Motion for a resolution - B6-0161/2006Motion for a resolution
B6-0161/2006

    MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION

    9.3.2006

    to wind up the debate on statements by the Council and Commission
    pursuant to Rule 103(2) of the Rules of Procedure
    by Francis Wurtz, Ilda Figueiredo and Helmuth Markov
    on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group
    on the input to the Spring 2006 European Council in relation to the Lisbon Strategy

    Document stages in plenary
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    B6-0161/2006

    B6‑0161/06

    European Parliament resolution on the input to the Spring 2006 European Council in relation to the Lisbon Strategy

    The European Parliament,

    –  having regard to its resolution of 9 March 2005 on the mid-term review of the Lisbon Strategy[1],

    –  having regard to the Commission communication of 12 April 2005 on the integrated guidelines for growth and jobs (2005-2008) (COM(2005)0141),

    –  having regard to the Commission communication of 20 July 2005 entitled ‘Common actions for growth and employment: the Community Lisbon Programme’ (COM(2005)0330),

    –  having regard to the 25 national Lisbon reform programmes as presented by the Member States,

    –  having regard to the Commission’s ‘Annual progress report’ of 25 January 2006,

    –  having regard to the European Council’s Presidency Conclusions of March 2000, March 2001, March 2005 and October 2005,

    –  having regard to Rule 103(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

    General issues – economic, social and environmental observations

    1.  Regrets that the so-called revival of the Lisbon Strategy agreed by last year’s European Spring Council is single-mindedly focused on ‘competitiveness’, ‘structural economic reforms’ and ‘entrepreneurship’, showing a clear neo-liberal bias, putting at stake the social dimension and disregarding the economic, social and environmental problems faced by the different Member States in the EU; stresses that these priorities have been translated into concrete national reform programmes by all Member States that will give an incentive to the ongoing reforms in public procurement, public utilities, labour markets and national social security systems in each Member State;

    2.  Stresses that the Lisbon Strategy defined by the European Council of March 2000 – that had the clear support of the major European employer organisations – UNICE and ERT – has been the main tool within the European Union to promote the liberalisation and privatisation of public utilities, the flexibility and adaptability of labour markets, wage moderation and the opening-up to private interests of the bulk of social security provision, including pensions and health;

    3.  Notes with deep concern that since 2000 the European Union has been plagued by slow economic and employment growth, a transfer of productivity gains from workers to employers, as well as by the persistence of high levels of unemployment, poverty, social exclusion, precarious work and income inequality; notes that, in contrast, the profit share as a proportion of GDP in the euro area is currently close to its highest for at least 25 years, whilst the wage share has been declining decade by decade;

    4.  Stresses that the Lisbon Strategy has been largely unsuccessful in achieving its proclaimed goals of average economic growth of 3%, full employment by creating 20 million new jobs and achieving an overall R&D expenditure of 3% of Community GDP; notes that, according to Commission data, the average economic growth has been about half the target rate, the number of jobs created have been about a quarter of the target (without taking into account the quality of the jobs created and the existing unemployment figure, which stands at almost 20 million) and R&D expenditure has been below 2% of GDP;

    5.  Stresses that the ongoing process of liberalising markets and privatising public utilities has not brought any visible gains in terms of prices, service quality or a reduction in public expenditure; notes, on the contrary, that consumers’ and users’ associations have reported price increases, a drop in the level of service quality and increases in the cost of provision; notes, furthermore, that liberalisation has contributed to the destruction of jobs in the sectors affected and the creation of private monopolies that put workers’ and consumers’ rights at risk;

    6.  Considers that monetary and fiscal policy in the EU has had a negative impact on economic and employment growth and draws attention to the need for a monetary and fiscal policy which helps to strengthen economic recovery and fight unemployment;

    7.  Regrets the agreement reached by the December 2005 European Council on the financial perspective for 2007-2013, in particular the reductions in the structural funds (from 0.41% of EU GNI to 0.37%) and in the social, environment, research, culture and education programmes;

    8.  Considers 1.045% of EU GNI to be deeply insufficient and stresses that the financial perspective for 2007-2013 must lead to a genuine increase in the EU budget in order to cope with the social, economic and environmental challenges facing the enlarged EU and its cohesion needs;

    9.  Stresses that the EU requires a macro-economic framework that is supportive of sustainable development, strengthened environment-friendly internal demand, full employment with rights and social and economic cohesion; therefore, asks Member States and the Union to agree on a coherent European investment strategy by creating an ‘EU investment programme for sustainable development and employment’ of at least 1% of EU GDP, which should be complemented by Member States;

