Several candidates in the contest to become the next president of the European commission have called for the introduction of an EU wide minimum wage.
The demand was led by Frans Timmermans, currently a Commission vice president, who was speaking during a debate in Maastricht on Monday.
The Dutch official said he endorsed calls for a minimum wage across Europe which, he suggested, should be the equivalent of 60 per cent of the average Europe wage.
Timmermans told attendees that the outgoing commission had, over its five-year term, made a “lot of progress” in legislating on social issues, such as employment conditions and people on low incomes.
“We are moving forward but not as fast as I would like,” conceded Timmermans, who is the official Socialist candidate for what is seen as the EU’s top job. Current incumbent, Jean-Claude Juncker, is due to step down soon after five years at the helm.
Others taking part in the Maastricht debate, co-organised by Maastricht University and Politico, were Dutch MEP Bas Eickhout who, along with German deputy Ska Keller is one of two choices put forward for the commission presidency by the Greens, Belgian deputy Guy Verhofstadt, from ALDE’s so called “Team Europe,” Violeta Tomic, the candidate for the Party of European Left, and Czech MEP Jan Zahradil of the Alliance of Conservative and Reformists of Europe.
Each of Timmermans’ fellow participants, speaking in a session on “what the EU can do for the unemployed and low income families”, agreed for the introduction of a minimum wage to help tackle social problems.
Eickhout said, “Do I support this proposal? Yes, of course I do, not least as social policy is an area where the EU and commission has not really delivered in the last five years.”
The proposal was supported by Verhofstad the ALDE leader who pointed out that, currently, only one per cent of Europe’s working population work in another EU member state, a statistic which, he said, highlights the need for more labour mobility across the continent.
This, said the Flemish MEP and former Belgian PM, was compounded by the fact that there are, at present, three million job vacancies throughout Europe.
Tomic, another who told the packed audience at Maastricht university that she supports a minimum wage coming into force, said it was “terrible” that there are some 120 million people on low incomes and 21 million unemployed in Europe.
A notable absentee from the 90-minute debate was EPP leader Manfred Weber who cited “other commitments” for his absence.
Weber was criticised by some for not attending but his spokesman told this website that the German MEP will, along with the five “Spitzenkandidaten” taking part in the Maastricht discussion, are due to participate in another similar exchange of commission president candidates in Florence on Thursday.