Social Europe debate with Prime Minister of Portugal (Strasbourg, France)
SPEECH OF MANFRED WEBER,
CHAIRMAN OF THE EPP GROUP IN THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT
Third Debate on the Future of Europe
14 March 2018
with António Costa, Prime Minister of Portugal
– English translation of the German original –
Dear Prime Minister,
Welcome to the European Parliament! There is a vast amount of issues to be discussed about the future of Europe, therefore, each of my speeches will focus on a certain aspect.
Last time, our guest was the Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, and I spoke on behalf of the EPP Group about the Christian values of our continent. Today, I will talk about the fears of the people of this continent. People have fears of loss due to migration, to globalisation or to climate change. Europe is in the midst of a debate between hope and fear, between partnership and egoism, between European cooperation and nationalism.
The history of Portugal gives us good indications to which path is the right one for us. 500 years ago, when the Chinese burnt their fleet and isolated themselves, Portuguese like Vasco da Gama set sail and discovered the Indian route, to the profit of their country for centuries to come. And also in the last few years, Portugal proved that their way of rising, of shaping and of building bridges is the right way out of the financial crisis. I want to mention one name in particular in this regard: Your predecessor, Pedro Passos Coelho, has significantly contributed to bringing Portugal back on the path of growth and prosperity. The current economic success of Portugal is a shared success and, therefore, I congratulate you! Setting sails right: this is our mission now!
The history of our continent teaches us how we used to address the big fears of the people: social protection against poverty and unemployment, pensions against old age poverty, and health insurance in case of illness. 150 years ago, we developed this idea of a Social Market Economy, where the state assumes responsibility in addressing the main fears of its people.
It is today our duty to rethink how we can realise this Social Market Economy in a globalised world: we believe in social partners. But we still see big corporations having strong European representations, while the trade unions are lacking the degree of European-wide organisation that would enable them to constitute a real counterbalance.
We fight youth unemployment, by making 86 billion Euros from our European budget available for the European Social Fund in this budgetary period. And we, in the EPP Group, consider social policy not primarily as a tool for supplying, but for enabling people. This is why these funds are directed, in particular, towards education, training, and qualification. These funds will not only help young people, but also the elderly, the handicapped, and all those in need of assistance.
Modern social policy also means modern tax policy: if every worker has to pay his taxes, the big companies must not be able to escape from responsibility. Our main problem in Europe in this regard is the unanimity requirement in the Council of Finance Ministers. A new understanding of social policy means more joint policy-making to guarantee tax fairness in Europe.
Almost nine percent of workers in Europe do not have enough money to live and are at risk of poverty. These people are working, but they are still poor. Social partners or the states have to provide the right framework to put an end to this situation. Every worker has to be able to live off his wage in dignity.
However, the biggest social issue for us Europeans is probably not an internal European issue, but the global issue. Pope Francis wrote in one of his first encyclicals that the current economy kills. This is a very serious accusation towards our present economic system. Therefore, we Europeans must consider how we can further develop our economic model for the future. When talking about trade agreements, we should not only be discussing tariffs and customs, but also minimum social standards. If we were able to guarantee that no European supermarket sells a product that was produced using child labour, this would be a great accomplishment for Europe.
Here is the link to the video in German original language: