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Σε εκδήλωση της οργάνωσης Solidar με θέμα την κοινωνική διάσταση της διεύρυνσης της Ε.Ε.

Σε εκδήλωση της οργάνωσης Solidar με θέμα την κοινωνική διάσταση της διεύρυνσης της Ε.Ε.

Dear speakers and guests,

I would like to thank the organisers for the invitation and for the opportunity to discuss with you the social aspects of EU enlargement and the latest developments in the enlargement countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, FYROM, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey).

Almost one and half years have passed from the day when the plenary of the European Parliament adopted the “Report on Enlargement: policies, criteria and the EU’s strategic interests”. Despite the problems and the difficulties, enlargement has been a successful process for the EU and Europe as a whole and in the same time it is the most successful EU external policy. Through enlargement policy European Union promoted and achieved some of its main targets:
• helping Center and Eastern Countries to overcome the divisions of the cold war,
• contributing to peace, stability and prosperity throughout Europe,
• enhancing conflict prevention,
• stimulating reforms and consolidating freedom, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law, as well as
• the development of market economies and
• Socially and ecologically sustainable development.

Being the rapporteur of the European Parliament on Enlargement my intention was to stress the need to increase the overall credibility of EU’s enlargement policy, to focus on the EU’s attitudes and to better communicate the benefits of enlargement to the EU citizens. I always believed that the enlargement policy is the corner stone of EU’s “soft – power”.

Concerning the EU response to the economic crisis, we can all agree that it is slow and cannot persuade the eu citizens, it is also the cause which brought up to the surface the structural deficiencies of eu structure, the luck of the principle of solidarity between the member states and the sentiments of xenophobia. All these have a great impact at the enlargement policy because in their effort to defend themselves, the member states weaken their links with the other states, they rethink their place in such a Union and they become less eager to invest more money in such policies.
Social dimension of EU Enlargement

From the first time I insisted on the need to draw more attention to the social dimension of enlargement. When the negotiations for accession start, the candidate countries know very well that the «acquis communautaire» goes far beyond the adoption of binding legal provisions. It requires the adoption of appropriate administrative and judicial structures at national level, as well as cooperation with the relevant parties within the economic and social sphere.

We should not forget that the EU has been attractive, owing that to its unique combination of economic dynamism with a social model. Citizens of third countries find the EU inviting as they see the prospect of socioeconomic development in it. It is regrettable that this social dimension has been largely neglected in the enlargement process, as much as it is disappointing that this European social model is actually under attack. My report, in recognition of this reality, called for the defence and promotion of the common minimum social standards in the acquis communautaire, so that the EU can be an example of best practice.

Unfortunately, until today, states fail to comply with the EU’s common basic social standards. That constitutes a form of social dumping, which is detrimental to European enterprises and workers. Social partners and in particular trade unions need our targeted assistance in order to reinforce their capacities. The acquis in the social field includes minimum standards in areas such as labour law, equal treatment of women and men, health and safety at work and anti-discrimination.

Civil society, non-state actors and social partners, both from the candidate countries and the Member States, must participate more in the accession process. Their participation in the dialogue and their involvement in every stage of the procedure is crucial for the success of this policy. In the same time, enforcement mechanisms such as labour inspection are necessary in order to protect workers and ensure respect for their social rights and health and safety standards, as well as combating exploitation, especially of undeclared workers.

For enlargement to, really, work it is essential that social partners in these countries organize themselves and cooperate together in developing an independent social dialogue and, in the same time contribute to social legislation being implemented. Therefore, the social partners must be able to develop and independent social dialogue and fulfil their role in accordance with the «social chapter» of the EU Treaty. Enlargement is a win-win process.

Conclusion

For many years the power of the European Union to attract the interest of third countries has been undisputed. This was considered the essence of its “transformative power” and its capacity to promote peace, reconciliation and democracy in Europe. However, mainly due to the economic crisis, challenges are now emerging for the union. For example I could underline:
• the general rise of Euroscepticism in member states
• the low voter turnout during the first ever European parliament elections in Croatia.
• the decision of the centre-right government of Iceland to freeze accession negotiations with the EU.
• the so-called enlargement fatigue.

Despite its recent troubles, the EU’s economic dynamism and social model should make further enlargement an attractive prospect, because enlargement does not favour only the newcomers. That is a widespread misconception. All the member states can benefit from this policy. In order to be able to attract the interest and admiration of neighbours once again, the EU should prove itself capable of working satisfactorily, delivering, and ensuring the wellbeing of its citizens.

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