In December 2012, the European Council – the meeting of 27 national governments with the European Commission – decided to further examine the ‘social dimension’ of the Economic and Monetary Union. After the Council meeting of 27 and 28 of June 2013, those who thought this might be a step in the direction of the so often claimed ‘social Europe’ must be very disappointed.
The European Council only confirmed a ‘recommendation’ to the Member States that had already been adopted by national governments, in order to fight youth unemployment. It means that young people who do not find a job have to receive within four months an offer for either a quality job, a training or an apprenticeship. The importance of such a measure should not be underestimated, but it is not legally binding.
This lack of political will and the continuing focus on austerity policies is particularly bad news for all people in the European Union.
According to the most recent report of the European Commission, unemployment in the EU stands at 10,8 % and
at 11,9 % in the Eurozone. Nearly 6 million young people have no job. In Spain and Greece youth unemployment stands at more than 55 %. More and more families live in financial stress and do not know how to survive. They have more and more debts. Almost one quarter of the EU population lives with a risk at poverty. Emigration within and without the EU is growing.
In spite of these social problems – or even a humanitarian crisis in Southern EU-countries – most governments continue to reduce their social expenditures. To-day, social
protection does not play its role of ‘economic stabilizer’ anymore. Even wages are falling and labour markets are
Nevertheless, what the ‘social dimension’ of the EMU will mean is that social expenditures will become part of the European ‘Semester’ and fall under the surveillance of the European Commission. They will follow the logic that was announced in the ‘Social Investment’ package of last March, which means that the objective of social protection becomes the development of human capital and the promotion of growth. It is social protection at the service of the
We should not blame ‘Europe’ for these developments, since all our governments are following exactly the same
logic, very often long before the European Commission puts its proposals on paper. The ‘enemy’ then should not be an institution, but an ideology that destroys societies, that bans redistribution and solidarity from its discourses
and makes a dogma of competitiveness. This could be the deathblow to the ‘European social model’. In the end, these policies may also threaten democracy.
It is particularly ironic that this happens at a moment when international organisations – including the European Commission – are promoting ‘social protection’ in third world
What we need, in Europe and in the rest of the world, are legally binding standards to protect people and to
protect societies. All people need protection, in whatever political regime they are living. And the best protection is a system of social, economic and solidarity rights.
What we also need, in view of the changing world and social needs of people, is to re-think our social
protection, in order to improve it, make it more coherent and more participative.
To this end, we think it might be useful to change the concept of ‘social protection’ into ‘social commons’, in order to focus on what we all share and on what we should try to
preserve: the life and survival of humankind and of the
For more details about the European Council meeting and the challenges for 2014: please see http://www.globalsocialjustice.eu/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=461:the-end-of-european-welfare-states&catid=10:research&Itemid=13
For an e-book on ‘re-thinking social protection’ and a proposal for ‘social commons’, see www.globalsocialjustice.eu under ‘Research’.
Francine Mestrum lives in Brussels, has a PhD in social sciences and coordinates the global network of
Global Social Justice.