Index 
 Previous 
 Next 
 Full text 
Procedure : 2005/2248(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A6-0238/2006

Texts tabled :

A6-0238/2006

Debates :

PV 05/09/2006 - 14
CRE 05/09/2006 - 14

Votes :

PV 06/09/2006 - 7.5
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P6_TA(2006)0340

Verbatim report of proceedings
Tuesday, 5 September 2006 - Strasbourg OJ edition

14. A European social model for the future (debate)
PV
MPphoto
 
 

  President. The next item is the report by Mr Proinsias De Rossa and Mr José Albino Silva Peneda, on behalf of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, on a European Social Model for the future [2005/2248(INI)] (A6-0238/2006).

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Proinsias De Rossa (PSE), rapporteur. – Mr President, this own-initiative report, prepared jointly by myself and Mr Silva Peneda, with the essential support of our respective staffs, is a very important contribution to the ongoing debate about the future of Europe and the role that Europe’s social model can play in re-energising the unification of our continent.

There are no doubts these days that the creation of the European Union has been a very effective and successful peace process. What is not so readily acknowledged is that it has also been a successful prosperity process. In his book, ‘The European Dream’, Jeremy Rifkin comments on the remarkable recovery of European countries following the Second World War. The fact that Europe outstripped the United States in growth terms for half a century up to the mid-1990s, by developing and putting into place a remarkable social infrastructure which ensured that prosperity could be shared, was a remarkable achievement.

This success was not based on a dog-eat-dog approach, but on a social contract which ensured that working people would share in the wealth created, and their dependence on society generally would also benefit through the provision of universal public services.

We are now into a new period – an unprecedented revolution in technology, in the age structure of our population, and in the globalisation of capital, where there is a growing need to create a transnational democracy that is capable of effective governance of those new phenomena.

This report recognises that the challenges we face cannot be addressed by reheated dogmas, whether of the left or the right. That is not to say that there are no philosophical differences anymore, but it is to argue that these differences are being redefined by the objective conditions of the modern world we live in.

This report is a restatement that Europe’s core values of equality, solidarity, redistribution and anti-discrimination, care for the young, the old and the sick through universal public provision must be defended in the necessary reforms already under way; that our social model is not an obstacle to competitiveness and growth but is, in fact, a necessary ingredient if we are to deliver the kind of decent European society that our citizens clearly desire; and that the concept of ‘flexicurity’, pioneered by my colleague Mr Rasmussen in Denmark, can help facilitate reforms by preventing people from tumbling into poverty as a result and can, if properly tailored to each Member State’s needs, be an important tool in the process.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  José Albino Silva Peneda (PPE-DE), rapporteur. – (PT) I should like to begin by saying that the EU that we know today was founded on an ideal, the main objective of which was winning and maintaining peace. In half a century, Europe has, on the world stage, become a byword for peace, democracy, freedom, solidarity, prosperity and development.

Peace, this prime objective of the European project, has manifestly been achieved, to the extent that we now take the true value of this major victory for granted, so normal has it become to live in peace for over six decades. We are talking about peace that is rooted in freedom, democracy and respect for human rights and the rule of law. Let us compare the European social model with other situations: an example close to home was the great swindle of the totalitarian Communist experiments, which for decades deprived many Europeans of their right to freedom, for most now happily regained.

The brutal reality of Islamic fundamentalism today is a further example of a movement far removed from the core values on which the European social model is based. This report deals essentially with values. The way in which these values are implemented varies from country to country, and we therefore stress the idea that while the European social model is a unity of values, that unity is implemented in a number of different ways.

Globalisation, technological development and demographic change are the main factors behind the difficulties faced, to a greater or lesser extent, by the social protection systems in the different European countries. Hence the need for timely reforms; either the European social model will survive if we take action, or will die if we do nothing.

We know that if there is weak economic growth any structural reform will be doomed from the outset. This is why we have placed major emphasis in the report on the Member States implementing the Lisbon Strategy and on the need to complete the internal market. The following are the areas to be prioritised in the reforms to be undertaken: greater flexibility in the labour market, lifelong learning, more time to pursue an active life, the work-family life balance, changes in sources of funding, and combating poverty and social exclusion.

In the area of competitiveness, we recommend that greater attention be paid to SMEs and to innovation. The general guidelines of the reforms that must be implemented and that have been highlighted in our report are indicative of reformist thinking firmly rooted in the core values of the European social model. As elements that inform all political action, these values are needed now more than ever.

It is therefore important to us that Parliament affirm that the reforms that need to be carried out to the different social protection systems must not under any circumstances affect the core values on which the European social model is based. Parliament’s decision on the content of this report will thus be of relevance beyond the Union because it will be a political affirmation of the defence of values that are important not only to Europe but also to the world. In this regard, I shall quote the International Labour Organisation, which explicitly referred to the European social model as a possible source of inspiration for emerging new powers.

I should finally like to mention my fellow rapporteur, Mr De Rossa, and to thank him for the excellent spirit of cooperation that we enjoyed, which enabled us to work in a way that was both stimulating and pleasant.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Paula Lehtomäki, President-in-Office of the Council. (FI) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, firstly I wish to say that I am grateful for the opportunity to discuss Europe’s social future with you. This is obviously a very important subject as far as the citizens of Europe are concerned.

The Heads of State of the European Union have repeatedly confirmed their commitment to European values and the development of European social models. The European social model, which is capable of combining economic growth, low levels of unemployment and social cohesion, provides a solid base on which to look for answers to the challenges of globalisation and an ageing population.

The European social model also needs to be reviewed constantly. We have to make it easier for our citizens to adapt to change. We have to show our support for European competitiveness and higher levels of employment and, furthermore, combat poverty and exclusion. We have to make sure that the systems for social protection are sustainable in the long term and at an adequate level. All these aims support one another reciprocally.

It is vital to the future of a social Europe that the Lisbon Strategy for growth and employment is assiduously put into effect. If the European welfare societies are to remain, there need to be better competitiveness, lower rates of unemployment and higher productivity. One of the objectives of the Finnish Presidency is to reinforce the basis for economic growth in Europe.

Over the coming weeks we are expecting the Commission to present a communication on demographic change in Europe. These issues were discussed at an informal meeting of EU Ministers for Employment, Social Affairs and Health in Helsinki in July. One of the Finnish Presidency’s conclusions from these talks was that the change in the population’s age structure should not be regarded as merely a challenge: it is also an indication of how well the European welfare model works. Large sections of the population have the chance of a longer, healthier life. Although the conclusions relating to the potential for economic growth and the sustainability of public finances may well be less positive, a long-term, proactive policy of reform is essential.

The job market debate is a fundamental part of the European social model. The Finnish Prime Minister, Matti Vanhanen, and the Commission President, Mr Barroso, will host an extraordinary tripartite Social Summit in Lahti on 20 October. Its purpose is to continue the debate on managing structural change in Europe. We need to find a balance between flexibility and security and invest heavily in skills and expertise. By making it easier for men and women to harmonise work with family life we will be creating at the same time a more effective response for Europe to the challenges of globalisation and an ageing population. This harmonisation of work and family life is also fundamentally linked to the implementation of the Lisbon Strategy. This was highlighted at the European Council in spring 2006 when it adopted the European Pact for Gender Equality.

The Union is a key global player whose aim is the promotion of democracy, human rights and sustainable development. The Commission has just presented a communication on the subject of ‘decent’ work. It is very important for the EU and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to cooperate on this matter. The worldwide promotion of decent work will also boost productivity in the less developed countries.

During its Presidency, Finland wants to strengthen the European Union’s ability to adapt to the pressures of global competition. Improving European competitiveness is closely linked to the preservation of the European welfare societies. Europe can be both competitive and strong socially, but this will require us to make continued efforts and be prepared for change.

As Prime Minister Vanhanen said here in the European Parliament plenary in July, we also have to take seriously the fear that Europeans have of global competition. Common values and social justice will play a central role in allaying such fears.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Vladimír Špidla, Member of the Commission. (CS) Ladies and gentlemen, I should first like to thank Mr Silva Peneda and Mr De Rossa for their report on the European social model for the future. The report makes a useful and thought-provoking contribution to the debate launched at the Hampton Court European Council in October 2005. Most importantly, though, it once again emphasises the significance of social Europe and the need to protect and develop the European social model.

Ladies and gentlemen, the debate on the European social model is, by nature, a complex one, which can be approached from a number of different perspectives. I feel that Parliament’s report in its original form takes a wide-ranging approach and conveys the most important points. I should like, if I may, to share a few thoughts with you.

Firstly, the report ultimately states that the European social model was built on a specific set of values. The technical implementation of those values may vary, of course. When we speak of values, we speak of something worthwhile; in other words, if we are convinced that there are values at the heart of the European model we are saying that we are willing to channel our efforts into protecting and developing those values.

When we speak about the European social model, one of the adjectives we use is European. I feel that the European social model is clearly based on European integration, without which there would be no hope of progress on the world stage, regardless of which Member States we are talking about. Accordingly, European integration is a cornerstone of the European social model, and, as the other side of that coin, the European social model is one of the cornerstones of European integration. Given that, from a geographical point of view, European integration is a complex concept, we could hold a series of wide-ranging debates, although in principle where we find the European social model, there we also find the boundaries of European integration. It exists where we have a set of values that have been adopted by the individual Member States. There are, of course, other values that one could add, and this is clearly a question that would provoke a great deal of lively discussion. In my view, these are the core elements of this debate in Parliament, and the main reasons why it is so important.

I share the view expressed by the rapporteurs that it is important not to regard social politics or policies as a burden, but rather as a positive, proactive factor in creating jobs, in supporting growth and in strengthening social cohesion. Europe cannot be competitive without being socially strong. It cannot be competitive without a social policy. It is mistaken to think that if we throw away this core idea, we will gain some kind of wonderful advantage. This opinion has, in my view, been expressed very clearly, which I am pleased to see.

I am also pleased that the positions of Parliament and the Commission coincide on a great many points, for example in their assessment of the situation. Europe must reform its policies if it wants to protect its values. Preserving the status quo is not a solution; preserving the status quo is in the long run simply a waste. We must also realise that besides an innovative and open Europe we also have a Europe with almost 20 million unemployed. The situation in the labour market is gradually improving, and recently the figure was more in the region of 18 million, a 2 million improvement, which is not inconsiderable. We have a Europe in which there is poverty; we have a Europe in which there is child poverty; we have stagnating growth and a Europe with too much social exclusion. If the EU is to remain active and economically strong, the challenges that must be tackled head-on also include the ageing population, which threatens the financial viability of our social systems, and globalisation, which is a source of fear mainly for countries with high unemployment and which at the same time confirms how indispensable it is to launch the structural reforms.

I should like to thank Parliament for its proposals, which I wish to sum up in one word: modernisation, or perhaps a better word would be improvement. We need to modernise in order to be able to preserve high-quality education and health systems, and to deliver decent employment and decent pensions for all. The Commission and the Member States have launched the process of modernisation and the reforms as part of the re-launched Lisbon Strategy. I wish to thank the rapporteurs, in this regard, for highlighting the importance of striking a balance between the economic dimension, on the one hand, and employment and social protection on the other. The EU has at its disposal a range of individual instruments that will help the Member States to press ahead with modernisation. This legislation will support economic change and the implementation of measures to protect our values and quality of life, conferring the authority to monitor compliance with Community rights and providing a budget which is vital for supporting the Union’s economic, social and territorial cohesion.

Most of the proposals in the report bear a striking similarity to the Commission’s current activities. These include activities relating to demographic change, which will be addressed in the proposals contained in the Green Paper on demography that I should like to introduce in October. They also include activities relating to what is known as flex-security, that is, flexibility with security, regarding which the Commission has begun to negotiate with the interested parties, and these negotiations are due to culminate in the adoption of joint principles by the end of 2007. Additionally, we have activities relating to services of general interest, which the Commission will address in a communication to be completed by the end of this year on the basis of Parliament's report. There is also similarity in the activities arising from the Commission communication of June 2006 entitled ‘A citizens’ agenda delivering results for Europe’, in which the Commission undertook to carry out, in 2007, a thorough assessment of the reality of the European Community and to launch a programme geared towards an approach to rights and solidarity, which will also examine the possibility of establishing a list of rights for Europe's citizens.

Lastly, I should like once again to thank the rapporteurs for their report, which looks to the future and which makes some useful proposals. The Commission will respond to it in the coming months in the context of the main initiatives to which I have alluded. Ladies and gentlemen, I should like if I may to return to the very beginning. The European social model is founded on the idea that it is possible to link up political democracy, economic efficiency, economic effectiveness and solidarity.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Miloslav Ransdorf (GUE/NGL), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy. – (PT) Ladies and gentlemen, previously the entire sector of social expenditure was viewed as an incidental matter, as a matter of redistribution. I believe that the experience of recent years has shown that this is not a matter of expenditure but rather one of investment, and I am pleased that we are discussing this report during the Finnish Presidency. The Finnish crises of the early 1990s were overcome by investing in people, in a similar fashion to the Danes during the time of Bishop Grundtvig.

Recently, the work of the US economist Richard Florida has drawn attention to the creative class and the economics of creativity. We need to create a network capable of harnessing all kinds of talent in European society and of driving development forward. We must, in my view, regard the European social model as an area of choice and not as a unification issue. Lifestyles should diversify, because where we gamble on cheap labour, such as in the Asian economies, there is dwindling choice and the range of opportunities for economic growth also diminishes.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Emine Bozkurt (PSE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality. – (NL) Mr President, I am grateful to Mr De Rossa and Mr Silva Peneda for their work and the report on the European social model. I am pleased that the input of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality has been taken seriously and is also reflected in the report.

Women are indispensable in the social model, just as they are indispensable in the labour market. Not for nothing did we in Europe plan to enhance the labour participation of women. Despite this, women are often still absent from the labour market, and, for that matter, feature far too infrequently in the social model.

Women are often the first victims of a badly-functioning social system. If there are no funds for day-nursery facilities or for sick, elderly or disabled people, it is often the women, wives and mothers who stay at home to look after them.

That is why I am in favour of a model which takes women into consideration, one in which the government helps where needed in an affordable manner. I am against a model thought out in Brussels that must, by hook or by crook, be implemented across Europe. What I am in favour of, though, is social solidarity in Europe under the motto ‘One for all and all for one’.