    10.  Asks for a combined and coordinated expansionary fiscal policy of the EU and its Member States aimed at strengthening internal demand, public investment, research and education as well as the development of human resources based on:

    • (i)a relaxation of monetary policy by the ECB, based on democratic accountability and economic and social concerns, to be introduced in parallel with a change in its overarching objective of price stability,
    • (ii)the revocation of the Stability and Growth Pact;

    11.  Recalls the importance of a progressive wage policy to boost internal demand, promote social inclusion and fight income inequalities; regrets that wage moderation continues to be one of the aims of the integrated guidelines;

    12.  Calls for the replacing of the Lisbon Strategy by a European Strategy for Solidarity and Sustainable Developmentthat focuses on the specific strengths of EU economic, social and environmental policies and encourages investment:

    • (i)in research and innovation, in the quality of work in all its aspects and improving qualifications, in order to achieve a highly trained and educated workforce,
    • (ii)in basic and industry-supportive infrastructure,

       (iii)   in public services, in order to improve their quality,

    • (iv)in the protection of the environment and in eco-technologies,
    • (v)in improving labour, social, environmental and safety standards, in order to achieve harmonisation to meet the highest standards,
    • (vi)in the social economy;

    13.  Considers that the environmental policy can represent a major economic opportunity to create jobs both directly and indirectly on a large scale if innovation and industrial policies are focused on the promotion of sustainable development;

    Evaluation of the national reform programmes and the Annual Progress Report in view of the Spring 2006 European Council

    14.  Stresses that the Community Lisbon Programme and the national reform programmes in the framework of the revised Lisbon Strategy are a tool to provide national justification for and push forward the same structural reforms in all the Member States, in particular as regards the labour market and social security, which will have serious economic and social consequences, strengthened even more by the integrated guidelines and the Stability and Growth Pact;

    15.  Takes note of the Commission’s Annual Progress Report and regrets the bias that the Commission shows in its fundamental priorities towards unlocking business potential and private investment, namely by:

    • (i)providing justification to further privatise social security, reduce social benefits and increase the statutory and effective retirement age,
    • (ii)insisting on further flexibility in the labour market with the new concept of ‘flexicurity’ on a par with ‘employability’,

       (iii)   connecting investment in research and development and education to the whims of the free market and thus justifying the commoditisation of knowledge and research,

    • (iv)insisting on the liberalisation of the energy markets and giving overarching priority to the conclusion of the internal market in services;

    16.  Regrets the new concept of ‘flexicurity’ introduced by the Commission, which is defined as combining sufficiently flexible work contracts with coupled labour market polices that support switches from one job to another; considers that this concept is in parallel with the ‘employability’ concept that puts the responsibility for getting a job on the worker; stresses that both concepts promote labour deregulation and the liberalisation of lay-offs, putting social cohesion and quality of work at stake;

    17.  Is deeply concerned at the fact that the main guidelines of the second generation national strategy programmes for sustainable pensions are biased towards the privatisation of welfare, the increase of the pension age and the reduction in the level of benefits; regrets that the Commission insists in further paving the way for the so-called ‘modernisation’ of social protection systems;

    18.  Considers unjustified the pressures of the Commission and the Council through the Lisbon Strategy to further dismantle/privatise the public pensions pillar and increase the effective and statutory retirement age; rejects any attempt to increase the statutory retirement age;

    19.  Regrets that on the eight key EU measures presented by the Commission last year, priority is given to the completion of the internal market for services and the approval of the ‘Bolkestein Directive’; reiterates its determination to take into account the economic importance of the services sector for the European economy and job creation, but takes the view that the liberalisation of services promotes labour de-regulation, social and environmental dumping, and jeopardises public services, jobs and social and consumer rights; rejects the ‘Bolkestein Directive’ and calls on the Commission to withdraw its proposal for a directive on services in the internal market;

    20.  Stresses that there is a contradiction between promoting a flexible labour market and precarious jobs and the need to promote the quality of work in all its aspects; notes that the labour market reforms have been followed by a decline in productivity growth; calls on the Commission to produce a communication on the links between the quality of work and productivity;

    21.  Draws attention to the deep-rooted struggle and resistance of workers, consumers and public-service users against the ongoing process of liberalisation and labour and social security reforms, and calls on the Spring European Council to take this into account and to incorporate the proposals being put forward by trade unions, consumers’ organisations and public-service users’ associations;

    22.  Regrets that the Commission completely neglected the social agenda – namely the social inclusion strategy in the fight against poverty and social exclusion – in its communication, as it did its Spring Report for 2005;

