Refer: European Council, 21-22 June 2007
To: EU Heads of State and Government
Dear Sir or Madam,
EAPN wishes to draw your attention on two important items on your agenda at the June European Council meeting: 1) The negotiations following from the period of reflection on the Constitutional Treaty and 2) The follow up of the commitment made at the Spring Council on the revision of the Lisbon Integrated Guidelines (2008-2011) where you agreed the need for, “the common social objectives of the Member States to be taken into account within the Lisbon Agenda”.
The Treaty and the IGC
EAPN followed carefully and made detailed inputs to the work of the Convention on the future of Europe and to the previous discussions on the Treaty in the Council. Together with many others we fought to promote a more democratic Union, based on social solidarity and fundamental rights with strong social objectives. A clear majority of Member States, by ratifying the constitutional treaty, have supported the steps forward in this regard.
More than two years after the French and Dutch “no” to the constitutional treaty, EU leaders are facing a daunting task ahead of the June 2007 European Council: building consensus around the piecemeal outcomes of the “reflection period” and reconciling diverging interests in a renewed political landscape. However, one clear message has emerged among large sections of public opinion and decision-makers over the last months: as much as peace and prosperity and more recently climate change, Social Europe is a priority EU leaders have to set themselves.
Reiterating the common view expressed by the Platform of European Social NGOs (Social Platform), EAPN therefore calls on you not to retreat behind closed doors but to follow an open and transparent process to reach conclusions in the IGC. This process must move forward building on the commitments, in relation to Social Europe, already made in the Constitutional Treaty. Our members will follow this process with great attention and as a first step they will expect the June summit conclusions to clearly commit the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) to the following:
A Europe based on Fundamental rights: The full text of the EU Charter on Fundamental Rights needs to be an integral part of the treaty. Not incorporating the Charter or having just a mere reference to it would be a critical political mistake if the renegotiation is to gain people’s trust that the EU can make a difference for them;
Participatory democracy: Article I.47 on participatory democracy has to be maintained as crucial in promoting people and civil society’s support and involvement in the European construction;
Safeguard progress made: By keeping the horizontal clauses on gender equality (III-116), social objectives (III-117), non-discrimination (III-118) and services of general interest (III. 122);
A social protocol/chapter: The idea of adding a social protocol (or chapter) is welcomed. To go beyond mere window-dressing, such a protocol has to address the issue of how the European Union can contribute to greater social cohesion and inclusion through the achievement of high level social standards across all EU Member States.
Revision of the Integrated Guidelines (2008- 2011)
EAPN is also disturbed by signs of backtracking by the Council and the Commission on the commitment to strengthen the social pillar in Lisbon through the revision of the Integrated Guidelines.
EAPN, along with most stakeholders, understood this to mean that stringent efforts would be made to integrate new social guidelines or revise existing ones so as to guarantee that the Lisbon strategy really contributed to the eradication of poverty and social exclusion. This would include explicit reinforcement of the links with the Open Method of Coordination on Social Protection and Social Inclusion and a strengthening of the involvement of the Social Ministries. Most also assumed that the Council would seize on the opportunity to encourage a broad stakeholder debate, as a means to increase visibility and vital public and civil society ownership of the Lisbon strategy.
However it now appears that minimal changes are likely to be proposed. This means that social concerns are in grave danger of being “dumped”, in a closed door procedure, without any attempt to involve civil society and other stakeholders in the debate.
EAPN therefore urges the Council to:
Reaffirm its pledge to integrate new social objectives within the existing guidelines and to reinforce the links with the OMC on Social Protection and Social Inclusion;
Ensure a Road Map for promoting a broad stakeholder debate on proposals for the revision of the Guidelines, thereby increasing ownership and engagement of the Lisbon process;
Visibly strengthen the coordination between the social, economic and employment ministries and the responsible sections in the Commission in all stages of the Lisbon process.
We await the conclusions of the Council with great interest.
Mr Barroso, President, European Commission,
Mr Pöttering, President, European Parliament
Mr Spidla, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities
Mr Jan Andersson, Chair of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, European Parliament