• News from the European Networks

  • Chantal Delmas | 22 Oct 09
  • A Joint Social Conference took place in Brussels on September 14 and 15. It gathered together 20 countries with 22 trade-union confederations and 22 networks, social movements or NGOs, all interested in European social issues.

    This meeting is the follow-up to seminars organised in the framework of social forums, notably by the network “Labour and Globalisation”. In this conference, there was the wish to pursue the integration into the European Social Forums process, but also the felt need to have a space to work together in a more formal way in order to deepen analyses and strengthen cooperation. These last years have been, for all of the networks present, ones of common struggle against the social agenda of the EU (Bolkestein Directive, privatisation of public services, the Laval and Viking judgments), which is why these networks need to establish their own agenda and get it heard. The agenda can be seen in certain analyses – a new developmental model for Europe, sustainable and based on justice and solidarity. This work is being done in a context of the financial and climate crises and of social regression. The goal is to work in an open spirit and promote real debate, with a view to define middle-term perspectives and concerted strategies on the basis of open exchanges. In this sense, the finale declarations do not constitute our present priorities, neither do they represent the establishment of a common platform. To progress step by step in a middle-term perspective, the immediate results of the 2009 conference are important, but they have to contribute, in the next years, to the development of a larger and more powerful social movement in Europe. Working and reflecting together, with sufficient time (and not just once) will permit everyone to deepen his/her analysis in each of the respective organisations and also among individuals.

    The objectives set by this network called Joint Social Conference are the following:

    In a middle-term perspective we believe that a larger social movement, with trade-unions and the main networks, movements or European NGOs has to establish its own agenda and get it heard, in view of the “Spring Summit” held in March each year by the heads of sate of the EU-27. This Spring Summit is the crucial symbolic expression of the political orientations of the EU. We are therefore working this year at a process of searching and trust-building in our first Joint Social Conference. This meeting (with 120 persons working together for one and a half days) is not, in itself, our final objective. This first step is a process of trust-building between trade-unions and movements, to reflect on a space and on a method of deepening our analyses, to strengthen our points in common and measure our differences. The conference’s programme has two themes:

    1) How to deal with dumping policies? 

    Is competitiveness itself the solution or the problem? It is above all social dumping (but also fiscal and environmental dumping) that is the worst response to the global crisis. How can we escape this spiral toward the bottom? What margins for manoeuvre remain to us, in the Lisbon Strategy, for social or “green” policies, if competitiveness remains the primary goal of the EU? Can the trade-unions and the movements fight against anti-social policies on the national level? Or should we unite around a credible anti-dumping agenda – and if so, how?

    2) How can we create and maintain decent jobs in a “post-Kyoto” and “post-crash” economy? 

    The financial and economic crisis is going to destroy millions of jobs. In certain member-states, the solution seems simply to be the relaunching of the good old economy of the 1970s: more cars, more roads, more whatever, as long as it generates employment. Clearly, the first idea, or the simplest one, is not necessarily the best. Perhaps we have some lessons to learn from the analysis of the (real) causes of the financial crisis, and from the limits of our oil-based economy. Also, might this not be a good opportunity to imagine new jobs – decent, sustainable and useful?

    The meeting’s discussions and conclusions stressed the need for this kind of space in order to delve more deeply into the issues. There is a unanimous accord on rights based on work and also on the need for joint demands for sustainable employment and development. The need to go beyond this question of rights and the need to deal with strategies and the reconquest of power for wage earners and the majority of citizens is still before us. This conference has signalled the wish of all the forces present to work together in a deeper way. We hope that through its work this social conference enriches the whole of the forum processes, seeing as any fragmentation of the movement would be harmful to all of us.

    Members of the Founding Committee:

    Attac France; Attac Germany; Attac Belgium; Attac Austria; ITUC and ETUI, Europe; CGIL, Italy; CGT, France; CSC, Belgium; EAPN, Europe; FGTB, Belgium; Amis de la Terre, Europe; FSU, France; Labour and Globalisation, Europe; Campaign for the Welfare State, Norway; IPAM / AITEC network, France; Romanian Social Froum, Romania; S2B Seattle to Brussels, Europe; Solidaires, France; SOLIDAR Social Platform, Europe; Ver.di, Germany.