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Future EU enlargements require the involvement of the social partners and a deepening of the social dialogue - both in the EU and in the candidate countries. On 26 March 2024, AK EUROPA and the  EU Office of the Austrian Trade Union Federation (ÖGB) hosted the launch event of the Central European Trade Union Network (CETUN). The discussion focussed on the challenges and opportunities of EU enlargement to include the Western Balkans region. It was agreed that the social dimension must be given greater consideration.

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The European Environment Agency's first European climate risk assessment shows that floods, heat and drought fundamentally jeopardise the supply of food and the health of people in Europe, not least workers. Adaptation to man-made climate change must begin now in order to promote climate resilience and enable social and ecological transformation.

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Given the political significance of this European election year, the Benchmarking Working Europe Report 2024 provides a retrospective assessment of the state of Social Europe. Important achievements of the past EU legislative period are recognised, but shortcomings are also identified. The report also points out the necessary political steps in the coming EU legislative period to ensure the continuation of the social paradigm shift.

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After weeks of tug-of-war, the EU Member States confirmed the EU Supply Chain Act in the Committee of the Permanent Representatives on 15 March 2024. The provisional agreement on the EU ban on products from forced labour was endorsed there on 13 March 2024. The two pieces of legislation still need to be formally adopted by the plenary of the EU Parliament and the Council.

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The EU Council of Ministers for Employment and Social Affairs adopted the Platform Work Directive on 11 March 2024. Previously, two attempts to adopt the Directive had failed, even though an agreement had already been reached in December 2023. The Directive addresses precarious working conditions in the platform economy and strengthens the role of trade unions.

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The creation of an EU Job Guarantee could counteract long-term unemployment, tackle poverty and at the same time contribute to a green and just transition. In February 2024, AK EUROPA organised an event in Brussels to advance the debate on this at EU level. Existing Job Guarantee models and the challenges and opportunities of their implementation were discussed.

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The 13th Ministerial Conference, which took place from 26 February to 2 March 2024, was unable to lead the World Trade Organisation out of its deadlock. The organisation has been in crisis for some time and has been deemed incapable of acting since 2019. The reasons for this are to be found in long-standing structural weaknesses, which are exacerbated by current geopolitical developments. Socially and environmentally sustainable global trade remains out of reach.

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The European Parliament's Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs will soon be voting on two controversial topics: At the beginning of April 2024, a vote will be held on the introduction of the digital euro as a new means of payment. The EU Commission's Retail Investment Strategy, which has received far less public attention, will be put to the vote on 20 March 2024. The AK is calling for improvements for consumers.

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Following tough negotiations between Council and the EU Parliament, agreement was reached at 2 a.m. on 10 February 2024 on a new framework for the EU's economic governance. This remains limited to restrictive debt rules. At least these are now more meaningful than before. Nevertheless, they could result in cuts in the social sector and slow down the urgently needed increase in public investment.

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On 1 February 2024, the Council and the European Parliament reached an agreement on the so-called Single Market Emergency Instrument, which was proposed by the EU Commission in September 2022. The aim of this instrument is to ensure the supply of goods and services as well as the free movement of goods, services and persons for people and businesses even in times of crisis. However, the instrument has weaknesses that are to the detriment of employees.