Page 1



01 03 2009


© Emmanuel TRÉPANT


Can Europe be social?



After New Labour: Britain in social Europe

Social Europe under constant challenge 08 >

11 >

Wages: The blind spot of Euro-unionism


12 European Social Model: the missed rendez-vous with enlargement >


18 >

Reservoir Blogs

Hard times for immigrants in the EU 20

The Clash: the Working Time Directive


Ageing society: last chance crisis?

16 >



22 > New SHIFT Mag website

Discover exclusive online features

After 2 years of online presence, is entering a new era. The new version of the site will be launched mid 2009 with an original new layout and exclusive content. Chek it out at


Get SHIFT Mag articles online

React and take part in the debate


© Emmanuel TRÉPANT




01 « 03 2009


Can Europe be social?

© Emmanuel TRÉPANT


EDITORIAL Common problems call for common solutions. The question is: are we serious about making Europe an area of free movement, peace and prosperity?


Victor Fleurot SHIFT Mag Editor Brussels

EUROPE TALKS TO BRUSSELS Avenue de Tervueren 270 1150 Brussels – Belgium Publisher: Juan ARCAS Editor: Victor FLEUROT • T. +32 2 235 56 21 Deputy Editor: David MARQUIE • T. +32 2 235 56 41 Contributors to this issue: Daniel VAUGHAN-WHITEHEAD (Geneva), Timothy GORE (Brussels), Anne DUFRESNE (Brussels), Laurent VAN BRUSSEL (Brussels), Cécile ROBERT (Lyon), Mary HONEYBALL (London), Mats PERSSON (London), Javier de LUCAS (Madrid), Frédéric DARMUZEY (Brussels), Claude-Michel LORIAUX (Louvain) Illustrations: Roberto TRIOSCHI, Mi Ran COLLIN, François TACOEN, Christophe WANLIN, Emmanuel TREPANT, Brieuc HUBIN Photography: GERARD CERLES/AFP PHOTO, Brieuc HUBIN Special thanks to Maria GALLO URRUTIA and Gabriela OLSSON for linguistic coordination Production & coordination: Brieuc HUBIN • Benoît GOOSSENS • Design & Graphics: Tipik Studio Printed by: Manufast-ABP, Brussels. Administration & subscription: Ricardo RIBEIRO • T. + To advertise in SHIFT Mag contact: Florence ORTMANS • • T.+32 2 235 56 46 Andres BELLEMANS • • T. +32 2 235 00 41

If not, let us retreat to our national backyards and weather the global storms individually as brave nations – throwing the occasional look across the fence to see how neighbours are coping. But if we do want workers to ply their trade where their skills are most useful, we need to harmonise our pension schemes. If we do want to allow people to travel freely across the continent, we need a common approach to immigration and social integration. This is no supranational socialist agenda. It is the logical consequence of organising the voluntary pooling of resources (goods, services, capitals and people) among EU countries. As long as economic integration is not supported by basic social standards, protectionism will be ready to pop up at anytime. Free market, free movement, common framework. The problem, as always, is to create the conditions for a transfer of power. National politicians are all too hapy to tell people how they shoud live, work and pay taxes. But when Brussels has a say, the move is strongly condemned as bureaucratic invasion. A social basis for the single market is no foreign invasion. It is has nothing to do with Soviet-style imperialism, American domination or continental attacks on national sovereignty. It is just neighbours working as equal partners to find common solutions to common problems. Enjoy the issue and drop us a line at

© SHIFT Mag • 2009

Tipik Communication – A SWORD Group Company. Avenue de Tervueren 270 – 1150 Brussels – Belgium. Free quarterly publication (cannot be sold). Published by Tipik Communication. Reproduction in any form is prohibited without prior consent. The views expressed by contributors are their own and do not necessarily represent those of SHIFT Mag.

 N° 9  > SHIFT mag



SOCIAL EUROPE UNDER CONSTANT CHALLENGE Social Europe has been under constant challenge over the last decade. First with EU enlargement, which brought in countries with different levels of economic and social development. Then with the new era of globalisation that has generated a trend towards greater liberalisation of labour markets and a more liberal orientation as regards EU institutions. The current financial and economic crisis is ushering in new conditions that may be accompanied by new risks diluting social Europe, but which also may give rise to new opportunities for development.

Historic enlargement EU enlargement represents an important challenge for social Europe given the major economic and social gaps between older and new EU member states. Moreover, the new EU member states are the ones that have reformed their labour markets in the most extreme fashion, chiefly through a massive recourse to temporary work, but also independent contracts and interim agency employment. According to Eurostat, the proportion of temporary contracts is already much higher in the 12 new member states. This movement coincides with a boom in atypical forms of contract in many EU-15 countries: mini-jobs in Germany, interim agency workers in the UK or stand-by contracts in Sweden and Germany. Enlargement has also had significant implications for migration, especially in those countries that decided to open their borders immediately, namely Sweden, the UK and Ireland. While in those three countries, these flows of labour seem to have favoured economic growth


SHIFT mag >  N° 9 

and employment, they have also had something of a downward impact on working conditions. This negative effect could have been better shared and even avoided if all EU countries – based on a different policy from the European Commission in the first place – had decided to grant free movement of labour from the start. In the UK, migrant workers from new EU member states were found to be paid less than 80% of the average wage, but also work longer hours. There has also been evidence of the abuse of posted workers in Germany and Sweden, while the Laval case, among others, illustrates the potential for social dumping in an enlarged EU. In certain areas, however – especially where there is a Community acquis – some convergence has already occurred.

minimum wage in Bulgaria was 112 euros compared to 1,610 euros in Luxembourg. At the same time, however, average real wages have increased most among the EU newcomers: on average above 15% in the 12 new EU members since 1995, compared to less than 5% in EU-15 countries. Moreover, all EU-27 countries have some sort of wage floor, and 20 out of 27 EU members have implemented a statutory minimum wage. Policymakers have also reacted to some of the adverse implications of EU enlargement for working conditions. A typical example was the new legislation introduced in the UK to better control interim agencies’ operations. Proposals have also been put forward to lay down a number of basic principles and criteria for minimum wage fixing at an EU level.