That is also reflected in the report we are discussing today, and that is why I am in favour of the report by Mr De Rossa and Mr Silva Peneda.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Ria Oomen-Ruijten, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – (NL) Mr President, when you look around in society and talk to people, you can tell they are worried about the consequences of globalisation and about globalisation itself, and that there are concerns, due to persistent unemployment in some Member States, about being affected. They can see the adverse effects the demographic development has, and that makes people, also in the discussion about the European social model, very reticent.

They wonder how sustainable are all the things we have at present. Can we maintain the pensions, the unemployment benefits, if need be, or this welfare level as it is at the moment? That is the sort of caution I am talking about.

The central question is whether the social security systems, which are very different but are all based on certain values, can deliver what was promised when they were first set up.

I am very glad that two fellow Members, Mr De Rossa and Mr Silva Peneda, have, despite their different political backgrounds, managed to draft an excellent report which can serve as a basis for future discussion. I am extremely grateful to them for this.

At the heart of the European social model is the need for economic development, for without that we cannot give, or guarantee, social security. We want to be able to guarantee people basic social requirements, but we must also acquire the funds to do so, of course. That involves a continuous process, whereby social security is reorganised so that the citizens receive what they can expect.

There are different models and our model is different from the others in that it is based on a social market economy and, in fact, also on Christian social teaching. I am grateful for the many sound recommendations in this report.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Jan Andersson , on behalf of the PSE Group. – (SV) Mr President, I would like to start by thanking the two rapporteurs, who have worked very well together. The report they have produced is a good one. I am often asked, when back home in Sweden, whether there really is a European social model or whether what we really have is a collection of different models. My response is that, while it is true that our social systems are different, they also have a great deal in common and it is that commonality which constitutes the European social model. We all have systems that build on solidarity with those who are unemployed or sick or who have suffered industrial injuries. We all have a public sector through which we pay for what is common, to somewhat differing degrees. We also have the social partners and civil society, which play a large part in the process whereby we shape our societies. These are the common distinguishing characteristics.

If the social model is based on common values within different systems, this means that we can learn from one another in the course of the process that we now find ourselves in. It is, of course, not the case that the social model or the various social systems cannot be changed. As so many speakers in this debate have said, they must be constantly amended - the systems themselves, that is to say, rather than the values underpinning them.

The two great challenges today are demographic change and globalisation. In view of the demographic change, we must also show solidarity with the next generation. Thus, the next generation must not have to spend an unreasonable amount of what it produces on those of us retiring and requiring large amounts of medical care. We therefore have to create sustainable pension systems.

We must, however, also ensure that we create a working environment that makes it possible for people to remain in the job market for longer. Amongst other things, this means having reasonable working hours. We must have skills development whereby the older section of the workforce is also able to be involved in the changes in skills development and other such matters and whereby such workers are thus able to carry on working. This would mean that we would have more workers in the labour market. Perhaps we will also need to accept more people from countries outside Europe in the future, which in all likelihood will be the case.

As far as globalisation is concerned, there are two ways to go. The first of these is to copy the economies of our competitors, China and India, namely in terms of wages, labour market conditions and the like. The second way is for us to attempt to compete, in fact, by having well-trained staff and by engaging in research and development and so on, which would mean that our workers and the products they produce would be the best in the world. This does, however, require security in the labour market, since it involves change and restructuring. People involved in a changing labour market need to feel secure. I know that the Finnish Presidency is referring to this as ‘security in the midst of change’ rather than as ‘flexicurity’, but it amounts to the same thing. If you feel secure, you are also able to participate in the work of bringing about change and the development of Europe. Then we can develop our social systems in such a way that they become a productive factor in the work of bringing about change.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Patrizia Toia, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, in the debate in recent months on the growing political integration of Europe, with its ups and downs, we have often said that Europe needs to give people a better idea of its project, its purpose and, I would say, its indispensability: the Europe of results, conceived by us specifically to give people a real key to understanding its raison d’être.

Now, however, its social dimension needs to be promoted as well, alongside the dimensions of growth and knowledge, the objectives that we are always proclaiming. This must be accompanied by research into what Europe must become, so that we can tell Europe’s people clearly whether the future of Europe – and not just its past history and that of the 20th century, which we all know and have lived through – will still have this priority, this distinguishing mark that has characterised the diverse models and systems in the various Member States.

It is precisely at a European level that we need to make this leap: the progress made so far in the various countries and Member States is now confronted by challenges that isolated responses alone are unlikely to overcome. Clearly – I must say this to those who fear that Brussels will decide everything: what, how, and with a single model – clearly, evidently and indisputably, the competence and responsibility for social policies lie with the Member States, and decisions on how much and what kind of revenue to spend on our social systems, depending on whether the emphasis is more on social security or education or reparation, must be made at a national level.

That these are national decisions is beyond doubt, and I too uphold the idea that my country should decide what kind of welfare state to create, but I also consider it necessary to adopt a common approach at European level regarding certain fundamental rights that must be safeguarded: social rights that, I would remind you, we included in the rights section of our draft Constitution. We have to start here, with a common approach to lay down certain guidelines, precisely because our national social systems are faced with the worst challenge of all: economic and financial compatibility. Indeed, we want competitiveness and social cohesion to go hand in hand as the two sides of the same coin of integrated development of a society.

That is why I think today’s debate is important; that is why I think it should be part of the European agenda, even though some may perhaps question it because it is just an own-initiative report on this subject. It is not enough to talk about institutional models; it is not enough to talk about what kind of governance is necessary; it is essential to debate the competitive model for our free economy.

The citizens also want to know this, when they make their political choice, when they also make, or refuse to make, the economic choices that we shall ask them to make for the sake of higher employment or some other reason: they will ask whether these social rights are in any case a distinguishing mark of all the welfare systems that the various countries will be implementing.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Sepp Kusstatscher, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. (DE) Mr President, I am sure that everyone, in principle, is in agreement with the European social model, even if they only pay lip-service to it. Who can have any objection to a shared scheme of values, or have anything against peace, social justice, freedom, equality and so on?

While EU politics is far from lacking in fine principles and guidelines, in the day-to-day life that goes on in parallel with it there prevails a raw reality, with, among other things, the pursuit of short-term profit and often unscrupulous exploitation and competition. Many watch passively, or look away, while the few become richer and more and more people become poorer and poorer.

This document makes only passing reference to the most serious social problems, such as extreme poverty, discrimination against immigrants, the grim lot of the long-term unemployed; it is insufficiently rigorous in highlighting inequality and injustice, and the blame for this must lie with the subsidiarity principle – good thing though that is in itself. If what is termed harmonisation in the economy is to be regarded as the most obvious thing in the world, then the EU ought also to say ‘yes’ to harmonisation measures in the social sphere, starting by bringing taxes into line and then moving on to debate minimum and basic incomes and the citizen's wage, and then saying 'yes' in particular to the harmonisation of the pension system.

Justice can only be a valid principle in the EU if the law, throughout Europe, accords full protection to the weakest members of society.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Ilda Figueiredo, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (PT) This debate is extremely important given the serious nature of the issue, the so-called ‘European social model’, that is to say, the economic, social and labour rights that have been gained by the workers and the people over dozens of years, a fact not taken into account by the Commission or by this report. Far from it, in fact.

