Europe: No Green Deal without a Social Deal
The chances of achieving a Social Europe are better than they have been for a long time. Only a just transition can make climate neutrality a success for all Europeans
‘No one should be left behind’, says the European Commission concerning its Green Deal and the European Recovery Plan. In fact, with its commitment to a Social Europe the current European Commission has struck a chord with many citizens in a way that none of its predecessors have for a long time, according to Norbert Kluge, managing director of the Hans-Böckler-Stiftung and member of the European Economic and Social Committee.
Europe’s trade unions welcomed the Action Plan for the Implementation of the European Pillar of Human Rights, presented at the end of March by EU Social Commissioner Nicolas Schmit, although according to Kluge they regard it as only a modest step forward. But at least the European Commission has shown that it takes it seriously. Kluge also emphasises, however, that employees do not want to have to wait for the promised social improvements until a climate-neutral Europe has been achieved by 2050. ‘They want, together with their trade unions, to get ahead of the game and make the transformation and restructuring of our industries the platform for the Just Transition.’ That is the only way of realising economic and environmental goals while taking account of social concerns.
The legislative proposal for Europe-wide uniform benchmarks for minimum wages and strengthening collective bargaining coverage is currently receiving a lot of attention. The employers, however, have made every effort to oppose it, even though comparable wage conditions and thus cost expectations are beneficial for businesses. The minimum wage initiative now requires broad political support so that it can garner the necessary assent in the European Parliament in the autumn. An information campaign and active trade union support are needed for this so that Europe’s citizens ‘can get a clear idea of who is striving for a more social Europe and who is doing their utmost to obstruct it’.
There may be some signs of a breakthrough at the Social Summit in Porto. According to Kluge, ‘the current Council presidency under Portugal is having a revitalising effect on Social Europe’. The call for more democracy in the world of work is being ‘actively pursued’ and social dialogue in general is being propagated as a general implementation tool. This also includes European minimum standards regarding codetermination. Policymakers are alert to this. It is not merely a matter of goals, but the path to implementation. If a just transition founders, in the sense of a fundamental transformation of work and the economy, all efforts towards a climate-neutral Europe will be in vain. A Green Deal is conditional on a Social Deal.