From the TUC

Delors on the crisis

27 May 2009, by in Economics, International

The European Trade Union Confederation is holding its ‘mid-term’ conference in Paris today and tomorrow. The slogan is “Fight the crisis, put people first”. But a key question is: what can we say about the crisis that hasn’t already been said? Former EU President Jacques Delors, the midwife to the single market and social Europe, had some ideas.

His keynote address stressed the way European welfare states have returned to popularity as a result of the crisis: those who complained about the cost only a few months now recognise the importance of welfare states in protecting not just people but also whole economies. However, in Eastern Europe, countries are still faced with IMF requirements to slash state expenditure, pensions etc. So we still need to defend those welfare states.

Delors also slammed the way the European Court of Justice has elevated market freedoms over fundamental workers’ rights, as well as the abuses of the power accumulated by bankers and their failure to manage risks. He said that “the market can only work if it is properly regulated”. One critical element of a trade union strategy must be that we don’t simply want to return to ‘business as usual’ – we need a different model to emerge from the crisis (although a generation of defensiveness has left the left a bit short on ideas).

Delors also spoke in favour of IMF reform, a new UN Economic Council like the Security and Human Rights Councils. And he spoke up for the social dialogue in Europe, not just over industrial relations but the whole raft of EU policies. He argued for a stronger Europe, with more powers, not just the lowest common denominator, able to regulate finance capitalism, plan industrial strategies and strengthen social Europe.

Drawing attention to the current distance between politicians and the public, he said “if we don’t have social dialogue we won’t have democracy”. And he argued that there is more to Europe than the high profile Euro-summits. The raft of institutions that make up the EU should be used to develop solutions to the crisis.