Our roots continue to hold fast

I don’t know about you but a break from Europe’s capital has been a resourceful period this summer. There are two things I don’t want to forget during this year:  to remember our roots – the reasons why we are here in Brussels as Social Platform – and to never forget the bigger picture – i.e. the long term challenges that need to be addressed for social justice.

Let’s cut through to the real issue – at the time when we already heard the first speech from the President elect of the Commission to the European Parliament and the day after he presented his college of Commissioners, I really don’t want to be caught in the Brussels’ storm of comments and opinions about who and the portfolio. Instead what I find more important is to remember our own agenda – what our members have been calling for years while we are still in the middle of the crisis: a social shield that ensures that everybody has a dignified life, access to quality social and health service, the call for an EU internal strategy on human rights and a true democratic process including civil society organisations in a structured dialogue with decision makers.

I can already hear some of you saying “that does not answer the immediate challenges” or “this is not what the President Elect of the Commission put on the table in July”. And I would say “actually its does”.

The social shield we are calling for includes The President Elect’s proposal to “put in place a minimum wage, and a guaranteed minimum income.” But it brings much more into debate with the financing of social services and the availability of unemployment benefits. The access to quality services we promote could be challenged by the negotiations on the transatlantic trade agreement (TTIP) that the new commission will finalise. The directive blocked by the EU countries to remove discrimination in access to service is another instrument to reach our broader objective. There are bigger challenges in the EU that need broader instruments.

Looking at the bigger picture will help us with a new EU route. The fact that our proposals go beyond the propositions from the Commission is a sign that these propositions are only the first steps toward addressing the bigger picture. Let me give you two examples that struck me over the summer. A speech by Connie Hedegaard at the joint meeting of Ministers of Energy and Employment and Social Affairs in July which she concluded by saying that energy efficiency should be done in line with the EU long term goals of clean and renewable energy. Going back to coal plants might be cheaper but it is not sustainable. She dared to take us out of the day to day debate and responded to address a much bigger challenge. The second example comes from my summer reading of Thomas Picketty’s book “the capital in the XXI century”. We are reaching a level of income inequality not witnessed since its peak at the beginning of the XX the century and we need to address the consequences of such imbalances in our societies. Connie Hedegaard or Thomas Picketty are addressing key patterns and challenges of our societies that cannot remain unanswered and needs to be alerted to our decision makers.

This is the spirit of advising I want to keep during the cold winter months with the hope to spring from our roots and to respond to the bigger picture.

We are ready for that challenge – for a new route for the EU.

Let’s engage,

Pierre Baussand, Director