EU must take social rights seriously

28 February 2014

EU must take social rights seriously

The EU must at last ratify the Council of Europe’s European Social Charter, according to a call which is included in the human rights report adopted yesterday by the European Parliament.

‘I’m pleased that the European Parliament has adopted my proposals,’ says SP Euro-MP Dennis de Jong. ‘The Council of Europe has increasingly sharp criticisms of the way in which the European Commission, as a member of the Troika, is violating social rights in the weaker Eurozone countries. The Commission doesn’t seem to give a fig about these rights, which both the Council of Europe and the International Labour Organisation have established. That’s why Brussels isn’t in any hurry to sign and ratify the European Social Charter. Hopefully this motion from the European Parliament will lead to the Commission getting on with this at last.’

The European Commission says that it wants to pay more attention, via European Economic Governance, to social rights. The SP isn’t counting on this, as De Jong explains. ‘It’s precisely European Economic Governance that is systematically undermining the position of the trade unions,’ he says, ‘because the Commission doesn’t give two hoots for collective labour agreements and is systematically out to worsen working conditions. They are obsessed with “worldwide competitiveness” and hope to achieve this via low wages in the Eurozone countries. This is a disastrous policy and by giving the Commission powers in the area of social policy we will merely get further demolition of working conditions and of social provisions. Just look at what is happening in weak Eurozone countries such as Greece, where poverty and unemployment have grown enormously and public services, such as education and health care, are being demolished.’

Accession of the European Union to the European Social Charter would mean that the Council of Europe would in future be able to check on the Commission’s policies directly. ‘I’ve got a lot more confidence in this than I have when Brussels itself wants to reinvent the wheel,’ says De Jong. ‘The Charter contains many positive social norms, and recognises for example the right to join a union, to conclude national collective labour agreements, and the right to decent housing, health care and education. If the Commission were at last obliged to take these rights seriously, we would soon be rid of the current neoliberal policy.’

You are here