In July 2008, the minimum wage in Bulgaria was 112 euros compared to 1,610 euros in Luxembourg. Significant progress has been made in the new EU member states not only as regards occupational health and safety, but also working time. The average weekly working time for full-time employees in the 12 new EU member states is already comparable to that of the EU-15. Social dialogue has also been promoted along with EU enlargement, helping social partners in new EU member states to develop. In the area of wages, the catching up process seems to be taking more time – though it would have been more rapid if free movement of labour had been granted to the new member states. In July 2008, the

Liberal race Since 2004, the Barroso Commission has focused its action on growth and jobs, aiming at making Europe "the most competitive knowledge based economy by 2010". This is the prism through which we should look at EC initiatives in the social field. It has launched a plan to simplify and reduce Community legislation. This position has been considered by experts, policymakers and trade unionists as an ideological turning point in favour of a more "neo-liberal" approach. A number of new legislative revisions in the social field – such as on


of the European Parliament’s role on social policy, although it might depend on its future political orientation and willingness to engage in social matters. No doubt the shift to qualified majority voting on social issues would also represent a major step for social Europe.

Global economic recession To a certain extent, recent decisions made by the European Court of Justice have shown the prevalence of the full liberalisation of trade, capital and labour, to the detriment of workers’ protection. On the other hand, recent years have also witnessed a renewed role for the European Parliament in respect of social Europe. A number of significant and highly symbolic decisions were made such as the revision of the Bolkestein Directive on services or the rejection of the EC budget in January 2006 because of its disappointing provisions for dealing with enlargement. The recent rejection of the text on "working time" was also illustrative

The social impact of the economic crisis is already visible, not only in terms of job losses but also wage cuts and governments’ decisions to reduce public spending on social protection or to freeze the minimum wage and wages in the public sector. This policy entails significant risks, such as massive protests and social unrest. The effects of the crisis on the most vulnerable will be severe. The expected increase in "low paid, low quality" jobs may extend to a portion of the middle class and social dumping will multiply unless there is coordination not only of financial and economic matters but also of social policy.

The tools available in the social Europe armoury should be used, such as antipoverty programmes, structural funds and social dialogue – with agreements or pacts at national and EU level and collective bargaining to find balanced answers to restructuring at local level. At the same time, if recovery is to be expected from relaunching the real economy, there is also a clear need to sustain wages – as well as social benefits and pensions – something that is still missing in the proposed recovery plans. Better distribution of income between capital and labour would also be required for more sustainable economic development. This leaves social Europe with an uncertain future. •••

> Daniel Vaughan-Whitehead Senior adviser, International Labour Office Geneva French-American

© Emmanuel TRÉPANT

working time and temporary workers – have suffered in this process. At the same time, European and national debates have been oriented towards flexicurity. The social agenda of the European Commission for the period 2005-2010, focused on employment, confirmed this strategy.

 N° 9  > SHIFT mag


AFTER NEW LABOUR: BRITAIN IN SOCIAL EUROPE Whoever wins the next election in the UK (Prime Minister Gordon Brown must call one by mid-2010 at the latest), Britain’s relationship with the idea of social Europe is set to change. The Conservative Party, who are ahead in the polls, remain deeply ideologically sceptical about the EU project. A British Conservative government would be as likely to reinvigorate the idea of social Europe as the Obama administration in the US advocating the continuation of George W. Bush’s foreign policy. But the Labour Party that emerges from the next election will also be very different from the one that has formed the government since 1997. The most electorally successful political settlement in the party’s history – the New Labour project – will be reshaped. What will this mean for the Labour Party’s, and therefore Britain’s, future engagement with social Europe?

New Labour’s secret affair New Labour has had at best an ambivalent relationship with the idea of social Europe, but the signs are that in the context of unprecedented economic hardship in the EU, Britain’s next Left may think rather differently. On the economy, the New Labour mantra has always been one of openness. Open to global trade and open to inward migration, whether from Polish plumbers, high-flying hedgefund managers or millionaire Russian oligarchs. All were welcomed, and the tax receipts they generated plowed into massively increased spending on health and education.


SHIFT mag >  N° 9 

It was an agenda that fitted quite easily with that half of the European project that is about liberalisation of markets and the four freedoms. But it always had rather less to say about the other, less-developed half: Delors’ “social dimension” to EU integration. This is somewhat ironic, since it was Delors’ speech on social Europe to the British Trades Union Congress in 1988, that was key to the pro-European shift in Labour thinking – a major element in the party’s modernisation in the early 1990s.

European of British prime ministers, felt unable to trumpet these advances as successes delivered by a social European agenda for British citizens.

Tomorrow will be too late But there is a sense within elements of the party that that attitude now needs to change. Roger Liddle, Europe advisor to Blair and later economic adviser to European Commission President Barroso, has undergone what the European Trades Union Congress General Secretary John Monks has called a ”Damascan conversion” in this

Indeed New Labour’s approach has always been and continues to be rather more compatible with the agenda of those wanting a genuine social Europe than the party dared to admit. There was a tendency amongst the New Labour hierarchy to keep the social question of Europe deliberately quiet. A fear that an embrace of social Europe might threaten the party’s careful new pro-enterprise, pro-market political positioning. But there was also a genuine economic policy concern that a strong social Europe would stifle the flexible British labour market deemed essential to driving growth, and thereby providing the funds needed for social investment. At times, this meant popular progressive reforms resulting from EU directives – such as rights to maternity and paternity pay or anti-discrimination in employment legislation – went by almost unnoticed by the British public. Even Tony Blair, perhaps the most pro-

regard. Liddle now makes a compelling case for why Britain and the Labour Party must work for a more overt social dimension to Europe, if the EU is to maintain the public legitimacy it needs to play the global role in the 21st century both would like it to. That argument has only been strengthened in recent weeks with the outbreak of wildcat strikes in the UK over the employment of Italian migrant workers in the context of local unemployment. Creeping protectionist sentiment across Europe threatens to fatally undermine the open and global Europe that New Labour, and most on the Left in the UK, still want to see. Unless something about the politics of the EU changes in Britain as in other member states, it risks appearing as the





British Prime Minister Tony Blair (R) and his foreign affairs secretary Jack Straw wait for their guests at a European Union summit under the UK presidency on 15 December 2005 in Brussels.

source of social discontent to European citizens, not its answer. The whole EU project could be at risk.

Back to the roots But if the Labour Party needs to reassess the importance of building a social dimension to the EU project, it will not start entirely from scratch. We must not forget that one of the government’s first acts after 1997, after all, was to sign-up to the Social Chapter of the Maastricht Treaty. Indeed New Labour’s approach has always been and continues to be rather more compatible with the agenda of those wanting a genuine social Europe than the party dared to admit. Recently announced welfare-to-work reforms owe much to the idea of ”flexicurity” borrowed from the Nordic social model. They are perhaps rightly criticised for

focusing rather more on the “flexible” than the “security” side of this labour market equation, but do nonetheless build on an agenda to which Brown is genuinely committed: giving workers maximum opportunities to re-train and develop the skills they need to thrive in the 21st century global economy. This is potentially a powerful agenda for a new social Europe. One that does not just protect those in work from losing their jobs, but ensures that if they do, doors are opened to new and improved ones.

Common ambition, not protectionism Such policies will be needed now more than ever across the EU in response to the recession, as growing unemployment bites. If the threat from rising protectionism and populist

attacks on the EU are taken seriously, Labour with other European social democratic parties will need to develop them into a compelling public narrative of the social Europe they want to build as a response to the economic downturn. The alternative might be one only the Conservative Party would welcome. There is every chance, then, that after New Labour, the next Left in Britain will embrace rather more wholeheartedly the case for an ambitious social Europe. If they lose the next election, and protectionism comes back to haunt the EU, some will wish they had done so rather earlier. ••• > Timothy Gore Former employee and member of the Fabian Society Brussels British

 N° 9  > SHIFT mag



WAGES: THE BLIND SPOT OF EUROUNIONISM Listening to the conclusions of the most recent European Trade Union Congress (ETUC) held in May 2007 in Seville, a minimum wage policy between European Union Member States or even the Europeanisation of collective bargaining on wage issues are not around the corner! The issue of wages is representative of the difficulties that European trade unionism faces in trying to “go on the offensive” and in developing common demands. This outcome results both from the difficulty of setting up solidarity between trade unions within ETUC and from the neutralisation of wage demands at European level.

ETUC and the EIF (European industry federations), seem to be dependent on the Commission’s agenda and are mainly used to valorise Community policies. In addition to the lack of substance in the social dialogue, we also note two additional major institutional obstacles to the Europeanisation of collective bargaining on wages. On the one hand, the social agreement concluded in Maastricht (included in the treaty since Amsterdam) explicitly excludes wages as an area in which legislative acts are produced in the Community system. On the other hand, trade union initiatives now suffer from the absence of an interlocutor to represent employers. Even when they are organised – which is rarely the case – employers’ representatives refuse to enter negotiations, or even discussions, on the issue of wages.

Finally, the head of a European minimum wage rears itself in trade union discussions at Community level and – very shyly – it opens discussions on the perspective of truly supranational demands Consensus on wage restraint Indeed, all the European players have accepted wage restraint. Recommendations for pressurising downward wage and salary costs are some of the eldest observed within the EU. Already in 1975, the European Commission had agreed with the UNICE’s (interprofessional business federation now called BusinessEurop) positions in this domain. Similarly, in its monthly newsletters, the European Central Bank (ECB) indicates the acceptable evolution of wages to its “social partners” (employers and trade unions) for the sake of monetary stability. Hence, the ECB and the Commission not only justify wage restraint, but also feel that the social partners – both employers and trade unions – should adopt a so-called “responsible” strategy. The Commission sometimes seems to think that the social dialogue is a partnership between “social partners” that guarantees wage restraint. In the social and sectoral interprofessional dialogue, we note that the Euro-unions,


SHIFT mag >  N° 9 

Wages outside the political arena

Finally, wages are excluded from Community competence and are treated as a variable for adjusting large macro-economic balances in the “economic partnership” between ETUC and the ECB. ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet is still a staunch defender of wage restraint for the sake of monetary stability which, in his opinion, is a prerequisite for job creation. ETUC feels that one thing is clear: wages are too low throughout Europe and the deterioration of the wages share in the national income over the last thirty years is becoming a lasting feature. But it does not provide an interprofessional framework with a general political vision that could make any progress in the field of wages. The question remains as to what structures could have the political influence to promote a wealth redistribution project to prevent the macro-economic share of wages (restriction imposed since the early 1980s) from undermining the relation of wage in each member state. At national level (in continental states in particular), wages are characterised by the fact that they are deliberated politically and defined nationally.

EUROPE TALKS TO BRUSSELS F O R M O R E I N F O R M AT I O N O N E U R O P E A N M I N I M U M WA G E S , SEE ALSO: activities/Employment-andsocial-policies/Books/Minimumwages-in-Europe

Could we define the deliberation of wage policy on another scale? What would be the form of a Community policy to be constructed at European level based on the right to a salary and not “priority for employment” or flexicurity, buzz words in today’s Community jargon?

Hope I would pinpoint two sources of hope: on the issue of inter-union solidarity, we note that the more trade unions adopt a position differing from wage restraint, the more they are able to affirm their independence. Another approach to the role of wages in the eurozone economy could then be imagined, underlining the various initiatives of independent trade unions, so as to move towards the coordination of collective bargaining on wages. These initiatives have been under development since the early 1990s, particularly at sectoral level (notably in the metallurgy sector).

work more earn more?

Finally, the head of a European minimum wage rears itself in trade union discussions at Community level and – very shyly – it opens discussions on the perspective of truly supranational demands. •••

Anne Dufresne is the author of L’eurosyndicalisme et la défense du salaire (La dispute, Paris), to be published in 2009.

© Roberto TRIOSCHI

> Anne Dufresne Sociologist Brussels French

 N° 9  > SHIFT mag


Hosted by the Royal White Star Woluwe FC

21, 23 & 24 MAY 2009 Beginning of the matches at 9.15 am


32 FAMOUS TEAMS FROM EUROPE AND BELGIUM, U12 (born after 1 January 1997)







Chemin du Struykbeken – 1200 Brussels



PostScript Laurent van Brussel February P-S: One month ago – as every year – some had expectations, made wishes and resolved to make them happen. Wednesday 31 December 2008, 11.59 pm by their watch. Sixty seconds to make a wish. Sixty seconds left for George to promise that next time he’s lucky enough to spare someone on Death Row it won’t be a Thanksgiving turkey anymore. Fifty seconds left for Nicolas to tell that a Frenchman running for the presidency can always promise everything but never say when it is for…Who was never told that one day it would be much better? Those who never believed it never voted for anything or anyone… Fourty seconds left for Garry to realise that the Russian Opposition can’t check the king without concealing its hand. Thirty seconds left for Shimon, Ehoud, Mahmoud and Salam to believe one can be a woman or a man with a future without having a past and a present. Twenty seconds left for Barack to hope he can be this expected hero in the train to Washington and amaze the world just like the unlikely one did in the plane to New York. Ten seconds left for me to bet that at the end of the year I won’t regret having plagiarised Mark Twain once again in concluding with these words: “They don’t know it is impossible, so they will do it…”And just in case you are wondering: given the indecent number of doubtful resolutions it has already made for years, the UN was a too easy prey for this paper. How could I feel like shooting a peacekeeper?

© Roberto TRIOSCHI

March P-S: Who is in? What is out? “Fashion”, “old fashion”, “old glory”, “has been”, “vintage”, etc. are the most unpredictable things created by men. Everything is a matter of fashion. It intoxicates everyone from the upper crust to the little people. And it is not Belgium and its headline-grabbing Miss Homeless who will contradict me. Good to see that human poverty is not yet a regionalised issue in this country, but I’m disgressing. Do you remember the name of Hugo “Vitalicio” Chávez (or is it Chavez’s) predecessor? Not me. In fact the right question is: do you think you will live long enough to know his successor? Anyway both are already “has-beens”… For years it has been the done thing to be with Ingrid B. as long as she was held captive in the jungle. Today she is “out of captivity”. She is not captivating anymore. She is simply out of it. Elsewhere when Chinese bronzes belonging to a departed French fashion designer, Gandhi's glasses and the statue of the Little Mermaid push up the bidding and lead to art tussle, nationalism gets top billing again. Now that even Bob Marley has become “brand-new second hand”, what keeps me from ending my paper with a “bankable” advertising slogan instead of the usual hackneyed quote? Nothing but I will refrain, since what is left of the power of words without self-control?  N° 9  > SHIFT mag



EUROPEAN SOCIAL MODEL: THE MISSED RENDEZVOUS WITH ENLARGEMENT In the context of EU enlargement, the European institutions have remained very quiet about the European social model. Yet, the arrival of our Central and Eastern European neighbours in the European Union was a unique opportunity to reaffirm the social dimension, as indeed certain academic, political and union voices stressed during the 1990s. It was a question of highlighting the existence of a “European social model” that would also apply to candidate countries. Going beyond the strictly legal framework, this “model” was designed to incorporate a set of principles common to the national systems of the EU-15, and particularly a guaranteed level of social protection.

economic transition. Therefore, there was a need to defend the European social model as a means of protecting society in these countries and of simultaneously avoiding the enlarged European Union from being the site of social dumping between “old” and “new” member states at the detriment of its citizens. While certain decisions of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), in the Viking and Laval cases in particular, tend to lend credit to this idea, the social dumping measure – given its many dimensions (economic, social, political or legal)

It was all the more important to convey this message as it was addressed to countries where social policy and protection were often viewed – by certain political elites originating in the “Transition” as well as by the international financial bodies who advised them – as something left over from former regimes and an obstacle to


SHIFT mag >  N° 9 

Finally, the limited competences of the EU institutions on social matters historically contributed to a weakening of the potential supporters of European social regulation. Due to a lesser “Europeanization” than in other sectors, these players – administrative and trade union players in particular – were less inclined to acquire the means to act at European level both collectively and unanimously. The debate on the need for social regulation in Europe continues to divide by opposing the advocates of a social Europe against those who fear that the social stands to lose everything by being managed at European level.

There was far more to the European heritage than the acquis communautaire.

Affirming the European heritage For its advocates, a number of reasons justified the need to promote such a European social model. First, due to the EU’s limited competences in the social field, Community law in this area took little account of the wealth and extent of social protection devices and social policy in the different member states. In other words, there was far more to the European heritage than the acquis communautaire.

In terms of social policy at Community level, the weakness of the judicial acquis in a context where the law was at the core of the enlargement approach helped to keep social issues away from the negotiating table. The Council principle of unanimity prevailing on all these issues also played an essential deterring role.

and different scales (from company to national level) as well as the diversity of possible causes – remains a sufficiently complex subject to deserve an article in itself. So let us go back to the reasons behind this handling of social questions in the context of enlargement to shed some light on the obstacles to it being taken into account.

Weakness of the judicial acquiss An initial explanation refers to the U’s institutional devices in which the EU’s social dimension is embodied. The institutions have a strong influence on the rot otect way we envisage the future. They “protect themselves” from change, acting nott only ly on the possible strategies and resources urces esent but also on the way the players represent the “feasible” and the “desirable”.


Only a government initiative at the very highest level could therefore secure a place for social matters on the negotiating agenda. But the prevailing logic was one of avoidance, linked to the political cost that opening up the debate to these questions represented for these players. The governments of Central and Eastern European countries refused to speak of their difficulties in this field for fear of casting suspicions on the health of their economies. For their part, the member states feared seeming to want to delay the enlargement. Moreover, the social issues were associated with subjects seen at the time as so “sensitive” that it seemed preferable not to initiate public debate. Amongst these, the free movement of workers (and the desire for derogatory measures expressed by some member states), or Structural Funds reform, seen as essential for enlargement but long postponed because, as all redistributive policy, it raises the question of the allocation of resources between the EU members. Finally, one may wonder why the Commission and the DG Employment in particular did not seek to soften this handling of enlargement. In the absence of political support, the plan to defend social conditionalities without them having legal legitimacy could seem perilous, if not vain. But this falling back on the legal requirements was not alien to the climate prevailing in the services at the time, which was


The logic of avoidance

marked by the repeated opposition of a number of member states to any initiative in the social field. There seemed to be a fear not only of the possible effects of defending the European social model, such as aggravating tensions with certain member states, but even doubting the very legitimacy of such an ambition. On this last point, the break with the discourse of the late 1980s (and particularly the ambitions professed by the Commission in terms of building a social Europe) was and remains striking. The diversity of national models made it impossible to speak of a “European social model”, the latter not being held up as a reference given the extent to which its merits are questionable.

dimensions (e.g. institutional reform), a point of agreement on the perimeter and objectives of the enlarged Europe. In this respect, it sheds useful light on the questionings of today. •••


> Cécile Robert Lecturer in political science Lyon, France French

Thus, enlargement and its preparation highlighted the difficulties encountered by elements of the EU in reaching, on the social dimension as on other  N° 9  > SHIFT mag



AGEING SOCIETY: LAST CHANCE CRISIS? Today, the phenomenon of ageing population is without frontiers, having reached developing and developed countries. The issue is double. First, there is the issue of bottom-up ageing – especially in European countries – due to declining fertility. Then, there is top-down ageing resulting from a longer life expectancy.

have spearheaded new technologies at a certain moment in time. Yet, the same could be said about those

In fact, no area of society is spared from the phenomenon of ageing population. Debates all too often dwell upon the costs of pension and healthcare whereas the real challenge of ageing societies is the relationship between generations and how it will shape up in the future.

Struggle to cope with multigenerational societies As ageing societies become increasingly multi-generational, they are expected to regulate the relationships between the various generations and their different outlooks. The differences created by the accelerated pace of history leave each generation locked into extraordinarily diversified behaviours, needs and values. The iPod legion and the Commodore generation are miles apart even if representatives of both sides


SHIFT mag >  N° 9 

© Christophe WANLIN

The increase in the number of elderly people creates new needs in every area, including accommodation, health, and social security. The changes in intergenerational relationships have a direct impact on the way society is organised, particularly in terms of social welfare, the distribution of resources, participation to the political process and political influence.

who struggled through the major crisis of the 1930s and the Second World War and those who now face the credit crunch that affects the capitalist system to its very core, with jobs being axed on all parts and the economy unravelling at the seams. All the signs forecast that the current crisis will have serious implications on the way in which the phenomenon of ageing population is managed. The greatest danger is of the old order being more or less restored in the wake of a period during which the excesses of capitalism are questioned. One thing that does seem certain is that both

business and public authorities will have to conclude a new social contract to rebuild and consolidate the bonds of solidarity between generations. The alternative is to risk seeing the class war compounded by an even more devastating intergenerational struggle.

One of the biggest scams of the 20th century Options are available. Until now, these solutions seemed to be out of step with the prevailing ideological trends. The first thing to do is to stop undermining a social welfare system based on the generational divide and solidarity between generations to move in the


direction of individual (or group) insurance schemes. There is no doubt that these systems have a role to play in our financial structures but they cannot be expected to replace social welfare. One of the biggest scams of the 20th century was the three pillars of welfare state theory (statutory pension, group insurance and private saving), which was supposedly vital to guarantee people a decent retirement. The barely-concealed aim was to switch the bulk of savings and financial resources produced by labour over to the private sector's banking and insurance systems. The idea was to instil a fear factor amongst workers, by implying that new generations could no longer guarantee the pensions of their elders and would no longer want to do so. Public authorities could then bank on cutting back their financial commitments, finding it easier to balance their budgets by handing some of their prerogatives over to the private sector. The powers-thatbe would then become the impartial allies of big business, deliberately or otherwise. The crisis has just provided a startling denial to these prophets of doom, because as liberal policies have had the opposite effect by threatening the security of the old and new generations alike. The risks facing workers have hardly changed at all since the second half of the 20th century and they still bear the same old names of "occupational accident", "illness", "unemployment", and "old age". The difference is that today, the risk of being unemployed is even greater and that old age is no longer a threat but an almost certainty.

The picture is completed with a fifth risk known as old age dependency. At the opposite, claiming that workers have an easier time finding work, are more independent and less reliant on support because of their evermore complicated careers and life histories would be a gross error in judgement.

Other funding options This constant harping on about the cupboard being bare is hardly credible in the light of the financial feats governments achieve to prop up the banking system. This defeatist narrative can mainly be attributed to the fact that social welfare systems were originally supposed to be maintained by the fruits of labour alone, either in

realise that safeguarding social welfare for workers and citizens is worth a few sacrifices if at the end of the day, the major social balances can be protected. Let us hear no more about businesses losing their competitive edge or the risk of economic activities being relocated. Industrial countries, as well as systematically being first in creating a momentum for major international trends, are also faced with the phenomenon of ageing population to a similar extent, not to mention the economic crisis which has also affected them in a fairly even-handed way. Consequently, nothing can prevent them from enacting new common commercial and trading rules, as they

The first thing to do is to stop undermining a social welfare system based on the generational divide and solidarity between generations to move in the direction of individual insurance schemes. employers' contributions or payroll payments. The rate of employment now undergoes a historic decline as wages stagnate. Yet, the availability of other funding options – such as the time-honoured income tax, capital taxes and/or value added tax – must be acknowledged. Admittedly, in areas where trade union or employers exert an influence and have been delegated to run retirement funds or mutual benefit funds, they will have the impression that they have lost some of their powers whose legitimacy was apparently based solely on the right to work. They will be right to some extent, but they also have to

now appear anxious to dismantle tax havens, providing that they refrain from drawing their inspiration solely from the point of view of competition and the liberalisation of markets. •••

> Claude-Michel Loriaux

Professor Université Catholique de Louvain Belgian

 N° 9  > SHIFT mag



access to existing national databases. 2. They’re claiming that people will be tracked for things that aren’t illegal. They won’t. If something isn’t on a country’s national database (like adult incest in France, or holocaust denial in the UK), then the record doesn’t exist, and hence obviously won’t be tracked.

While six European nations have chosen their best 15 furious bullies to fight with fierce aggressiveness to protect their lands and win the holy “RBS Six Nations” grail, European politicians actually prefer concentrating on another sport. Indeed, as John Band explains on Liberal Conspiracy (http://www. 3. They’re pretending that the punishment list is part of the crime list (and “One of the most hence suggesting that if you’ve been popular sports played by politicians across banned from owning a firearm or from Europe is ‘blaming unpopular things on the participating in sports for non-criminal EU’”. reasons, you’ll be on the ‘database’). John Band even thinks the UK possesses Again, since this is just an access protocol the best European talents in this sport: for national criminal records databases, “[…] it’s only in the UK where we have a you won’t.” large, or at least vociferous, group of utter maniacs and obsessives who’re willing ling to blame absolutely everything that happens on the EU, and to view the organisation as a tool of the Devil, or possibly Hitler, to bring about a communist Hell, or possibly a Fourth Reich.” He gives the example of the EU Council decision on the establishment of the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS), a system that allows the sharing of criminal records between countries across Europe: “[…] I’m sure you’ll be shocked (shocked!) to hear that in the UK right-wing blogland, this has been taken as an Evil And Sinister Plot to Criminalise Everything and Build an EU Database of Subversives. People have based this on three main misunderstandings, all of which are pretty much unforgivable unless you’re an idiot or deliberately lying:

He ends by making the reader understand he is fed up with this attitude: “It’s a depressing indictment of our relationship with the EU; specifically, the non-stop, almost-all-fictional black propaganda that gets pumped out about the EU by more or less everyone […]. That the reaction has been ‘yes, you’re right, this is evil and must be stopped!’, rather than the correct ‘no, you’re 1. They’re claiming this is a database. It a madman talking nonsense, of course the isn’t: it’s a protocol allowing international EU wouldn’t do that’.”


SHIFT mag >  N° 9 

A post on raedwald (http://raedwald. doesn’t seem to agree: “Have you paid a parking fine recently? Got three points on your licence? Been formally warned by the council for your bin protruding on the footway? (yep, I have had the £1,000 fine threat on the last one) Been suspended from your Sunday football league for rough tackling? (yes, seriously) Congratulations! Your records could soon be added to a panEuropean database of subversives.” If this is true, then our group of bullies mentioned at the beginning might stop fighting over a weird-shaped ball by fear of being confused with criminals. Oscar Wilde once said: “Rugby is a good occasion for keeping thirty bullies far from the center of the city.” Today, Mr Shift thinks people bla blaming unpopular things on the EU need to be given a good occasion for keeping th their mouth shut.

O political party: bad / One S Smaller groupings: good N Nosemonkey ( blog) b does not show much enthusiasm regarding UK political parties:“I continue to hate party politics with a passion. Even ignoring the distortions that have come about thanks to whipping and politicians’ reliance on party funds, Labour Labou and Conservatives alike (and arguably the Lib Dems too) really aren’t parties in the old sense any more anyway. There’s no real unifying ideology, just vast coalitions with hugely disparate, often contradictory beliefs, brought together merely by the pursuit of power. What we need is not party politics, but a return to factionalism - lots more smaller, focused groupings based on clearlystated beliefs, aims and policy positions. That would give voters a broader, clearer choice,

RESERVOIR BLOGS and give a far better indication of just what it is the public is voting for at elections.” It’s a bit like football and rugby, in a sense.

© Brieuc HUBIN

Oh God! Another allusion to rugby! Great! (Mr Shift is quoting you here, the reader, you see?)

Football: bad/Rugby: good... No just kidding… Or is Mr Shift really kidding? Football is the most famous collective sport in which each individual player needs to be recognized and glorified. Football is similar to a party. Whereas rugby is a smaller collective sport in which solidarity is needed to win a match. Everyone has the same aim: play for the teammate, help the teammate in order to beat the opponent. Yes, rugby is similar to smaller, focused groupings. As for Franklin D. Roosevelt, he thought: “an election cannot give a country a firm sense of direction if it has two or more national parties which merely have different names but are as alike in their principles and aims as two peas in the same pod”. Interesting, ain’t it? And also quite true.

The statement of the year And the award goes to Joe Noory for quoting the statement of the year on No Pasarán (http://no-pasaran.blogspot. com).

He can thank Super Sarko, author of the comment: “Does Europe want peace or does it want to be left in peace? I’d like you to think about this. Do you want peace or do you want to be left in peace? It isn’t the same policy, it isn’t the same strategy, and the consequences aren’t the same. If you want p peace, you have to g give yourselves the m means to exist as an eeconomic, financial, p political and military power. You want to be left in peace? If so, you have to curl up very small, stay in your corner, cover your eyes, block your ears, and not talk too loudly, and for a time you will be left in peace. Until the moment when it’s discovered that you haven’t got the means to defend yourself. But at that point, it will be too late.”

Israeli policy of building bigger walls and deeper bunkers represents the former reaction and not the latter. He is critical of the Israeli left, too, which treats peace as though it were simply a real estate deal. What about justice? What about trust? These are components of peace, too, but the opportunities to achieve them have been missed.” It is true peace is often treated by politicians as though it were a real estate deal. Mr Shift hopes people like the Bush family can meditate on Mr Burg’s declaration. It is utopia but as Bernard Edmonds once said: “To dream anything that you want to dream. That's the beauty of the human mind. To do anything that you want to do. That is the strength of the human will. To trust yourself to test your limits. That is the courage to succeed.” Thank you and see you next time!

Mr Shift

Sarko, Mr Shift has a piece of advice for you: why don’t you leave us alone instead of boring everyone with your sad speeches? Yes, we want to be left in peace! Thank you for your cooperation…

Peace, a real estate deal? Talking about peace, Richard Laming posted a comment on Federal Union (http:// blog/) about Avraham Burg, a former member of the Israeli parliament. He explains what he heard Mr Burg say: “The reaction to the Holocaust of never again must not mean never again for Jews, but never again for anyone, he says. An

 N° 9  > SHIFT mag



HARD TIMES FOR IMMIGRANTS IN THE EU are often forced to follow the path of irregular immigrants, with whom they are easily mistaken. One of the consequences is that they are actually treated as such and not even granted the possibility of seeking asylum.

Siege mentality and discrimination

The year 2008, in particular the second semester under the French presidency of the EU, marked another turn of the screw for immigrants in Europe. With the great alibi of the financial crisis that broke out in September, harder times are on the cards for them – “hard times for these times” as Dickens wrote. Two striking measures in particular signalled the dawn of a tougher regime. First, the return directive approved by the European Parliament on 18 June 2008 (and finally published in the EU’s official journal on Christmas day…). Second, the European Pact on Asylum and Immigration adopted on 16 October 2008.

Migrants: tools, threats or people? The primacy of the instrumental and repressive approach to immigration has been strengthened by the crisis argument. This approach sees immigration through the double lens of labour market dynamics


SHIFT mag >  N° 9 

and border control, with a growing insistence on its externalisation. The aim is to fight the “menace” of illegal immigration, that great myth constructed to portray immigrants as a threat. Indeed, over the last few months and under the argumentative protection of “the crisis”, discourses have multiplied on the urgent need to provide adequate responses to the waves of immigrants expected to knock at Europe’s doors. The EU itself has sent clear signals of its intention to move in that direction. This could prove particularly worrying with regards to the deterioration of asylum rights, an institution in genuine decline. Statistical data offered by the UNHCR is conclusive: out of an estimated 37.5 million refugees in the world in 2008, only 223,000 entered the EU. Clearly, it is getting harder by the day for those who run away from persecution and seek refuge to reach us, and, worst of all, to obtain the recognition of asylum. The externalisation of border control has created obstacles for refugees who

In this context, it is hard to avoid the alternative coined by French jurist Danièle Lochak in the title of her book Face aux migrations, Etat de Droit ou état de siège. It reflects the eternal dilemma between freedom and security, which is particularly acute when facing serious threats such as terrorism or organised crime. In the case we are dealing with, security is subtly presented as under a serious challenge from immigrants who are not necessarily identified as agents of serious risk but instead, at least as a starting point, as glaringly different foreigners. It is a question of asserting, or even worse, constructing “by means of the law” a perception of radical strangeness that retrieves the classical – pre-democratic – argumentation of the denizen status attached to a foreigner. This distinction justifies an unequal treatment, based on the existence of a difference and on the temporary nature of the person’s presence. In fact, this presence is conceived, if not as a surprise or social hazard, then as a contextual, provisional phenomenon, strictly dependent


The externalisation of border control has created obstacles for refugees who are often forced to follow the path of irregular immigrants, with whom they are easily mistaken.

An all too familiar story Such national measures, even if approved beforehand, directly relate to how the effects of the crisis are handled in relation to the immigrants’ presence. Above all, what is most distressing is that their implementation (for instance the reinforcement of detention centers for foreigners that force them to follow the path of clandestine immigration) will turn out to be the proof of the weakness of our rule of law. When facing objective difficulties that are still incomparable in scope to actual threats to the rule of law’s survival, European governments seem to react by renouncing to its implementation on behalf of the exceptionality logic.

In the European avant-garde of this current positioning we can find Berlusconi’s Italian Government, which has shifted from regulating immigration to plainly chasing it. Nevertheless, this fronde does not seem to limit itself to Italy but also affects Spain, France and the UK among others. And it targets all “visible” minorities, whether they are immigrants or refugees. ••• > Javier de Lucas

President of the European Commission for Refugees Madrid Spanish

© François TACOEN

on specific circumstances (i.e. the need to turn to workers who will perform tasks unfulfilled by the national workforce). Given that the crisis enables responses based on national preference, immigrants are now undesired, or, to put it differently, returnable, expellable.

It is convenient to warn that, given that risks themselves have broadened in dimension, consequences are beyond the legal field. As demonstrated by Sami Naïr, the economic nationalism behind the concept of “national preference” which underlies a great part of recent measures, not only questions the EU project itself. It also plants the seeds of a social (and institutional) fronde which, without exaggerating, evokes the context of the 20th century’s peak of fascisms that was undoubtedly linked to responses to 1929’s “Big crisis”.

 N° 9  > SHIFT mag


n o s s r e P Mats ector r

Di h c r a e s e R



London Swedish

WRONG LAW AT THE WRONG TIME When conceptualising the Working Time Directive (WTD), we should ask ourselves two simple questions: should we regulate working time and, if so, who should do it? The idea of a “social Europe” is in principle good. Few would like to return to a nineteenth-century Dickensian society where life in factories was – quite literally – brutish and short. Fortunately, we now live in a different time and all EU countries have laws governing how much and under what conditions people are allowed to work. That answers the first question. But the EU WTD is a step too far. It is impractical, ill-conceived, mistargeted and made worse by ludicrous interpretation by the European Court of Justice. It fails to strike a balance between safeguarding the right to decent working conditions on the one hand, and the right of individuals to choose how to live their own lives and how best to pursue their own goals and abilities on the other hand.

Scrapping the opt-out from the 48hour working week would land yet another blow to the EU economy, at a time when we can afford it the least – even if the new rules do not come in to force until 2011. Indeed, we will be paying off the recession for years to come.

1 2 12

3 36

2 4 24

h nc Lu

SHIFT mag >  N° 9 

An economic shot in the foot?


Meeting Me eeting ee


In Germany, the ECJ’s interpretation of the WTD’s on-call time rules alone is estimated to cost the economy €1.75 billion a year. In the Netherlands, the equivalent estimate is €400 million. For Britain, the effect of the ECJ’s interpretation, in combination with the capping of working hours, has been estimated to be tantamount to losing between 4300 and 9900 junior doctors. The list can go on and on.

For Brussels to micro-manage working time is a fundamentally bad idea. The WTD should be confined to the dustbin of EU history. •••

iice Invo

Working time is best decided as close as possible to the organisation and individual affected. Governance of the labour market should remain at the national level where it reflects decades of democratic discourse.

It is no wonder that the WTD has caused so many problems around Europe. In Sweden, it was laid on top of the existing – perfectly sufficient – system of labour market laws, creating a complex cobweb of regulations which has cost the taxpayer dear.

Serious concerns are now being raised right across Britain – from the health services to the construction sector – about the implications of losing the right to choose flexible working hours. For instance, the fire services in Scotland have warned that because most of the region is covered by so-called ”retained” fire fighters – people who hold second jobs – scrapping the opt-out would leave them unable to provide the necessary emergency response. When the WTD was conceived no one gave a second thought to these people providing crucial services in Scotland.

Book Tick Flight et Ca ll S mi th

Was the subsidiarity test applied?

This is the greatest weakness of the WTD. In one broad brush, it seeks to dictate how millions of workers, in 27 different countries, in hundreds of different sectors – with a few exceptions – should organise one of the most essential parts of their daily lives: the working week.



ary Hone London yball MEP British

IT IS NECESSARY TO INCREASE WOMEN’S EMPLOYMENT As Labour’s European Spokesperson on Women, I voted against the British opt out on the Working Time Directive.

force for some considerable time, there will be no immediate change, allowing time for new arrangements to be put in place.

Working consistently long hours, week after week, is damaging to family life, ruinous to relationships, and damaging to the health of the worker and those around them.

Improve the work-life balance

British workers still work some of the longest hours in Europe. But ending the UK opt out agreement from the WTD will enable both women and men to find a better balance between work and home, whilst also ensuring that they have sufficient income to support themselves as they would wish. The UK’s opt-out allowed workers to agree to work longer than their European neighbours, subject to certain limits. It specified no more than 60 hours a week on average when calculated over a period of three months or 65 hours where there is no collective agreement and “when the inactive period of on-call time is considered as working time.”

© Brieuc HUBIN

12 1 2

At the end of last year, the European Parliament decided by a small majority that the-opt out should go and that European workers should therefore be limited to a 48 hour week. However, this may be calculated over a twelve month period so the net effect will not be as great as some feared. In addition, since the Directive will not come into

Ignore the sceptics: the directive is a good piece of legislation. It seeks to improve the work-life balance that it recognises is necessary to increase women's employment. Long hours cultures within the work place do not enable parents to balance a career with childcare, this often forces women into going part-time, demoted positions, or dropping out of the workplace altogether. Removing the opt-out looks at creating a more satisfactory working environment to respond better to workers' demands, particularly from those with family responsibilities. The removal of the opt-out also puts an end to employers sidelining an important piece of health and safety legislation. The WTD was primarily designed to protect workers, and those around them, from the dangerous effects of working excessively long hours, such as ill health and accidents caused by fatigue.

Accommodate a wide range of work patterns

credit to the EU’s legislative procedures. What is more, treating workers the same across the EU is very welcome for the single market, one of the few EU agreements accepted by all the major political parties in Britain. Sadly, the British press, employers, and politicians, have not provided a balanced picture of the wider provisions relating to working time, and have over exaggerated the need to keep the opt-out to the 48-hour week. Balancing protections for workers, families and people’s pockets is a difficult act to achieve and fraught with fears of maintaining income and flexibility. But the planned reference periods of 12 months will accommodate an enormously wide range of work patterns. This should reassure all those who work for commission, in concentrated shift patterns, and balance multiple jobs to keep the family afloat, that their need to work longer hours in peak periods will be unaffected. However, the pressure will be on your employer to ensure that workers also have sufficient breaks and holiday periods to maintain a better-balanced work and home life. •••

Many of the objections raised at the start of the directive's journey through the EU labyrinth have been ironed out through strong, consultative negotiations that do  N° 9  > SHIFT mag




THE NEW SHIFTMAG WEBSITE! Discover exclusive online features

After 2 years of online presence, is entering a new era. The new version of the site will be launched mid 2009 with an original new layout and exclusive content. Chek it out at


Get SHIFT Mag articles online

React and take part in the debate

Explore our european web selection

Time to Tipik

Helping you to reach them Avenue de Tervueren 270 Tervurenlaan B-1150 Bruxelles / Brussel Tel. + Fax. + ISO 9001 certified Tipik is a Sword Group Company

avec le soutien de la RĂŠgion de Bruxelles-Capitale

SHIFT mag [n°9] - Can Europe be social?  

Common problems call for common solutions. The question is: are we serious about making Europe an area of free movement, peace and prosperit...

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you