The European Anti Poverty Network (EAPN) has mixed feelings about the agreement reached on 23 June by the European Council on the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) mandate which will provide the basis and framework for the drawing up of the new “Reform Treaty”. While welcoming the balancing between social and free market objectives and other positive elements concerning Social Europe, EAPN calls on the EU political leaders to secure social policy’s rightful place at the top of the EU agenda in the upcoming IGC negotiations.
“EAPN welcomes the recognition that the European Union is a Social Market Economy aiming at full employment and social progress”, declared Ludo Horemans, President of EAPN. “The mention that it shall combat social exclusion and discrimination, and shall promote social justice and protection, equality between women and men, solidarity between generations and protection of the rights of the child is also a very positive step. As is the decision to confirm the focus of the objectives of the EU on values like peace and the well-being of the people, rather than free and undistorted competition.”
Other positive elements to mention are the statement that the Charter of Fundamental Rights will be legally binding (though concern is raised by the opt out option), the etablishment of a new legal basis for public services, the addition of a protocol on Services of General Interests, as well as the retention of the new horizontal social clause. The reinforcement of the provisions on democratic principles agreed in the 2004 IGC like participative democracy and the citizen’s initiative are also a positive step.
“However the abandoning of a single Treaty text, as was the achievement of the Constitutional Treaty, in favour of amending existing Treaties will not make the task of understanding the EU easier for the citizens”, added Ludo Horemans. “In the long term, the expedient political compromise of the last days may not be as a coherent response as was arrived at through the more open Convention process.”
The devil is always in the details and EAPN will monitor carefully the work of the upcoming IGC. While there has been little indication so far that the process will open up, EAPN calls on the EU political leaders to involve the social NGOs closely in the upcoming IGC negotiations as well as to secure social policy’s rightful place on the top of the EU agenda.
See the European Council’s conclusions (21-22 June 2007)
For further information, please contact Audrey Gueudet (Information Officer) or Fintan Farrell (Director), tel. +32 2 226 58 50 – fax. +32 2 226 58 69 – E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org – Website: www.eapn.org