European social model must be modernised, says Barroso
By Honor Mahony
For Europe's Social Model to survive, the EU has to become economically more dynamic, European Commission President José Manuel Durão Barroso has said.
"Without growth, without job creation, without more dynamism in our economies we cannot maintain the high levels of social insurance, protection and environmental protection which ... we call the European model", Mr Barroso told MEPs on Tuesday (14 December).
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The Commission President's comments were part of a general debate on the Commission's political strategy for the next five years - set to be agreed at the end of January.
Several of the comments from MEPs concerned a services directive which proposes to liberalise a range of services, including healthcare.
A principle contained within the directive meaning that service providers are subject to the laws of their country of origin rather than where the service is actually provided has caused concern among left of centre politicians.
They fear a spiral downwards in the level of social service providers.
"In the services directive ... you will have the possibility of showing us whether this Commission is prepared to combine these two sides of the same coin, competitiveness as much as possible but social cohesion as the basis of any action", said leader of the Socialist group, Martin Schulz.
Replying to these concerns, Mr Barroso said, "I do not think it is impossible to make the requirements of economic efficiency compatible with the concerns for social justice".
"It's really a question of modernising the European model, not throwing it out of the window", said the Commission President,
The debate on Monday took place in a much better atmosphere than was recently seen at the European Parliament which last month clashed with Mr Barroso over his original Commission team.
Mr Barroso reiterated the importance of parliament several times.
This led to the leader of the centre-right EPP group, Hans-Gert Poettering, to say, "the debate today is really a new experience for us because the Commission is now listening to the Parliament".
Mr Barroso also said that personal security issues would be high on his to-do list over the coming years.