The underlying thrust of the report is that social security systems hamper economic development and are unsustainable given the demographic challenges posed by globalisation and world competition. The report emphasises deep structural reforms that in practice will lead to the collapse of public social security systems, thereby casting aside the main weapon at our disposal for protecting social inclusion, for combating poverty, unequal distribution of income, job insecurity and unemployment, and for promoting the dignity of those in work.

In this way, the rapporteurs of the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats and the Socialist Group in the European Parliament are seeking to continue the policy of pandering to Europe’s captains of industry and the interests of the large economic and financial groups, opening up new business areas and placing a significant proportion of pension system funding in the hands of private profit. The trend is therefore towards the increasingly neoliberal path of the so-called ‘Lisbon Strategy' and ‘Stability Pact’.

This is not what the 72 million-plus people living in poverty and the 18 million-plus unemployed had been hoping for. What is needed is a change in these policies. This is what we had in mind with the proposals we put forward, which we hope will be adopted.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Brian Crowley, on behalf of the UEN Group. Mr President, I, too, would like to join my colleagues in thanking the joint rapporteurs for their work on this very important report. I welcome the Commissioner to the House also, because eventually the Commission will have to start implementing some of the things that we are talking about here.

One of the key elements arising from the debate is the recognition at last that, unless the economic wealth can be created, together with the employment terms to guarantee jobs and security within those jobs and rights after those jobs, then the European social model is non-existent.

As my colleague, Mr Andersson, rightly pointed out, there is not just one single model, but a variety of different ones. The one thing they all share is the necessity for solidarity between all peoples within the individual countries and across the European Union. The idea of protection for those who are most vulnerable within our society is at the very core of what the European social model should be about. When you look down through the list of issues and areas that need to be covered, of course there are always difficulties that will arise, whether it is with regard to long-term unemployment, youth unemployment, female unemployment, social welfare provision, protection with regard to access to housing, access to education and training, or more recently the demographic situation and the pensions crisis that is looming before us.

No matter how you try and come up with solutions to deal with the problems that are there, the one thing we should learn from the practical experience we now have of a number of these various social models is that one size does not fit all. There is a need to allow for flexibility within those models, to guarantee that the core values of putting the human being at the very centre of what the social model is about remain paramount. But, also, when we speak about harmonisation of taxation or harmonisation of the minimum wage, this obviously militates against creating equality, because countries that at present have lower wages and a high level of social protection could be made uncompetitive, with business and companies being attracted elsewhere and jobs lost. That is why this flexibility must be there.

I give my support to the report in general and I am delighted with the comments it makes. One area of ongoing concern is the need to ensure the link between economic performance and the generation of wealth, which must then be utilised for social protection. You cannot have one without the other and when we speak about raising taxes, you can have the highest taxes in the world, but if you do not have companies employing people and paying taxes, then you cannot provide social protection afterwards.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Derek Roland Clark, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. – Mr President, this report covers ten diverse fields, practically all EU areas, from peace and security to human rights and from Lisbon to Laeken. It is, then, an aspiration, an attempt at founding an embryonic culture.

When I was younger I played rugby and I recall a match that was not going well. The captain gathered us together imploring us to have more team spirit. An empty gesture, because team spirit cannot be manufactured: it arises from the game’s culture of combining various skills, of playing for each other, of covering each other’s mistakes and of the post-match social atmosphere.

By the same token, it is no use the rapporteurs gathering us together to vote for a European social model. If all its various parts, reports, treaties, rules and regulations, etc. are worthwhile and are put into practice by all this team of nations, then the European social model will emerge of its own volition. Therefore, this report is irrelevant!

Recital O of the report specifies that the Constitution should reflect the concept of the social model – covering the same ground. It follows that the European Constitution is also irrelevant, as well as dead!

This report emphasises the role of the Member States and their competences, especially their role in securing jobs leading to economic growth and prosperity. It comments on the diversity of the European Member States and says that we must respect their traditions, all of which was endorsed this morning by the Finnish President. However, this will all be swept aside and lost if the EU embarks on the madness of a Constitution.

In conclusion, you may gather that I doubt the sincerity of this report, which includes the statement: ‘recommends that Member States deepen cooperation and exchange of best practice’. One year ago I remarked in this House that one of the central features of the EU was that each Member State could bring to the table its best practice to share with all the others. However, when I said this in the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs during the working time directive debate and tried to contribute some best practice from a Member State – the UK – I was firmly told by that rapporteur: ‘We don’t want you dumping your ideas on us’.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Roger Helmer (NI). – Mr President, a year ago British Prime Minister Tony Blair addressed this House and asked a vital question: what sort of social model is it that delivers 20 million unemployed across the EU? It was a good question, and so far I have not heard the answer.

The European social model is well meaning, it is compassionate, it is meant to do good and yet it has created a regulatory and fiscal climate which is deterring enterprise, destroying wealth and undermining competitiveness. It is time to face reality: one man’s job protection is another man’s unemployment. The social model is profoundly discriminatory. It discriminates in favour of people in work and against the unemployed. If we want to achieve the Lisbon objectives, if we want to face up to the challenges of globalisation, if we want growth and jobs and competitiveness and prosperity, then we have to start to dismantle the European social model.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Csaba Őry (PPE-DE). – (HU) The European social model faces significant challenges, related primarily to the changes in the economic environment and social transformation. Several elements of these changes have already been mentioned here today.

In my view, a key question is the need to create ever more jobs. For this purpose, and in relation to the social model, it is important to stress: only more jobs, and therefore, obviously, support for the small and medium-sized enterprise sector can make it possible even to speak of elements of change within the social model. I am delighted to hear what Commissioner Spidla has also said, that this is a question of preserving European values. In order to succeed in doing so, it is clear that structural changes within the European social model are also necessary. The main question is through what EU strategy and at what rate of change can this be achieved?

In this regard, I am of the opinion that we need to harmonise EU policies, and I especially welcome the aim set out in the report: a strengthened, open method of coordination so that national parliaments and the European Parliament can play a more active role in this. I am convinced that greater cooperation and joint European consensual positions are necessary on the major political questions. Therefore, common European statements, and policies tailored to each Member State, are the approach we must follow. As regards future prospects, this declaration is sufficiently pragmatic and clearly shows that we must work together. Problems can only be solved by joining our forces, not by fragmenting them.

I consider this to be a good, defensible report and I ask that the greatest possible number of Members, preferably from the widest possible political spectrum, lend it their support.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Stephen Hughes (PSE). – Mr President, I wish to congratulate both rapporteurs, who have done excellent work.

Last autumn, during the British Presidency and in the run-up to the extraordinary summit at Hampton Court, members of my own government were saying two contradictory things about the idea of the European social model. On the one hand they said there was no such thing as a European social model – we have 25 different national social models – while on the other they said that if there was such a thing as a European social model then it was a continental phenomenon and a millstone around the necks of a number of Member State economies.

