European social model needs dynamic input
The last day of the EU Presidency conference on the Union’s evolving social policy and national models, 10 November, looked at the future of social protection from NGO, social policy research and policy decision-making perspectives.
NGO representatives voiced their concern that a one sided emphasis on economy and competition undermined the credibility of the EU among its citizens. NGO speakers called for a greater emphasis on social rights in the EU and by organisations with the same consultative position that labour market organisations already have.
Social policy researchers discussed issues such as the five European welfare models and the distinctive characteristics of each. There has recently been a greater rapprochement between the different models. In particular, labour as a guarantee of welfare has been raised as an important objective in realising social policy models. An active employment policy remains the best form of social security. The success of the Nordic model in recent years indicates that competition, economic growth, employment and social protection are not mutually exclusive. High employment, a high birth rate and high social spending are a feasible combination.
A panel discussion of political decision-makers paid tribute to the open method of coordination, which aims to ensure the handing of crucial social policy issues. The method has increased the visibility of social affairs in the area of economic policy. In addition, the conference noted the opportunities of the constitutional agreement and its ratification to have a positive impact on social protection.
With the enlargement of the EU the desire of Member States for a broader harmonisation of social policy at European level has diminished. The differences between the Member States are seen to be too great. The conference also looked at the dangers that can arise from wide differences in tax and social protection between Members States. Unskilled workers tend to migrate to countries with good social security systems and the well educated tend to seek out countries with low rates of taxation. Differences in social security systems have not yet resulted in social dumping, but there is a fear of mass scale social welfare tourism.
The European social model aims to create an area that is democratic, environmentally friendly, based on solidarity and of social welfare for all people living in Europe. This model needs to be dynamic and open to challenges, otherwise it will lose its relevance and disappear. The conference succeeded in deepening debate on the European social model, indicating the importance of exchanging ideas in particularly when the future is uncertain. European integration does not merely serve the interests of the Member States. It is also a matter of ideas and values.
Director-General Kari Välimäki, tel. +358 9 160 73194
Ministerial Adviser Juho Saari, tel. +358 9 160 73771