In my post dated January 1, I spoke of my Belfortan origins, and this nostalgia for a time when “humility, solidarity, benevolence were considered virtues rather than characteristics of a poor guy”.
I do not share the difficulties of so called”Yellow Vests”. And to be honest, I was disgusted by the degree of hatred and violence they often expressed. I hate the conspiracy of some of them.
But many aspects of the movement seemed familiar to me, bringing me back to childhood memories, pickets in front of the Alsthom factory on strike (yes, there was an “h” at the time), solidarity of a city ….
Even if my fellow citizens have a particularly acute sensitivity on the subject of inequalities, the anxiety expressed by this movement is not specifically French. Actually, it extends to the whole developed world as everywhere, a significant proportion of the population has the feeling of having been forgotten, sacrificed, downgraded, on the altar of globalization.
A few months left before the European elections, this movement is a useful reminder that the European project must include everyone and leave no one behind.
The Lisbon Treaty refers to social justice. Article 3 of the Treaty of the European Union (TEU) now states that the Union is fighting “social exclusion and discrimination, and promotes social justice and protection, equality between women and men, intergenerational solidarity and the protection of the rights of the child”. It also refers to “a highly competitive social market economy”, which tends to “full employment and social progress”.
Article 151 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) specifies the objectives of the Union in this respect : “the promotion of employment, the improvement of living and working conditions, allowing their equalization progress, adequate social protection, social dialogue, human resource development leading to a high and sustainable level of employment and the fight against exclusion” .
Article 9 of the TFEU introduces above all a “horizontal social clause” providing for the inclusion in the definition and implementation of common policies of “requirements relating to the promotion of a high level of employment, the guarantee of adequate social protection, the fight against social exclusion, and a high level of education, training and protection of human health”.
All this is far away for our fellow citizens.
Yet, public policies have already been put in place, which go in the right direction. I am thinking, for example, of the so-called “European Social Foundation” which gives citizens new and more effective rights around three themes: (i) equal opportunities and access to the labor market; (ii) fair working conditions; (iii) social protection and social inclusion.
The European Pillar of Social Rights was jointly approved by the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission on 17 November 2017 at the Social Summit for Equitable Employment and Growth in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Most of the tools needed to achieve the floor are in the hands of the Member States, social partners and civil society. But the institutions of the European Union – and the European Commission in particular – can help by setting the framework and showing the way forward.
It is in this spirit that a social scorecard has been put in place on the Commission’s website which makes possible to monitor the implementation of this policy and to analyze the trends and performances observed in the EU countries, divided into 12 zones, which will feed into the European Semester of economic policy coordination.
These technocratic tools will not be enough to convince. Europe must go faster and further to implement truly protective public policies. In view of the powers retained by the Member States on many of its subjects, this will have to be done through enhanced cooperation, essentially within the Euro zone, and not at twenty-seven.
The European debate can not ignore the question of social justice. The demagogic postures of those who criticize Europe all the time do not meet the expectations of citizens. Their record in the European Parliament in recent years speaks for itself: they did not do anything.
To other voices to bring this subject on the top of the public debate.
Iconography: a gathering of yellow vests in Caen, November 18, 2018. @ Charly Triballeau / AFP