After the EU Commission presented a proposal for a Single Market Emergency Instrument on 19 September 2022, trade unions and AK showed concern in their immediate reactions about the potential weakening of labour and social law provisions through the project. In particular, the threat to the right to strike was repeatedly highlighted in a negative light. A more detailed analysis by the AK now underlines this criticism and at the same time contains specific demands to the European decision-makers.
The basic idea of the Single Market Emergency Instrument is to secure the free movement of goods, services and people as well as to ensure the availability of essential goods and services in the event of future emergencies. The multiple crises of the past years have shown the disadvantages of the supply- and economy-oriented Single Market philosophy pursued so far. Accordingly, proposed changes to the current Single Market policy are to be welcomed in principle, including the implementation of a Single Market Emergency Instrument to safeguard supply, jobs and value chains. However, the initial reactions following the presentation of the EU Commission have already shown that the proposal is not fully developed in many areas.
Start of negotiations in the EU Parliament
As the lead committee in the EU Parliament, the Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) nominated Andreas Schwab (EPP) as rapporteur for the dossier on 16 December 2022. Already in November 2022, the Employment and Social Affairs Committee (EMPL) had nominated a rapporteur, Marc Angel (S&D), and thus positioned itself early for an active participation in the negotiations, which will take place in the coming weeks and months.
As the only committee so far, the Committee on Budgets (BUDG) already officially expressed its opinion on the emergency instrument in mid-December. In the statement, particular reference is made to the uncertain extent of the financial requirements of such an instrument. The EU Commission's proposal only contains a breakdown of the costs for measures for the period in which no crisis has yet occurred. However, what costs will arise in the context of activating the surveillance or emergency mode and whether these financial resources can be provided by existing budgetary margins remains unclear.
AK position remains unchanged
What had already been criticized in the initial statements by trade unions und AK after the presentation of the proposal of the EU Commission also holds after a more detailed AK analysis. Among other, the draft regulation contains the repeal of the regulation on the functioning of the internal market in connection with the free movement of goods. This contains an explicit provision in Article 2, according to which the interpretation of this Regulation must in no way affect the exercise of fundamental rights recognized in the Member States, including the right or freedom to strike. By omitting this provision, the right to strike would thus no longer be explicitly safeguarded. For this reason, AK demands the inclusion of an explicit article in the legal text of the Regulation, which, in addition to the right to strike, should also guarantee other labour and social law provisions and thus prevent a restriction by emergency measures.
From the point of view of the AK, the envisaged type of enactment of measures in the monitoring and emergency phase through so-called implementing acts of the EU Commission must also be assessed very critically. Due to the serious effects of these measures, which are to be expected, the EU Parliament and the Council of the EU must also be involved from a democratic perspective.
Finally, the AK demands an upgrading of the role of the social partners during the entire decision-making process. Instead of a mere status as observers, the social partners should be granted the right to vote in all important decisions within the framework of the advisory group consisting of representatives of the Member States and the EU Commission, as they are at the centre of events in the Single Market.
The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) also adopted a comprehensive official position on the introduction of the emergency instrument at the Executive Committee meetings of 27-28 October 2022. It was equally stressed that under no circumstances should a strike be classified as a potential crisis to prevent the erosion of this fundamental right. Furthermore, ETUC also calls for the active involvement of the social partners in the process of imposing measures to safeguard the Single Market.