Mr Helmer has reminded us of what Mr Blair said in this House. In fact, a number of ministers have said the same thing, and are obviously reading from the same script - i.e. do we really want a social model that throws 20 million into unemployment? If Mr Helmer was listening to the debate then he would have heard an answer to that assertion from Mr Blair, because this report nails those lies. The very first substantive paragraph underlines the point that we indeed have a European social model which reflects a common set of values based on the preservation of peace, social justice, equality, solidarity, the promotion of freedom and democracy and respect for human rights. The report makes the point that far from the model being a burden or a millstone, social policy should be seen as a positive factor in the European Union’s economic growth, not only by increasing productivity and competitiveness but also by generating social cohesion, raising living standards for citizens and ensuring access to fundamental rights and freedoms. That is absolutely correct, and if we see it in that sense, social policy becomes a productive factor – the theme of a Dutch Presidency some years ago.

The report also recognises what a number of people have said, which is that there is a clear need to modernise and adapt the model to respond to the wide range of challenges we face: demographic and technological change, globalisation and so on. The rapporteurs also stress that reform and modernisation of the model must preserve and enhance the values associated with it. That is of vital importance. In Britain a number of people engage in headshaking about what they see as the over-slow progress in modernisation and reform in a number of continental European countries. What they tend to forget is the brutal, inhumane and destructive way in which reform was managed during the Thatcher years in Britain. What a number of continental countries are trying to do is to engage in that reform process through consensus, while preserving the underlying values of the European social model. That is the way to do it, and it is one I very much admire.

One final point: I regret that the PPE-DE Group has tabled an amendment to paragraph 23 aimed at removing a specific reference to the need for the Commission to bring forward a framework on services of general interest. I very much hope that amendment falls, because had we had that framework the Services Directive itself would have had a far easier passage. We still need it and I hope the Commission will heed the call for it made in the report.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Bernard Lehideux (ALDE).(FR) Mr President, intervention by the European Union is too often experienced by our fellow citizens as an intrusion into their daily lives. Moreover, sometimes they are correct. However, those who did not want the Constitution refused to see that this text could have clarified the powers of the Union and those of the Member States.

In fact, our fellow citizens demand a Europe which responds to their urgent and practical concerns, but only when it is the institution which is best placed to do this. In this sense, a social Europe is one priority among many. Our duty is to set out a framework which – you said it yourself, Commissioner – is modern and balanced, and which guarantees a high level of social standards, while still leaving the Member States sufficient room to manoeuvre.

Ladies and gentlemen, let us stop these sterile debates between those for whom the word ‘social’ is a synonym for the resurgence of state control and those who, in lengthy reports, propose unworkable and counter-productive measures. As we already did with the Services Directive, all of us have to work together, and as urgently as possible, in order to define this framework, starting for example with the adoption of texts on working hours, on services of general interest and on the status of European mutuality.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Gabriele Zimmer (GUE/NGL). – (DE) Mr President, it is a pity that this report on a European Social Model for the future does not get us much further on. None of the social models existing within the EU have, to date, even begun to do as they have claimed to do and create the conditions under which every human being really can live a self-determined life in dignity within the EU. As I see it, the main challenges, not least for the EU’s internal market, are the abolition of poverty, the removal of social divisions, and energetic action to protect the climate.

I therefore believe that the Economic and Monetary Union needs to be supplemented by a European Social Union, action to establish which could be taken, for example, firstly, by creating the machinery to combat social dumping; secondly, by laying down minimum social standards across Europe, and, thirdly, by creating European social security systems that make poverty impossible. It is regrettable that the report before us on a European Social Model for the future contains no proposals of any substance for a truly social Europe characterised by solidarity.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Ģirts Valdis Kristovskis (UEN).(LV) I would like to point out that this report does of course contain some well-founded statements and rather off-putting forecasts, but I would like to speak not about the fact that each of Europe’s Member States has socially differing social systems, but about two specific groups of people. I represent a country where there are people who in the past participated in dealing with the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, and now these people need help. In the past they played a part in tackling this disaster with the awareness that they were saving humanity, that they were helping Ukraine and, in doing so, Europe too. Today the Latvian state does not have enough resources. Latvia’s social system is not able to help these people, now that they have become invalids.

The second group consists of people from Latvia as well as other Baltic countries and eastern European countries who, as a result of occupation by the USSR, were sent to concentration camps. These people were deprived of a normal life, deprived of an education, lived through a period of slavery and worked like slaves. That is why it is impossible today, with the resources at Latvia’s disposal and at the disposal of the other Baltic states, to achieve the social rehabilitation of these people. If we now speak of the European social model, and of solidarity, then I think this model ought to include additional social protection for these groups, protection that is supranational in nature and should not be left as a burden for just one country to bear – countries that are already in fact, the poorest states in Europe.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: MR COCILOVO
Vice-President

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Georgios Karatzaferis (IND/DEM).(EL) Mr President, we must admit that we really have messed up on the question of the welfare state. The truth is that, a few years ago, we laid down a great deal without having the intuition to see that people's life expectancy is increasing. At that time, forty years ago, an infarct meant death; now an infarct is dealt with in a routine operation.

Similarly, we did not think a few years ago, ten years ago when we signed the world trade agreement, that our products are encumbered by the cost of welfare, while the products produced by the Indians and Chinese, who account for half the planet's workforce, have no such cost. As a result, Chinese products are flooding Europe, our companies are closing and tomorrow we shall be unable to offer this welfare state.

The truth is that either we shall go bankrupt or we shall not be as secure as citizens. These are the facts. We must therefore see how we can realistically deal with the situation. We are pulling the wool over people's eyes. We shall be unable to keep our word.

Now we say let us get funds from employers, while employers have already been brought to their knees by Chinese and Indian products. We therefore need to look facts in the face. Technology should show us the way. Forty years ago, when I was a child, we went to work in the fields in the summer and there were 50 people for two decares. Now it is one machine with one operator.

Jobs are being lost to technology. How, therefore, can we secure this standard of living today? We need to find ways that are not obvious from this way of thinking. We need to realise that we made a mistake when, ten years ago with the world trade agreements, we failed to take this parameter into account, namely their cheap products which are today drowning the market and keeping our products off the shop shelves.

This is a serious mistake which we will have to pay for. We need to tell European citizens the truth: that we will be unable to make the Chinese into Europeans and that, unfortunately, we shall have to make the Europeans into Chinese.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Jan Tadeusz Masiel (NI). – (PL) Mr President, please allow me to speak about the European Social model from the point of view of a citizen of a new Member State. It is said that scientists have identified four different models, namely the Scandinavian, Anglo-Saxon, Continental and Mediterranean models. Although they differ, they also share some common traits. I would also add that there is another model, the Postcommunist model, which does not fit in with any of the others. The Postcommunist model is characterised by the absence of any model at all, where supermarket staff work until ten in the evening, even on the first of May, or work twenty-four hours a day for 200 euros per month.

This is why the creation of a new social model, common to the whole of Europe and its implementation at least on a basic level is above all in the interests of the citizens of the new Member States. Unfortunately, it is in the new Member States that we see the biggest divergence between quality of work and payment for it. There is very poor access to healthcare; a lack of a minimum social support for those with inadequate resources, there are very low disability benefits and pensions and, finally, a hidden system of charges for access to higher education.

