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European Commissioner responsible for employment and Social Affairs
The European Social Model and Enlargement
Seminar on the harmonisation of Turkey's social policy and legislation with EU standards (IKV)
Istanbul, Turkey, June 23, 2000
1. Accession: Turkey's challenge and opportunity
Minister, ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to be here today, in a spirit of political, economic and social solidarity. I was pleased to accept the invitation to participate in this event for two particular reasons.
The first is to share with you the conviction that the social dimension is central to European integration. The second is to underline the importance the EU attaches to Turkey as a candidate country.
I am also very pleased to be the second European Commissioner to visit Turkey since the historic decision of the Helsinki European Council to grant your country candidate status. In practice, this decision means that the existing European Strategy for Turkey is being replaced with a pre-accession strategy, as with the other candidate countries.
In terms of my responsibilities, the work and the co-operation with the Turkish authorities have already begun. I can assure you that this will receive high priority. We hope that Turkey's citizens, institutions and authorities will also accord the accession process a high priority over the coming period.
2. Common values and common policies
Let me say a few words on the political context of the integration process that all European countries, both members and candidates, are now undertaking.
First, the EU is a union of sovereign states. All its decisions must be legitimised by the democratic will of the people, by the citizens of our states. This takes place mainly at national level. It also takes place at European level when it is necessary and appropriate to take decisions through the EU institutions.
One thing is clear, in terms of the decisions that fall to the European level. All countries are equal. Nobody dictates policy decisions to the others. All our decisions are debated and negotiated within the framework of our shared values and common policies. So, the policies and actions we develop are negotiated and mediated by the democratic process.
It is the common values, which underlie them, that are not negotiable. The values of democracy, respect for human rights and respect for minorities, are not negotiable. Our respect for, and commitment to, a market economy are not negotiable either.
Our common policies are, of course, negotiable because they do not constitute universal values. They are, however, very important for us because they represent the instruments we have developed, and continue to develop, to enable the integration process to achieve the mutual political, economic and social benefits that the EU is all about.
These instruments of integration are diverse. There is the Single Market, the expression of fair and healthy competition. There is the Common Agricultural Policy. There is our deepening policy collaboration on transport, energy and the environment. There is the Single Currency and, of course, there are common social standards, to which I will return in a moment.
These common policies, again, are not a matter of one or more countries dictating to others. They are a matter of sovereign states deciding to pursue common objectives for common benefit. This is not always a simple process, or even a smooth process.
This means, in various circumstances, two scenarios. They can be described as those where Member States have the wish to pursue common policies, but cannot, and those where Member States have the ability to pursue a policy but do not wish to.
The Euro is a good example. The country I come from, Greece, had wanted to participate from the beginning, that in 1999, but could not, as it did not fulfil the criteria. Others have met the criteria, but either do not want to participate, or are still reflecting.
What did Greece do in this situation?
First, it made a concerted effort to meet the criteria. And, in return, the EU expressed its solidarity to Greece, and assisted it in its work of attaining the target. Two years later this solidarity, combined with the country's hard work to meet the criteria, resulted in Greece's joining the Euro zone, last Monday.
I make this point because it is so valid for candidate countries' efforts to meet the accession commitments. It is taken for granted that they want to participate. But, for the time being, they don't fulfil all the conditions to do so.
Therefore, the accession strategy consists, on the one had, of candidate countries making political and operational efforts to meet the criteria applicable to them; and, on the other hand, the Member States and the EU institutions assisting this effort by all appropriate financial, institutional and other means.
In short, the much quoted "Community acquis" which candidate countries must implement represent the sum of the Union's common values, and policies.
And the pre-accession strategy is the combination of the effort to fulfil the criteria, based upon the acquis, and the investment of the Unions' support.
3. Accession conditions are policy benefits
All of this, for all the candidate countries, and for all the existing Member States, is a balance of risk and reward. There are risks for all participants in this huge project, so we must all of us- make the benefits real, for citizens, workers, companies and investors.
That is why the message for the candidate countries should be that meeting the political, economic and social conditions of membership of the European Union is also the key to drawing the respective benefits of this membership.
In this way, we all gain from the enlarged political and economic community. We all gain from having a common and level playing field for all our countries.
That is why the social acquis are just as important as the economic acquis in the accession process.
They work together to give us strong economic performance, high productivity and decent social standards. An important part of the journey to enlargement is bringing this combination of social and economic concerns to bear on the accession process.
This is very important. It will demonstrate to the citizens of the applicant countries that the Union is a driving force for improving the quality of economic and social life and raising the standard of living for all.
And it will demonstrate to the citizens of the present Union that the social dimension is a basic element of the process of enlargement, not a casualty of the process.
4. The dual challenge for the candidate countries
The challenge for the candidate countries is twofold: they have to adjust to the existing situation in the EU, as well as adapt to a changing landscape. In a sense, the EU represents a moving target for them.
In terms of the market, they have two tasks. The first is to moderate the potential negative effects of unchecked market behaviour. The second is to benefit from the advantages and dynamics of an open market economy.
To meet these aims, they need to open their markets for goods, services, capital and labour. They will have to open up public procurement, as well as the capital and the money markets and liberalise banking systems.
These efforts, in all these fields, demand sound macroeconomic policies, to reduce public deficits and inflation, and to keep interest rates low and stable.
This, in turn, must be combined with policy action to promote economic competitiveness and dynamism. By efficient public infrastructure investment, by encouraging private investment. By strategic, ongoing investment in people and skills. In short, to create the conditions for a productive environment overall.
To secure all this, candidate countries need the European social model.
Let me be clear about this. The European social model is not a barrier to economic objectives. It is not an obstacle to the work of building an open and dynamic market economy. It is an important part of the solution. It is a productive factor in achieving strong economic performance. In the European social model, social policy is economic policy.
Let me elaborate. Social policy in Europe translates into a number of connected principles and actions.
It is about minimum standards for working life, including on health and safety at work and balancing flexibility for companies with security for employees.
It is about employment policy, including creating the conditions for companies to adjust to change, for investment in new skills, and for protecting the vulnerable from the effects of restructuring.
It is about equal opportunities for women and men and for minorities, in the workplace, but also in wider society. It is about minimum standards in civil society, including equality and democratic and social rights.
All of this requires:
The European Social Model takes many forms in the Member States. But, for each, the bottom line is to raise social standards as an integral part of addressing economic as well as social issues. The difference between the European model and the American model is that, for us in Europe, social policy is a permanent concern of the state.
However, we are all in Europe facing problems in our societies as, for example, problems of gender inequality, of xenophobia, of racism and of discrimination.
That's why both Member States and candidate countries need to develop policies to combat these problems, and also to take steps to ensure that the process of enlargement, itself, does not add to them.
At European level, this policy development is ongoing. Regular treaty revisions over the years have responded to change, and have developed the social dimension to reflect this change.
The result includes: the employment strategy, new provisions on equal opportunities, anti-discrimination and social exclusion; and a stronger framework for social dialogue. The European Council at the end of this year, in Nice, will continue this development, including, we believe, on discrimination.
The recent Lisbon Summit recognised that the new technologies and new patterns of production offer huge jobs potential. But that they offer this potential most to the regions that manage transition well.
Ladies and gentlemen, the importance of getting the right balance of economic and social policy has been at the heart of the process of European integration from the beginning. It is reflected in the Treaty of Rome, in which the signatories "resolved to ensure the economic and social progress of their countries".
Why is this so important to the performance of the EU and to the attraction of the Union for new members?
The reason is this. The social dimension of the EU and the aquis in which it is expressed, is an essential component: of building the institutions of democracy and civil society; of making markets work sustainably, and of creating the capacity for engagement in political, economic and monetary union.
This is not a matter of dogma. It is a matter of the practical benefits of strong social policy design and implementation, good economic sense, and full democratic engagement. It is, fundamentally, a matter of good governance in a changing world, for the countries, institutions and citizens of the present EU and of the enlarged EU.
Minister, ladies and gentlemen, I look forward to developing our collaboration.