On 31 May 2016, the Workers' Group of the EESC organised an extraordinary meeting at The Hague, in the premises of the Social and Economic Council of the Netherlands (SER). It was be an opportunity for members to evaluate the Netherlands EU Presidency, which is nearing its conclusion. Europe continues to be caught in the crosswinds of low growth, high unemployment, the rising appeal of populists and eurosceptics, and uncertainty about the future membership of the European Union. The Workers' Group is convinced that the EU must deliver a positive project for workers and citizens, which provides more security for them to cope in a fast-changing world.
Following introductory speeches by Mariëtte HAMER, President of the SER, and Gabriele Bischoff, President of the Workers' Group, one of the key issues of the discussion was the possible 'European Pillar of Social Rights', an initiative on which the European Commission has recently launched a public consultation. From the trade union movement perspective, this initiative will be crucial for the development of the EU in the face of the Eurosceptic trends that are challenging its very existence. Prominent contributors to the discussion were Marcelis Boereboem, Director-General at the Dutch Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment, Allan Larsson, special advisor to European Commission President Juncker for the European Pillar of Social Rights, Esther Lynch, ETUC Confederal Secretary, Leo Hartveld, General Secretary of the Netherlands Trade Union Confederation (FNV), Maurice Limmen, President of the Dutch National Federation of Christian Trade Unions (CNV), and Nic van Holstein, President of the Dutch Trade Union Federation for Professionals (VCP).
The afternoon session focused on the dangers of rising Euroscepticism and nationalism across Europe, trends which were experienced by the Netherlands itself during its EU Presidency during the Dutch referendum on the Ukraine–EU Association Agreement. A panel of journalists, trade unionists and academics from different European countries discussed the effects of these phenomena – which seriously risk jeopardising the social acquis at a national and a European level - on trade union and workers' rights. The impacts are already being felt in several countries including the UK, where the Conservative government is currently pushing forward very anti-trade union legislation.
Recommended hashtag: #WorkersRights