Committee guide: Commission and member states failing to deliver on Social Europe

It's not about communicating better, it's about actually delivering for citizens, says Thomas Händel.

Thomas Händel | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual

By Thomas Händel

12 Apr 2017

1. What do you see as the committee's main achievements in the first half of the current mandate, and What do you see as its principal priorities for the remaining two and a half years?
During the first half of the term the committee voted against CETA, sent a strong message about expectations regarding TTIP, was very quick in providing necessary aid to the Europe's youth with the youth employment initiative, discussed and voted measures for the skills agenda and the lifelong learning initiative of the European Commission. 

The general topic was, and will be, how we intend to strengthen the social dimension of the European Union. This is what people expect from us.


2. What do you believe are the main challenges and issues facing the committee for the remainder of the current legislature?
During the second half of the legislature, our main challenges will be the pillar of social rights, the revision of the posting directive and the social security coordination. All of the above will have major impacts on the perception of the EU as a Social Europe. Right now, the Commission and the member states are still failing to deliver.


3. What, if any, impact will Brexit and other events such as national elections in France, the Netherlands and Germany, have on the committee's work?

Well, there will be much more work regarding Brexit. We will try to scrutinise the negotiations, we will have to ensure that European citizens are treated fairly, that their rights are respected. 

Moreover, we have to pay attention to the mobility of workers - mobile workers, cross-border workers, frontier workers and posted workers - with a particular focus and understanding of the unique situations that exist in Ireland and Gibraltar. We must not lose sight of the fact that Brexit will have serious impacts on the economic and social life of many.

The upcoming elections will certainly have less direct impact on our work. Nevertheless, they will influence the work of the European Commission and the Council, so ultimately everything affects us. 

I am very concerned over the polling for the extreme right in France, where Le Pen still leads. Nobody knows whether we will get our own Trump here in Europe. It would be a huge blow to the concept of European integration and solidarity.

The leaders in Brussels and the capitals need to listen to the signals; we cannot just keep on doing what we are currently doing. Europe needs to fundamentally change or it will collapse.


4. How can citizens become more engaged in what your committee does and how can you better communicate the work of the committee to voters and stakeholders? 

The European Parliament is the most transparent parliament that I know of in Europe. Those who are interested in our work should visit our homepage, contact their MEP and tell them what they expect them to do - as already many do. However, it's not all about communication.

We, as the European Parliament, also need to be seen to deliver. Many of the polls and surveys show that alongside security issues, social affairs and employment is the most important issue for European citizens.

If we want to convince people of the EU that European integration is a good idea, then we need to deliver social security, decent work and minimum standards that are reliable and provide protection for every European citizen rather than just to 'better communicate' what we are doing. At the moment we are simply not doing enough.


5. Are you concerned by the apparent reduction, in recent weeks and months, in the legislative output of the Commission due to the Refit exercise and do you expect this to continue? Will this impact on your committee's workload and, if so, how?

I am not that concerned about the reduction of output, as it is not a question of how much legislation the Commission produces, it is one of quality, whether the proposals of the Commission really provide additional value for the 500 million Europeans.

It is about whether we can finally see the principle of equal pay for women become a reality; whether we can provide the same pay for the same work at the same place; whether people will have a minimum income wherever they live in Europe.

It is about how social security is provided to everyone and how we intend to create jobs and growth to give everyone the possibility to participate of the wealth the EU is creating year on year. 

We live in this continent's richest period and at the same time, we are seeing a whole generation suffering from unemployment on a massive scale.

That is what I am concerned about, and that is what we have to work on. Immediately.


Read the most recent articles written by Thomas Händel - Youth unemployment puts Europe's future at risk

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