Last week the European Parliament adopted a strategic report on a strong social Europe. I was a shadow rapporteur of this report and am satisfied with the result, although a number of colleagues believe it is somewhat utopian.
In essence, this is a type of advisory report that the European Parliament members give to the European Commission in the name of their constituents. Usually, a Brussels committee works slowly but this report should be an exception. The idea of the report is not only that the crisis allows for making social reforms but it also pushes the EU towards speedy action.
The main message of the European Parliament is simple. The transition to climate neutrality to save the planet means a restructuring of the economy; however, those who are already in a bad situation will suffer the most during this restructuring. The EU positions itself as a union where ideals such as ‘wellbeing’, ‘social progress’, ‘security’, ‘prosperity’ and ‘equality’ are not empty words.
An EU summit is due to be held in May in the city of Porto in Portugal, where a detailed and specific action plan for Europe must be adopted, taking into account the similar detailed plans of various countries. I would like to stress that our report is directed towards both the European Commission and individual EU governments. They are responsible for ensuring social justice in both words and reality.
This path is a long one but we will not take it without resources. We have money – almost two trillion euros. We have tools. The SURE scheme compensates employers a portion of the costs if they do not let go of workers but instead temporarily transfer them to part-time employment. There is the Just Transition Fund – the same one-third of a billion for the development of Ida-Viru County. Ursula von der Leyen affirmed the establishment of the European unemployment (insurance) benefit scheme and the introduction of European minimum wages – we are now waiting for concrete steps from the European Commission.
The European Parliament set a deadline of 2030. By this deadline, the EU countries must ensure that 90 per cent of employees are covered by collective agreements, unemployment among young people has be halved at a minimum and all children have access to good medical care and education. That the gender pay gap has disappeared. That every third new apartment is affordable for people with low and middle incomes. And much more.
Yes, this all looks like ‘communism by 1980’ but a serious battle has yet to be fought for every point. Those who do not expect more, risk getting nothing. There are examples of successful reforms of this nature in history – for example, in Western Europe following World War II.
The main idea of the report is for less voluntary action and more in social obligations. I am of the belief that this is the only right way. My colleagues who voted for the report are sure that if we do not aid our European people and do not deal with social inequality, in ten years' time the project of a common Europe will crumble; this will make 2020 seem like a harmless joke.