EU-Commissioner Nicola Schmit at EZA Conference

High-ranking speakers, discussions and the outlook for a future “Social Deal” in Europe: A short overview of the results of the EZA Conference in Brussels (3 - 4 March 2020).

(Brussels) Workers’ organizations play a key role for the future of European social policy. The direction has already been set and now must be implemented - this is a short summary of EU Commissioner Nicolas Schmit’s speech at third year’s EZA Conference in Brussels, which was held from 3 - 4 March.
Over 100 participants from unions, labour institutions and NGOs came together to discuss the transition from the Juncker Commission to the von der Leyen Commission in terms of social policies. They were joined by members of the European Parliament and European Commission representatives. The conference was held at the Representation of the Free State of Bavaria to the European Union.

"I will listen to you, and I will work with you"

In his speech, EU Commissioner for Employment and Social Rights Nicolas Schmit highlighted the importance of the work done by the previous Commission. “Juncker and Thyssen have charted a new course for a social Europe. The European Pillar of Social Rights truly is a pillar and I will work to ensure that it is implemented,” said the Commissioner. “We must strengthen the social dialogue again. This means that we need strong social partners.” The Commissioner also directed the following comments to the workers’ organizations: “I will listen to you, and I will work with you.”

Regarding the initiative announced by the Commission on a European minimum wage, he said that working in Europe must pay. The Commission will ensure that this is the case, while also respecting national traditions and collective bargaining.

Another key item was the Green Deal that was announced by the new Commission. “You cannot negotiate with the climate,” said Schmit. “It is a question of human survival. We need strong answers. But we must also ensure a socially just transition process.”

EZA President Luc Van den Brande offered some comments in his own speech: “Since the start of the new Commission under Ursula von der Leyen, we have seen a lively debate about the Green Deal, but do we also have a Social Deal? In world that is constantly changing, people expect security, hope and good leadership. This means that we need a strong social Europe. Workers’ organizations play a key role in this regard.”
EU parliamentarian Cindy Franssen called for the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights: “That is our compass for the next few years.”

Overall, Van den Brande was very pleased with the conference results: “We have shown our presence right here in the middle of Europe. I was particularly pleased to see representatives of so many different institutions and political orientations.”

Please note: A more detailed report will be available on our website shortly.