Report from USF Congress – Speech by EMI Vice President
The Congress of EMI member the Union Syndicale Fédérale took place over last weekend (1-4 May) in Dubrovnik, Croatia – which was chosen for its symbolic status as the youngest member state of the EU. With over 100 delegates from all over Europe, the EMI was formally represented by its Vice President, Bernd Hüttemann who gave the following opening speech on Saturday 2 May. During the discussion, USF Secretary General, Peter Kempen, and many other speakers, promised greater involvement in the EMI network, and welcomed a greater voice from trade associations. Moreover, it was felt that strengthening the European Movement International’s network when potential and current members share their expertise, concerns and voices.
Labour day was yesterday. But every day millions of unemployed people in the so called “crisis countries” need our attention and solutions for jobs and growth. It is a multifaceted challenge. Today I would like to give you some ideas why it is so important to interlink all our efforts in self-organised civil society in order to safeguard and strengthen not “just” our social achievements but furthermore a much better governance in Europe including all actors.
First of all let me thank you for your kind invitation, Dear Mrs President Sylvie Jacobs and lieber Peter Kempen. It is a great occasion to speak to the biggest trade union in public service in International, European and EU institutions.
I am here on behalf of the European Movement International with Mr Jo Leinen MEP as its President and Frédéric Vallier, one of my Vice Presidency colleagues who, with his background as a Secretary General of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions, also assumes a responsibility for our international member associations.
Union Syndical Fédérale is not just an interest group. You, as USF members, are also experts on the inside of the European and international machineries. You are insiders of supranational co-operation, highly skilled and with a great international multicultural experience.
But coming also from a national capital myself, I know very well, how many stereotypes exist even among national, regional and local civil servants towards employees at the international level. And I am not talking about a possible German spying on Commission officials which we are discussing right now in Berlin. But I will come back to this.
So why am I here? Let me share some thoughts with you on what the European Movement International is and why it is so important to co-operate and interact with its pluralistic member organisations.
We are the oldest and most experienced pro-European network. The European Movement International started right after World War II, which – to be clear – wasn’t the last war. A first Committee for the Co-ordination of the European Movements took place in Paris in 1947 incorporating different pro-European Movements, including business and education oriented ones.
The European Movement International was formally created in October 1948. Its first major achievements were the setting up of the Council of Europe in May 1949, helping to create the College of Europe in Bruges and the European Center of Culture in Geneva. It also set up many think-tanks and a network of discussion groups across Europe. I say Europe; not just the EU. This is important – I know also for USF.
So, our founding was a long time ago, but we can say that the creation of sustainable international and supranational organisations and the idea to create a multicultural place of higher education such as the College of Europe leads me directly to you and your day-to-day jobs.
Since then the European Movement International has lobbied for further integration, on numerous subjects. To name a few, we could think about the direct election of the European Parliament by all European citizens, the Maastricht Treaty with the Euro and the constitutional treaty. We now have the Euro now and the constitutional treaty, the Lisbon-Treaty, which are both significant steps along this path. But a long time before the Euro crisis the EMI was clearly demanding for a political union and we still ask for it, for further integration with better governance, with a pluralistic self-organised civil society.
Europe must consolidate itself as a democratic and inclusive homeland for all its citizens and residents, respecting their values, their rights and their freedoms.
Traditionally the European Movement International consisted of all kinds of international associations from Trade Unions to business associations, from NGOs to political parties. Today Europe is under threat: War in Ukraine, asylum seekers (mare nostrum) die daily in the Mediterranean and Europe is more and more seen as a reason and not a solution for unemployment. So it is a good time to reforge the lines of pro-European organisations, such as ours.
So the EMI has two main strategies growing in the field of membership and through this finding consensus in a multilevel policy system on better governance in three policy areas: More Democracy, Citizens’ Rights and Freedom; Jobs, Competitiveness and Sustainable Growth and Europe in the World.
You might ask yourself whether it might be wise to have a sparser programme? How can such a pluralisticc organisation reach a consensus? But strengthening the biggest network of pro-European organisations by concentration on those topics which everybody can agree upon is already a lot. And do not forget: the EMI is a network not an umbrella organisation or a party or NGO based on individuals. The EMI wants and needs debate among its members. Pluralism is the key word not just for the EMI but for the entire continent. We can easily define the interconnection between a lack of workers’ rights, freedom of press, lack of organised civil society and failure in serving the needs of citizens. Europe, for sure, has its mistakes. For this we ask for reform. But most of the problems within nation states were made under national competencies.
Let me be concrete: The EMI has many trade unions, such as ETUC, CESI, and of course USF amongst its membership. For us this is a social treasure chest of ideas that will help us fight for a better governance in Europe. In the case of the USF, the EMI supports statements to safe guard effective institutions with strong human resources. That is to say by supporting the highly professional staff of the institutions to ensure the strong performance of the supranational level. At the same time, the EMI supports the Roadmap for the implementation of Articles 11(1) and 11(2) of the Treaty on European Union. We need strong civil servants, but we want a pluralistic and not statist EU. If you look around Europe the more ‘statist’ governments act, further their state seems to be in a crisis.
Especially at times of social crisis the Trade Unions should be strong supporters of the European idea. To give you an example: In June the European Movement Germany supported an initiative of the Italian-German Parliamentary Group to bring together all major Trade Union leaders from both countries to discuss the future of Europe. This has never happened before.
There is a vicious circle of success with regards to European integration and a lack of support for representative associations: because Europe is not as well integrated in the social field as in the economic or environmental field it can appear that trade unions have not been as present in the lobbying spheres of Brussels as the more competitive business lobby. At the same time, the European Movement International provides a space for all these various types of organisations.
So let’s take this as an opportunity! Let’s try to get all the different representative associations on board which are keen to cooperate for a better Europe. There will be enough battle fields outside of the EMI to fight for sectorial demands. But, inside, the EMI member organisatiosn have a chance to cooperate on a pluralistic governance of Europe. It sounds odd but we need the help of trade unions to help incorporate, for instance, different Employers’ Associations into the EMI because it would strengthen our common network a lot!
The EMI shall and can be the ‘glue’ for all those who want European cooperation and not statist separation. And the current timing is good. The EMI has made many internal reforms over the past few years. For example, we can now easily publish your statements on our website and link it to other member organisations’ policies or the policy of our statutory bodies.
The USF has been a full member of the EMI for many years now, and while it always paid its membership fees on time (its attendance of statutory meetings might be improved). In line with the comments made with regards to the current co-operation, I think it would make sense to ask the USF to share more of its expertise and that of its members with the EMI network, for instance through the EMI Political Committees and a more regular and active attendance/participation of the EMI statutory meetings.
As I tried to outline before: you are experts in supranational governance, you are cross-continental orientated and you are pro-European. So don’t be surprised when I say the EMI network needs you!