    23.  Regrets that the most of the national reform programmes do not mention the social inclusion strategy, in spite of it being one of the pillars of the social agenda and the Lisbon Strategy established in March 2000; notes that 72 million people in the enlarged EU are at risk from poverty; calls on the Spring European Council to set an ambitious target to halve the EU’s poverty rate by 2010 and to halve the level of income inequalities as expressed by the S80/S20 indicator;

    24.  Regrets that most of the national reform programmes concentrate only on ‘more’ jobs, neglecting ‘better’ jobs – the other side of the coin; stresses that the promotion of quality of work in all its aspects has not been properly tackled in the Annual Progress Report or in the national reform programmes and considers that this should be a priority for the EU because it is deeply connected with the quality of life, social inclusion and productivity; calls on the Spring European Council to establish as a target that half of the EU percentage of employees with fixed-term contracts will have a permanent contract by 2010;

    25.  Recognises the importance of public services and the provision thereof for the promotion of social, economic and regional cohesion in the European Union; strongly criticises the bias against the state as a provider of services of general interest and calls for public goods to be placed under the management of the public sector;

    26.  Stresses that the EU needs a strong commitment to working-time reduction, without lowering wages, to create new employment and increase productivity; calls on the Commission to withdraw its proposal on the revision of the working time directive;

    27.  Considers that current cost-effectiveness assessments or ‘competitiveness’ assessments as proposed under the ‘better legislation’ initiative are biased towards business interests and have as a main goal the withdrawal of any legislation that jeopardises competition or business profitability; considers that impact assessments should not put into question the initial objectives of proposed or established legislation, namely the protection of labour, social, environmental and consumer rights;

    Towards a Solidarity and Social Agenda

    28.  Insists that, in order to build a broad coalition for change, the Lisbon Strategy must seek to improve, rather than weaken, welfare systems (without jeopardising the fundamental right to retirement, sickness and unemployment provision or acquired rights and benefits) and to promote labour markets which prioritise the quality of work and a fair redistribution of productive gains, and must not exert downward pressure on social and environmental standards;

    29.  Stresses that the best way to tackle sustainability of social security is through the achievement of full employment with rights, a progressive wage policy, and the full integration/legalisation of migrant workers, a more egalitarian distribution of incomes, sufficient productivity growth and a coordinated fight against undeclared work; considers that it is important to ensure and increase employers’ contributions to social security; stresses the need to find new instruments to finance public social security schemes, for instance with special taxes on capital market transactions or a resource based on the firm’s added value;

    30.  Stresses the importance of a new social policy agenda whose objectives should be the following:

    • (i)the development of an inclusive and cohesive society, which presupposes measures in favour of stable employment and respect for workers’ rights,
    • (ii)the promotion of a society based on gender equality and the combating of all forms of discrimination,

       (iii)   distribution of the wealth created so as to enhance the wellbeing of everyone, which presupposes publicly provided, universal welfare systems and guaranteed, universal access to high-quality public services, including health, education and housing,

    • (iv)a social policy which takes account of all groups,
    • (v)participatory democracy as a component of the various social and employment policies;

    31.  Notes the need for enhanced educational and social infrastructures for young and elderly people alike, including increased facilities for life-long learning, affordable childcare, nursing care and care for the elderly; reminds the Member States of the commitment that they entered into at the Barcelona Summit in 2002 whereby, by 2010, they are to provide day-care places for more than 33% of children under the age of three and for 90% of children between the age of three and school-starting age;

    32.  Stresses that policies are needed to achieve equality for women and men (e.g. equal pay, parental leave, access to quality employment) and to create better conditions for reconciling employment and private life, also during different phases of working life, and to improve the quantity and quality of infrastructures related to the education and care of dependants;

    33.  Insists on the need for measures to promote equality and combat discrimination, notably via new legislative initiatives aimed at implementing Article 13 of the Treaty in the sphere of the rights of women, immigrants and persons with disabilities; also points to the need to strengthen the link between the European Social Fund and the national action plans for employment and social inclusion so as to provide the necessary funding for the latter and ensure that national parliaments, NGOs active in the above areas and labour-market players can genuinely participate;

    34.  Recalls the Commission strategy for new sources of jobs, in particular by promoting local Community-based services, public services, social services, personal services, cultural services and environmental professions; considers that this strategy should also focus on the quality of the jobs created so that this does not result in the creation of ‘mini-jobs’;

    35.  Considers that immigration policies should promote successful economic and social integration of migrants, which could also contribute to the sustainability of social security; considers that a successful policy of immigration also depends on the implementation of a comprehensive and proactive strategy to achieve full integration, covering a range of social, economic and civic measures;

