, nor European, because it is only one pillar neglecting the differences instead of the different social pillars related to each member states' priorities and economic opportunities.

It is time to start debating the real issue. The suggested pillar will not pave the way for a more social Europe. What is needed for that is cohesion in structural reforms in order to facilitate economic growth and jobs for all.

Welfare needs vary between countries, depending on different values, traditions, priorities and economic conditions. For the vast majority of European citizens, welfare is an issue we do not want to compromise on. This will sow discord among member states and create conflict.

Minimum standards are harmonisation. Let us look at the new commission proposal on parental leave: not only do they introduce further quotas for parental leave, but also stipulate that parental leave should be at least eight months. This would be a major intrusion on national sovereignty.

The European Union is the most important project of our lifetime.

Many issues are suited for decisions at the European level. These include trade agreements, environmental matters and questions about the internal market and our digital market, and not least in our times – foreign and security policy. But our welfare or social security schemes are not such issues.

The serious thing is that the whole idea of a social pillar is opposed to subsidiarity, national sovereignty and the diversity that makes Europe strong. It calls for a uniformity that will undermine European unity.

It will lead to an EU that temporarily regulates the everyday lives and welfare of citizens.

Gunnar Hoekmark is the leader of the Swedish EPP delegation in the European Parliament and member of the committee on economic affairs.

New EU parliament coalitions get in shape

Social-democrats and their allies scored a major win on Thursday with the adoption of a report on social rights. But questions remain on the parliament's power balance after the end of the left-right grand coalition.

EU must help independent media in Ukraine

Some seven journalists have been killed in Ukraine since the pro-EU uprising of 2014 - with elections looming in 2019, next year looks like another dangerous year for reporters covering Kiev.

Iceland: further from EU membership than ever

With fewer pro-EU MPs in the Iceland parliament than ever before, any plans to resume 'candidate' membership of the bloc are likely to remain on ice, as the country prioritises national sovereignty and a more left-wing path.

News in Brief

  1. EU-UK Brexit trade deal by January 2021, official says
  2. Bitcoin is 'deadly', Danish central bank warns
  3. EU Commission wants to ban 'legal weed'
  4. France files €10m complaint against Amazon
  5. EU negotiators reach deal on 'circular economy'
  6. Poll: Tight race in Catalonia days before elections
  7. EU: Israel built 8,000 settler homes in six months
  8. China agrees to promote London as centre for yuan

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceA New Study Challenges the Infrastructure Mega Corridors Agenda
  2. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  3. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% plastics recycling rate attainable by 2025 new study shows
  4. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  5. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  6. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  7. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  9. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  10. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  11. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  12. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties
  2. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham
  3. EU2017EERole of Culture in Building Cohesive Societies in Europe
  4. ILGA EuropeCongratulations to Austria - Court Overturns Barriers to Equal Marriage
  5. Centre Maurits CoppietersCelebrating Diversity, Citizenship and the European Project With Fundació Josep Irla
  6. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceUnderstanding the Social Consequences of Obesity
  7. Union for the MediterraneanMediterranean Countries Commit to Strengthening Women's Role in Region
  8. Bio-Based IndustriesRegistration for BBI JU Stakeholder Forum about to close. Last chance to register!
  9. European Heart NetworkThe Time Is Ripe for Simplified Front-Of-Pack Nutrition Labelling
  10. Counter BalanceNew EU External Investment Plan Risks Sidelining Development Objectives
  11. EU2017EEEAS Calls for Eastern Partnership Countries to Enter EU Market Through Estonia
  12. Dialogue PlatformThe Turkey I No Longer Know