Sadly, it is in the new Member States that there are the least jobs available and those that do exist are of a poor quality, the pay most often ranging between 200 and 500 euros per month, while the cost of living is almost on a par with the rest of Europe. Unfortunately, it is in Poland, in the country of the trade union ‘Solidarność’, that we have the most poorly protected workers’ rights in the whole European Union. I hope that the European Social Model will ensure that our poorest citizens will not have to fear the news of a further enlargement or of the introduction of the euro.

In this respect, we all need the European Union to play a more significant role. The European Social Model should aim to increase confidence in European institutions, especially on the part of the poorest citizens.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Thomas Mann (PPE-DE). – (DE) Mr President, two Members of this House, from different political groups, have joined together to draft a report on the future of the European Social Model, and the result has been worth their effort. The European Social Model defines the unity of values, but also the diversity of the national systems. The values by which we are guided include solidarity, social justice, access to education and health services, but the manner in which they are put into practice is left to the Member States, with their different models, whether Nordic or Anglo-Saxon, Continental or Mediterranean. Both globalisation and the disturbing demographic trends put the national social security systems at risk to a considerable degree.

This is where there must be far-reaching reforms if sustainable funding is to be ensured. The systems must become more dynamic, and must no longer be as rigid as they have been. What I find praiseworthy in the report is the promotion of small and medium-sized enterprises, which continue to provide most jobs and traineeships, along with 'flexicurity', the innovative approach combining flexible labour markets, modern labour organisation, security and social protection.

There are, however, three problems areas, and it is not just the Germans in the Group of the European People’s Party that regard them as such. The first is to be found in paragraphs 13 and 14, which discuss the open coordination method, which must not be allowed to become a new lawmaking process, and is acceptable only if it is limited to the exchange of experience and best practice. Both the national parliaments and the social partners need to be involved in it.

The second is in paragraph 23, which includes an urgent demand – originating from Mr Stephen Hughes – for a framework directive on services of general interest, in flagrant contradiction to the current state of negotiations.

Thirdly, there is the Globalisation Adjustment Fund in paragraph 31. We repudiate the idea that the relocation of businesses should be funded from the European level. We have no need either of wide-ranging approval procedures or of new bureaucracies, and we certainly have no need of the privatisation of public capital. Actions to provide workers affected by globalisation with further training and retraining are acceptable, but nothing else is. We are counting on this House to support this line, and, if it does so, we will then be able to vote to adopt the report as a whole.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Alejandro Cercas (PSE).(ES) Mr President, I would like to begin by congratulating the Members who have drawn up this report on such an important issue, which lies at the heart of European integration. This is a very positive report, because the big political families in this Parliament and the enormous majority of Members have managed to carry on working together on a joint approach and commitment. I believe that today provides a very appropriate opportunity to say once again that the enormous majority of Members of this House see open markets and the European social model as part of an indivisible whole, and that that will continue to be the case in the future.

A reasoned and reasonable report; a reasoned report, looking at the past and seeing that, by means of our model, we have achieved the largest area of economic and social progress in Europe and reached the most important stage in that progress, and a reasonable report because it enables us to look to the future not just on the defensive, but also proactively, in order to make a success of the great challenges of globalisation. Furthermore, there is no reason not to point out that the report has managed to emphasise the added value that the Union contributes to this model, in which, naturally, Europe does not have the ambition to carry out the tasks of the Member States, though it does have the legal competences required to complement and promote the action needed to achieve the communitised objectives of employment and social well-being.

We have many instruments, including legislation, by means of which we can reasonably champion basic objectives and defend workers’ fundamental rights and prevent social dumping. We are asking for a new form of globalisation for the whole of the world – one in which we do not have this social dumping that is accompanied by instruments that spoil workers’ conditions; the Union must prevent this phenomenon from arising in its territory.

Mr President, I shall end by saying that I am certain that our reformed model has a future, but this certainty is accompanied by another: not even the economic Europe will have a future unless its social model is respected.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Elizabeth Lynne (ALDE). – Mr President, firstly, I should like say that I do not like the fact that the two largest parties prepare joint reports as a matter of principle. I feel that it excludes other parties from the outset.

As for this report, it is generally ok. I know that sounds churlish, but I am pleased subsidiarity has been mentioned and we call on Member States to act and not the EU. However, I have severe reservations as regards talking about a European social model at all. I know we have common goals, but we do not have common systems across Member States – as other people have mentioned – to achieve those goals. Neither, I believe, should we have, hence my concerns.

I know others have mentioned this, but I would not like it to be thought, if this report is passed, that we want to work towards a one-size-fits-all European social model, instead of respecting the diversity that we have at the moment. Common social objectives, yes; a common social model, no.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Mary Lou McDonald (GUE/NGL). – Mr President, first of all I would like to welcome this discussion. There are two standard platitudes that are delivered whenever the European social model or social policy is discussed. The first is that a social Europe is at the heart of this project. The second is that it is simply a matter of creating economic resources and that a rising tide will lift all boats. Both of those propositions are utterly discredited and if you look at the figures for poverty, for homelessness and for social dislocation in this Union, you will understand why.

The reality is that social Europe has been very much a ‘frill’ or an ‘add-on’ to the broader game plan of this Union. I believe that, if we are to have a real and fruitful discussion about social policy, we have to ask the fundamental questions and the difficult questions relating to EU macroeconomic policy. What has the effect of liberalisation and privatisation been on those who are marginalised? What about the creeping abandonment of the welfare state? And, is it any wonder that there is such a glaring gulf between the European citizen and the European Union, when the policies we pursue disenfranchise people.

I very much hope that this report will serve as a springboard for the much deeper discussion and analysis that we require.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Jana Bobošíková (NI).(CS) Ladies and gentlemen, experience clearly shows that the European economic model is unsustainable, significantly so in fact. The social model should work as a safety net, or a springboard, for citizens who cannot work due to temporary difficulties, old age or illness. It has turned into a comfortable resting place, however, for those who are unwilling to work. The European social model is an exercise in high-minded populism and operates in debt across many countries. It does not encourage personal responsibility; it does not motivate people to improve their qualifications and performance; it promotes laziness and a lack of responsibility, making people passive and indifferent, and ultimately it leads to companies pulling out of the EU, resulting in high unemployment in the Member States.

The current populist social system is certainly a vote winner for politicians, but it will not bring future prosperity for our citizens. It should be stated clearly that the European social model is not, as the politicians would have us believe, a given right. It is merely a temporary bonus resulting from economic efficiency.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Mihael Brejc (PPE-DE). – (SL) It is widely accepted here that there is no single social model in Europe, but rather that we have 25 models. Similarly, there is an understanding that social policy falls under the jurisdiction of the Member States. Given these shared viewpoints, the question is not about whether it is possible to achieve the single model, but rather about whether it is sensible to aspire to one at all.

I attach importance to the fact that this report highlights some common fundamental values and objectives of European social models, such as equality, non–discrimination, solidarity and general access to education, health care and other public services. For our citizens these are the essential ingredients of a successful economy and also of an equitable society. The Member States are, therefore, making continuous efforts to harmonise economic efficiency, competition and social justice. Of course, the ways in which we go about this will vary.

Social policy is not an economic burden but a positive aspect of the economic growth of the European Union since it generates social cohesion, raises living standards and guarantees fundamental rights and equality. Social policy is an important factor in social peace, political stability and economic progress.

