Speech by President Mallia at EESC Employers' Group meeting with Commissioner Schmit

Dear Commissioner,

It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to the meeting of the Employers' Group.

Although you have already been very active and engaged in the work of our Committee – and you will also be participating in the next EESC plenary - I believe today is the first time that the Employers’ Group has the opportunity to exchange views with you directly.

Dear Commissioner, I will get straight to it:

The employers' group believes that we have to provide entrepreneurs and businesses with the best possible conditions so that they can thrive and create jobs. We need to reinforce the strengths of our European social market economy while removing the weaknesses and thus adapt it to face the challenges ahead.

In one of your recent speeches on the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan you stated that "(…) economic and social aspects must go hand in hand for an inclusive and long-lasting recovery". Dear Commissioner we are firmly behind you on this. Employers strongly believe that a sustainable economic recovery is the main critical enabler for social progress. We cannot have Social Europe without economic recovery, growth and well-functioning internal market.

Fast economic recovery is only possible now if we ensure that our companies have the right business environment to be competitive and create employment. If we do this, then together we will be able to create wellbeing for our societies.

We have had many a discussion about the Pillar and the Porto Summit and yes these should be about social policy, but equally should be about economic recovery and competitiveness.

A few words on the Action Plan

The employers welcome the focus of the Action Plan on jobs and the opening up of opportunities. As stated in the introduction of the Action Plan Competitive sustainability is at the heart of Europe´s social market economy.

Special focus of the Action Plan should be on promoting employment. However, we need to face the dire realities here when looking back into the latest history of labour market policies in Europe. Employment creation is not about new legislation or other obligations which increase the burden of companies.

This approach has not worked. We must have a new approach.

Therefore we need to courageously turn to creating a labour market where flexibility and businesses´ adaptability to change are accompanied by adequate security for workers.

We firmly believe that the focus should now be on ensuring proper implementation and enforcement of the existing acquis and using best practices and benchmarking to give impetus to the national reform process.

Any initiatives/measures included in the action plan must be taken at the right level, keeping in mind and fully respecting the different powers and clearly defined roles the EU, Member States and the social partners have as regards social policy.

A final word on the proposed Directive on adequate minimum wages.  

In our exchanges leading up to this meeting today, we have already informed you of our counter opinion on the matter. I will not go into further details here, but we encourage the Commission and the co-legislators to reconsider and take a more balanced and cautious approach, seeking a genuine EU convergence through a non-binding instrument, in full respect of social partners' autonomy and the different industrial relations models.

Dear Commissioner Schmit, we are truly delighted to be able to engage directly with you. You will find that our approach is one of frank dialogue and professional analysis. Even if on some dossiers we will have to agree to disagree, please rest assured that our wish is to have an open line of communication and dialogue with you.

With this in mind I very much look forward to todays discussion with you.

Commissioner the floor is yours

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