The Conference on the Future of Europe was officially launched a year ago on 9 May 2021 (Europe Day). Its declared aim was to formulate answers for the future of European democracy and to identify the next steps for further European integration. Among other things, the final report calls for a Protocol for Social Progress to protect social rights over economic freedoms.
The Conference on the Future of Europe has adopted a total of 49 proposals, including more than 300 measures, which were introduced at its closing event on 9 May 2022 in Strasbourg. The proposals are based on recommendations of European and national Citizens’ forums and events as well as on ideas, submitted via the Conference’s online platform. They were prepared in nine working groups with the participation of citizens, members of EU institutions and national parliaments as well as representatives of regional and local authorities, social partners and civil society.
The recommendations adopted by the Conference cover nine topics: e.g. climate change, health, economy, social justice and jobs, democracy as well as migration. Demands, among other things, include the transition towards sustainable energy production, investments in healthcare and the expansion of public transport. To achieve this, the recommendations call for improved coordination regarding tax policy by faster decision-making and turning away from the principle of unanimity. In general, decisions in all areas (apart from the accession of new countries) shall be made based on qualified majority.
The Conference also calls for the full implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights, with a Social Progress Protocol to be included in the demanded revision EU Treaties. The national traditions and autonomy of social partners shall be respected and cooperation with civil society shall take place. Equally important is the demand for guaranteeing a just transition, based on social dialogue and high-quality jobs to ensure that the transition towards a green and digital economy happens in a way that is fair to employees. Another demand is to improve the mechanisms of labour markets to ensure fairer working conditions, and promote gender equality and employment, with particular focus on young people and vulnerable groups. The EU, its Member States and the social partners have to put a stop to working poverty, address the rights of platform workers, ban unpaid internships and ensure fair labour mobility in the EU. Social dialogue and collective bargaining must also be promoted.
Constitutional convention: support from Parliament, resistance from many Member States
The task now is to implement the demands of the Future Conference. This is partly possible due to new legal initiatives, programs and changes in the EU budget. Other areas require the revision of the EU treaties. On 4 May 2022, the EU Parliament adopted a resolution, asking policymakers to reform the EU Treaties based on the Conference recommendations. “However, this Conference also proves that there exists a gap between what people expect, and what Europe is able to deliver at the moment. That is why we need a convention as the next step. And that is what the European Parliament will insist on. There are issues that simply cannot wait”, said Roberta Metsola, the President of the European Parliament, during her speech at the closing event of the Conference.
According to media reports, thirteen EU countries (in particular, northern, eastern and the Baltic countries) have already voiced their reservations to treaty change. In contrast, Germany, France, Italy and the Benelux countries want to use the Conference as a starting point for the further development of the EU and are open to treaty amendments.
AK: Conference offers important recommendations for improvement
Fortunately, the recommendations of the Conference on the Future of Europe pick up on many suggestions for improvement that AK has been bringing to the debate on the EU’s future for years. “We are particularly happy that the Conference clearly supports the idea of including a Social Progress Protocol in the EU treaties. This would finally ensure the priority of fundamental social rights, including trade union rights, over market freedoms, strengthening the social dimension of the single market“, emphasised AK President Renate Anderl. The AK has long been in favour of reforming the EU Treaties. This must start soon, whereby it is important to ensure that the many social and ecological recommendations of the Conference on the Future of Europe are not lost.
AK EUROPA Factsheet: Time for a Social Europe (German only)
AK Wien Study: European Social Progress Pact (German only)