It is precisely this issue which is addressed in this report as it calls for the reform of economic and social systems so that they can address the challenges of demographic changes, globalisation and the rapid pace of technological development. Naturally, the European Union is playing an important role here by coordinating various efforts for the implementation of the Lisbon Strategy, preparing common guidelines for growth and employment, and ensuring a certain degree of coordination in the field of social security. This report says that social security is neither the preserve of the right nor the left, but is essential to a modern society.

Every Member State of the European Union is seeking the most appropriate model and this report is a suitable incentive and basis for change in the social models of the Member States. I should like to thank both rapporteurs.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Françoise Castex (PSE).(FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I too would like to begin by congratulating the two rapporteurs on their work. With this report, supported by the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs – I want to emphasise this – we make a great step towards the definition of a European social model: a balanced combination of economic necessities and the imperatives of social justice.

Too many Europeans suffer from the fact that our Union does not protect them, does not protect their public services, and it does not pay sufficient attention to the consequences of globalisation. Many fear threats against the most basic structural elements of their social model. In the face of this suffering, our responsibility is of course to guarantee values, but also to prove our willpower through concrete measures. It would be against our values and vain to seek the lowest labour costs, the most docile employees, the weakest taxes, and the most lax environmental, social, health and welfare standards of our competitors. On the contrary, our identity and our strength contribute to the excellence of our working standards of production.

This report shows that, beyond our differences, we have a common attachment to a society which is not solely organised by the law of the market, but by solidarity and redistribution and by the protection of our fellow citizens, that is to say our human capital, the most rich and important capital we have. Europe has shown that social security, protection against life's risks and the right to retirement for everyone have been the ingredients of a recipe that is good for citizens, good for society, good for the economy, and one which will remain the path to follow for the future.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Jan Jerzy Kułakowski (ALDE). – (PL) Mr President, we are dealing with a very important topic, although I am sure that we have not dealt with it thoroughly enough and will have to return to it again more than once in the future. Nevertheless, I would like to express my appreciation for the work of the rapporteurs and the results of their work.

I am one of those who consider that a European social model exists. However, it is a composite rather than a monolithic model. It is a model where a diversity of experience is based on a commonality of values. This model should be improved and adapted to the challenges of today, but the improvement must not lead to its weakening.

These are the most significant conclusions that I think we should draw from this very important debate.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Philip Bushill-Matthews (PPE-DE). – Mr President, the co-rapporteur, Mr De Rossa, talked about the need for a ‘decent society’. That phrase was very much paralleled and echoed by the Council when talking about the need for ‘social justice’. I hope that on all sides of the House people would agree on the importance of those phrases and agree that they should not just be empty phrases but concepts of real meaning. I hope also that people on both sides of this House would recognise the importance of their applying to everybody in real social inclusion. In other words, that they should apply not just to those people who are in work, not just to those people who are not able to work, but also to those people who want to work but are unable to find work because there are too many obstacles in their way.

That is why I would also like to congratulate – in addition to the first co-rapporteur – the other co-rapporteur, Mr Silva Peneda. When he spoke he referred to the need to reform the social model. That phrase was picked up by the Commissioner himself, who talked about the need for reform. What particularly impressed me about the Commissioner’s remarks was that he said that the status quo is not an option. He specifically referred to the 20 million unemployed, because they are indeed a constant reminder of the biggest social injustice of all. Something has to be done. We must help to do it.

To my mind the key word is ‘reform’. I have tabled an amendment, with the help of a dozen or so colleagues from different countries, to insert into Amendment 1 on recital F the phrase ‘modernisation and reform’. The good news is that Mr Hughes has confirmed to me this afternoon that the PSE Group will support that phrase. We have the chance, as a House, to show that we all support that phrase and that it is not empty of meaning, but a phrase of substance. Our constituents want reform. Let us show tomorrow that we want it and are going to vote for it too.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Proinsias De Rossa (PSE). – Mr President, I welcome this opportunity to come back and respond briefly to the debate so far.

I have to say I am relieved that Mr Clark and Mr Helmer find the report irrelevant, because I was afraid that there was so much praise for the report and that I must have done something wrong, if they also found it acceptable. I am really pleased with that.

I am curious and dumbfounded that some of my colleagues on the left in the GUE/NGL Group also seem to think the report is irrelevant, but perhaps that is a reflection of the point I made that the dividing line between left and right is changing in this modern world of ours and that it is not that there are no differences but that the lines are shifting.

Mr Crowley welcomed the report. However, at the risk of losing a vote, I should say that perhaps he misunderstands the report, because, while the issue of support for the poor is important as part of the European social model, I do not agree – as he seems to – with the theory that the rising tide lifts all boats, because, in fact, it does not. We do not have the time to go into that. However, it seems to me that what is intrinsic to this report is the point that social policy is intrinsic to a prosperous Europe and that it is not a question of one or the other, or of waiting for one to deliver the other: we must deliver both and we must find ways to do that through reform.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Iles Braghetto (PPE-DE).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, our social security systems increasingly appear to be in difficulties. Recurrent economic crises, demographic changes and immigration processes are forcing us to rethink the European social model, partly because the European Union contains both the wealthiest and most highly developed areas in the world alongside others marked by high levels of poverty and pre-industrial development. That is why we are seeking a model that can guide development and wealth towards benefiting the many. What should its features be? At the centre of the relationship between the people, society and the State we need to place the concept of subsidiarity, by means of which all Europe’s citizens can express their own freedoms guaranteed by non-oppressive institutions.

Social solidarity needs to be promoted, so that social progress and increasing wealth are governed by respect for the dignity of every individual and by the help that social groups can provide for people in difficulties. This can be entrusted neither to an exclusive role for public institutions nor to self-regulating market forces, but to solidarity of three kinds: individual solidarity, spreading positive values among people; the solidarity of social groups that organise themselves into social networks; and institutional solidarity, with few essential and universally accepted rules, for a State that can make the most of all its society’s energy.

European businesses also form part of this design, because full employment is a cornerstone of the social model; small and medium-sized enterprises are particularly important as the backbone of a system combining economic entrepreneurship with the solidity of the social fabric, working towards a new European social model that, through a diversity of forms and of organisational systems, promotes the well-being of everyone.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Ana Mato Adrover (PPE-DE). – (ES) Mr President, this report that we are debating today on a European social model for the future, in relation to which I would like in particular to acknowledge the consensus that has been achieved between the two large political groups – and I would like especially to mention Mr José Silva Peneda and also Mr Proinsias De Rossa for their efforts – is good news, since it is destined to contribute to solidarity, greater social cohesion, greater quality of life and a more sustainable future for Europe’s social security systems.

There is no doubt that the Europe of the citizens to which we all aspire requires more and more coordinated policies that allow us to tackle the new challenges that we face every day. For example, demographic change with higher life expectancies, which has been mentioned here this afternoon, undoubtedly obliges us to adopt new policies, and not just health policies, but also socio-health care policies which will allow us to combine the higher life expectancy with greater quality of life.