    Further investment in research, education and innovation

    36.  Believes that eco-innovation and R&D are important for achieving the overall policy of sustainable development and contribute to wealth creation and jobs; stresses the importance of publicly-financed basic and applied research to this end;

    37.  Stresses that an expansionary macro-economic policy must be geared towards promoting eco-innovation, because sustainable development will only be possible if increased demand and economic growth can be linked to strong reductions in the use of energy and raw materials;

    38.  Considers that R&D investment should be geared to improving the quality of life and promoting sustainable development, and that the Seventh Framework Programme for Research 2007-2013 should focus on social sciences, the information society (including free and open-source software), preventive and public healthcare, food safety, control of chemicals, eco-technologies, sustainable development-related activities such as renewable energy and environmentally-friendly agriculture, such as organic farming;

    39.  Believes that the EU should translate these strategic priorities by reinforcing its innovation and research capacity, and, in this context, regrets the cuts made in this area by the December European Council in its proposal for the 2007-2013 financial perspective;

    40.  Invites the Member States to redouble efforts on policy to encourage innovation in medium-sized enterprises, but also in the 20 million European small businesses which are spearheading economic growth and job creation in Europe; considers improved access for SMEs to the Seventh Framework Programme for Research as crucial for strengthening SMEs’ capacity to create jobs;

    41.  Is concerned by the excessive focus on the commoditisation of knowledge and research and warns of the risk that only profit-maximised applied research with market opportunities will see the light of day;

    42.  Stresses the importance of increasing the overall level of education and qualifications of the population to promote innovation and foster R&D and considers that more investment in education, training and life-long learning is fundamental to this end; Considers that the quality of education and training systems must be reinforced at various stages in life and access to higher education facilitated; stresses the need for enterprises to invest more in training their workforce;

    43.  Invites the Member States to focus first and foremost on the school dropout problem at primary and secondary level; considers that EU school dropout rate of about 1 in 5 students is unacceptably high; calls on the Spring European Council to set ambitious targets to reduce this rate by half by 2010; is concerned that the proposals launched by the Commission for the next Spring European Council have specific targets to find jobs for school-leavers to reduce the school drop-out rate;

    Towards a coherent energy policy

    44.  Considers that energy and energy provision is vital to economic development and for the wellbeing of the population; stresses that energy is a public good and energy provision a public service; regrets that most national reform programmes and the Annual Progress Report give priority to pursuing the goal of liberalising the energy markets by 2007 as agreed by Member States in the Council; recalls that this liberalisation could bring price increases and put at risk the provision of the service;

    45.  Considers that the Member States and the EU must make bold efforts to end their dependency on fossil fuels and reverse the current unsustainable trend; stresses that ecological and social sustainability must be at the heart of EU and Member State public investment programmes; notes that investments should be geared towards promoting renewable energies, decoupling economic growth from energy growth and resource use, improving energy efficiency and promoting energy savings via the reduction of the overall levels of energy consumption; considers that a rapid switch to renewable energies should be at the core of the Lisbon Strategy and this should be one of the main priorities of the Seventh Community Framework Programme on Research;

    46.  Considers that a coherent energy policy is essential for sustainable development which implies reduction of consumption, improved efficiency and use of renewable energies; recognises that a change in approaches to energy use should lead to a reduction by some 20% of current energy consumption in Europe; in this context, considers that the Spring European Council’s discussions on energy issues should lead to concrete actions in the field of energy saving, resource efficiency and to further promotion of renewable energy;

    47.  Stresses, therefore, that the EU should invest significant resources in realising the greatest energy-saving potential, while creating jobs at the same time in the sectors that will deliver the most in a short timeframe, in particular in the building sector, which accounts for over 40% of all energy use in the EU25;

    48.  Is aware that long-term energy security is not possible without the switch to renewable energies and calls for increased efforts to ensure that the established targets for renewables, electricity generated from renewables, biofuels and energy efficiency are fully met; calls on the Member States and the Commission to establish incentives and invest in renewable energies to fulfil and surpass the target share for renewable energies;

    49.  Considers that the fight against climate change is creating economic and social opportunities which can help bolster the sustainable development strategy; points out the need for legally binding greenhouse gas reduction targets; urges the Commission to stress the need for climate protection when holding dialogues with international partners, especially the United States, and to stress that relations between the EU and third countries cannot remain unharmed in the absence of a constructive position on this matter;

    50.  Highlights the existing capacities for alternatives and the interrelation of energy, environment and agriculture – to the ultimate benefit of citizens and their quality of life, as well as to the economic sectors involved – in the framework of sustainable development; considers, nonetheless, that a proper balance should be achieved between food crops and energy crops to guarantee that food sovereignty and security is not put at risk;

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    51.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission.