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Free movement and Schengen: defending workers' rights

Extraordinary meeting of the Workers' Group, Room JDE 62 Brussels, Belgium

On 1 February 2016, the Workers' Group organised an extraordinary meeting to discuss its political priorities and take stock of the ongoing legislative and policy work in the European institutions.

The morning session was devoted to the global and European political priorities. A discussion was held on possible follow-up actions to the recent COP 21 climate agreement, with the participation of Isabel Caño, Vice-President of the Sustainable Development Observatory (SDO), and Caroline Petit, Deputy Director of the United Nations Regional Information Centre for Western Europe (UNRIC). More specifically, Ms Petit presented the 17 new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) included in the 2030 United Nations Agenda for Sustainable Development which was adopted in September 2015. These goals cover key priorities for trade unions. Among others: Goal 8: “Inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employ­ment and decent work for all” is enshrined in the framework as a specific goal. Goal 1 includes the implementation of “nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all” by 2030 in relation to poverty eradication and reducing inequality within and among countries ……

Next, the Group focused on the current crises that are endangering the very foundations of the European construction and, in particular, possible responses to the threats against citizens' and workers' acquired rights including the looming Schengen crisis and its consequences on the freedom of movement and social rights. There was be a political exchange of views with Luca Visentini, General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), who presented the ETUC's priorities to tackle these challenges.

The afternoon was devoted to an information session on the ongoing work of the different sections and other bodies of the EESC. Participants examined, in particular, the impact of the European Commission's REFIT program which aims at reducing administrative burdens but may put at risk acquired rights and/or protection standards; another item on the agenda was the energy package, one of the big legislative projects of the current legislature.

Gabriele Bischoff, President of the Workers' Group, summed up the discussion during her concluding remarks.