Full employment, temporary work, youth unemployment and women’s unemployment require an ambitious employment policy, which promotes the stability and security of jobs. The same goes for the incorporation of women into working life, where we need innovative formulae for reconciling work and family life and for making working hours more flexible. We must also deal with immigration, which I see more as a challenge than a problem. This summer, more than ever, we are witnessing the drama of immigration in my country, and it is causing serious human problems. Without prejudice to the attitude of the Spanish Socialist Government, which has raised false expectations and has therefore helped to aggravate this serious problem, this situation affects the whole of Europe and hence requires cooperative and effective measures on our part.

I believe that it is important that we consider a European immigration policy, and it is important that we say so today, when we are talking about the European social model, because the phenomenon of immigration is going to have a great impact on the European social model throughout Europe. I therefore believe that we should continue working in favour of this European social model, while taking account of all the challenges facing us, and that of immigration in particular.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Vladimír Špidla, Member of the Commission. (CS) Ladies and gentlemen, I am grateful for the opportunity to take part in this extremely lively debate which has looked at the European social model from a range of perspectives. I believe I can sum up my opinion as follows: the voices disapproving of the European social model seem to be very much in the minority, while a majority spoke in favour of the European social model as a significant factor in our lives. The latter is the opinion held, broadly speaking, by the Commission.

Ladies and gentlemen, I should like to come back to some of the important points that came up in this debate, so that I can use the time allotted to me to highlight the most significant areas. I feel that it is important to acknowledge that the EU on its own is a highly original product, a highly original political entity that cannot easily be described in the kind of terms conventionally used in political science. It is inappropriate to describe it as an international treaty, or to talk about it in normal political terms. The same is true of the European social model. It is much too complex to streamline into a simple theme. I therefore wish to express my appreciation for the rapporteurs, who have drafted a text that tackles this question extremely thoroughly, in my view.

Another major theme of this far-reaching debate was the realisation that the European social model is not merely a statistical entity, but that it is, broadly speaking, founded on active participation, and in some cases is founded on work. This is because work, ladies and gentlemen, as we have heard today, is more than just a job; it has a clearly defined ethical character and it is precisely this ethical activity and ethical solidarity which underpins the social model, a fact which came through clearly during the debate.

Ladies and gentlemen, I will note the outcome of your vote with interest, and as I have already indicated, many of the approaches and positions already drawn up by the Commission more or less tally with what has been discussed here. Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen, and Mr Silva Peneda and Mr De Rossa, for giving me the opportunity to take part in this debate.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on Wednesday at 12 noon.

Written statements (Rule 142)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Gábor Harangozó (PSE). – The reform of the European social model is today at the heart of the debate in Europe. As a matter of fact, there are a great many challenges in the social changes consequent to the necessity to adjust to globalisation, demographic evolution and technology innovation. At this stage, we support the rapporteur when he stresses that the Union should not only preserve but enhance the common set of European values that are the preservation of peace, social justice, equality, solidarity, the promotion of freedom and democracy, and respect for human rights while bearing in mind that the sine qua non for social justice is economic prosperity. The Union must meet its citizens’ expectations and answer the spreading concerns about employment, the current low growth rate and the need to reform the social protection systems. The rapporteur wisely underlines that it is time to call for EU-wide renewal of the social dialogue while deepening cooperation and exchange of best practice through the enhanced open method of coordination as the key policy-making instrument in the fields of employment, social protection, social exclusion, gender equality in the labour market, pensions, and healthcare.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  José Ribeiro e Castro (PPE-DE).(PT) It is undeniable that the European social model was a crucial factor in the rebuilding of democratic Europe during the post-war period and that many millions of people have benefited from its success.

It is also undeniable, however, that having been set up during a time of overpopulation and relative immobility in the business and industrial sectors, it needs to be brought up to date at a time of major population decline, of a highly competitive global economy and of constant demand for adaptable resources.

Reform is all the more necessary in light of the increasing number of relatively new factors of social concern such as the unsustainable nature of pension systems, long-term unemployment, unemployment among the young and unemployment among those with qualifications.

The gradual reduction of the power of the State and the redefinition of its model, greater freedom for economies and the encouragement of private initiative, creativity, competitiveness and investment play a central role in meeting the challenge of catering to the new reality.

Notwithstanding the need for flexibility and the need to contemplate the future reduction of some rights that previous generations took for granted, I also feel it is vital that the most vulnerable sections of society be protected and championed.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Magda Kósáné Kovács (PSE). – (HU) The Peneda–De Rossa proposal is an outstanding one not only in professional and political terms but also as a moral achievement.

In our view, the European social model does not mean closing the gaps among the redistribution systems. The report considers the social model to be a major means of upholding European values, which we can only preserve if Europe continues to follow the path laid out in Amsterdam and Lisbon, and if no ultimate choices are made within the false dichotomy of competitiveness or solidarity. For the mission to succeed, it is necessary to see economic competitiveness and human security as mutually interdependent elements that jointly create the conditions for a life of human dignity.

We wish to express particular thanks to the authors of the proposal for having formulated the statement in such a way that the new Member States can also identify with it. The analysis of the Peneda–De Rossa report closes the debate over whether the aims of cohesion can be reconciled with other, secondary objectives. The statement is unambiguous: Europe's identity and credibility depend on whether we allow countries, regions and socially vulnerable groups to go under. The reform of the social model is but a tool and not an end in itself; it is a tool for meeting the new challenges presented by a multinational Europe and by globalisation and the information explosion.

The statement considers the need to avoid the poverty trap that threatens the new Member States in particular as a serious question weighing on Europe's conscience. We know that the ageing population of Europe is itself producing the threats that make people's futures increasingly hopeless, the greatest of these threats being that of child poverty. The Europe of which this statement speaks cannot acquiesce in a poverty trap that will swallow up future generations.

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Katalin Lévai (PSE). – (HU) I wish to congratulate the rapporteur for the deep and thought-provoking analysis regarding social Europe. I agree that the social model is first of all about values. These values, however, of which the old continent is so justifiably proud, today faces serious threats that can only be averted by common effort.

Although economic growth and increased competitiveness are indeed preconditions for safeguarding the achievements in the social sphere, these in themselves can no longer raise up those social groups which have fallen behind or are unable to keep up with or even participate in the ever-accelerating competition. On the contrary, they further aggravate these social cleavages. A frightening reminder of this, in Western Europe, is the tragic situation of refugees and migrants, and in, Eastern Europe, that of the Roma.

The creation of new jobs can, in the absence of suitable guarantees, still lead to the trap of exploitation. The creation of a level playing field does not by itself lead to true equality of opportunity for those who start out with disadvantages. On the contrary, it preserves and even heightens differences. The preconditions for reducing these inequities are the major social support systems, and above all making high-quality education accessible for everyone.

Yet even the victory of those groups that are competitive is a Pyrrhic one: the glaring differences and ever greater decline destabilise society, tearing apart its connective tissue. The upheavals in France showed us that even the greatest wealth cannot protect you in the midst of a raging crowd. At the same time, even squeezing wages down to the lowest possible level will not make a socially discontented society attractive to entrepreneurs. For this reason, although I agree that the source of the tribulations of social Europe and of the possible solutions lies in economic growth and competitiveness, we cannot fall into the error of treating these as absolutes and as ultimate goals. This was perhaps best expressed by the former president of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament, Mr Robin Cook: the economy must always serve the people, and never the people the economy.

 
Legal notice - Privacy policy