The future of Europe - the social dimension of the EU

From December 13 to 14, 2018, a conference on "The future of Europe - the social dimension of the EU" was held in Vienna, organized by ÖZA (Austrian Centre for Employees Education), with the support of EZA and the European Union. 90 representatives of workers' organizations Belgium, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Czech Republic and Hungary attended the conference.

For the organizer ÖZA, President Norbert SCHNEDL in his welcome speech points out the necessary further development of the European model of the "social market economy" towards an eco-social market economy. To this end, the implementation of the "social pillar" (Gothenburg, 2017) is urgently needed. The EZA Honorary President, Bartho PRONK, expresses his gratitude for the opportunity to hold this seminar as part of the EU Council Presidency in Vienna and describes Austria as an important bridge builder between East and West, between North and South in the centre of Europe because the development of the "social market economy" has taken many decades, we must also fight for its further development with patience and toughness - and against many obstacles.

Reports on the future of work: where to is the European working world developing?

Markus VENNEWALD presents a new concept for the "Future of Work" developed by COMECE (Power Point available). The Bishops' Conference of the Catholic Churches of Europe has worked on many aspects in an intensive dialogue process based on the social doctrine of the Church. Especially with the contributions of Pope Francis is emphasized that the economy must be seen in a more holistic way. In addition to "decent work", sustainability and the opportunity for participation are also essential factors.

The Austrian Christian Workers have prepared 12 theses on the "Future of Work" (text available) presented by Secretary General Andreas GJECAJ. It is already working on the implementation. In the future, unions will have to invest more in new techniques and use completely new methods of organization.

The deputy chairman of ÖZA, Fritz NEUGEBAUER moderates the subsequent discussion on the presentation papers. Alfred GAJDOSIK, WSA member from Austria, points out that the current 4th Industrial Revolution (or digitization) needs a mix of policies to remain manageable. Hans BRÜNING from the Netherlands calls for essential steps, e.g. a harmonization of the tax system or even more job security for the youth in order to facilitate their entry into professional life - and thus into society.

EZA Secretary-General Sigrid SCHRAML moderates a roundtable on the EU's sustainability and on the role of the social partners as "catalysts in the implementation of the" social pillar "of the EU.

From an Italian point of view, Piergiorgio SCIACQUA emphasizes the importance of the "social pillar" for the EU, but also for the individual member states. The Viennese theologian Alfred ZANKANELLA demands that trade unions must be more than just catalysts. You also have to change yourself. Especially when political camps are increasingly drifting apart, a willingness to engage in dialogue is necessary. A compromise is not defeat, but a valuable instrument of reconciliation. Very recently, Joseph THOUVENEL reports on the protests and demonstrations of the "Yellow-West" in France. The overwhelming majority are not violent, but it is simple citizens who express their displeasure with prevailing policies, e.g. reduction of the minimum wage. In order to implement the "social pillar", we must arouse enthusiasm for a just Europe

Michael SCHEDIWY-KLUSEK moderates an exciting presentation and discussion on the subject: "The future belongs to the youth."

In her presentation, Esmeralda van den BOSCH from the EZA Platform for Young Workers focused on the generation of "Millennials", the birth cohorts of the mid-1980s who entered the professional world at the turn of the millennium. She described this entry as much more difficult because very often precarious, temporary and atypical employment relationships are at the beginning. The growing number of young people without training, without employment, without training (NEETs) deserves special attention. She called for a much greater involvement of young people in decision-making processes - including and especially in trade unions. The General Secretary of the FCG Youth of Austria, Denis STRIEDER, presented a current project. He described the present and the future as major challenges: digitization, climate change, generational dialogue and migration / integration. Together with the chairman of the FCG Youth, this project "Environment 4.0" promotes sustainable development. The guiding principles are the UN's 17 climate goals, which are set as development goals for the period 2015-2030.

Moderated by Dr. Karin PETTER-TRAUSZNITZ, the educational officer of the FCG Austria, was asked whether the market economy in the EU would continue to develop at the crossroads from a social to an eco-social - or whether a market economy "without any additive" is looming.

Valuable impulses were provided by Dr. Ing. Thieß PETERSEN, from the German Bertelsmann Foundation, who described how the classic welfare state is increasingly coming under pressure: through increasing structural change, through economic globalization and through the increasing capital intensity of production. He formulated: "Without additive" socially "market economy is not functional".

With a quote from the IMF, former Vice-Chancellor of the Republic of Austria, Josef RIEGLER, began his speech: "Free, unbridled markets are not the solution but the problem". Despite the loss of global creative power, politics must again determine the rules of the game, because otherwise threatens a "dictatorship of corporations". Therefore, sustainable decisions also need longevity and partnerships that extend beyond national borders.

In a concluding "round table", aspects of other EU member states were also introduced.

The president of MOSZ, Imre PALKOVICS, described the situation in Hungary, where there have been massive changes in the working time without involving the social partners in the necessary dialogue. Therefore, as a precondition for social dialogue, he called for fairness and respect from the respective social partners. Because Sofie PUT had a short-term illness, Alexandra ROSVELDS from Beweging.net described the situation in Belgium. She emphasized that it needs a combination of solutions and that, with Josef Riegler's excellent theses, the ecological issues must be linked in the sense of a network with social strategies.

A conclusion could be a quote from Al Gore:

"Political will is a renewable energy. We can renew it every day! "