EUCO: Energy measures don’t meet social emergency

Commenting on the conclusions of the European Council, ETUC General Secretary Luca Visentini said:

“The Council has failed to grasp the urgency of the situation facing working people across Europe, with conclusions that don’t meet the social and economic consequences of Russian aggression in Ukraine.

“Around 9.5 million working people had problems paying their bills before and the war has plunged millions more into fuel poverty. At the same time, energy companies are banking record profits. People need an energy price cap now, not a ‘feasibility’ study.

“We call on the Council to convene an urgent Summit at European level – at the highest institutional level and with the involvement of social partners – to take the necessary actions in this area, including the continuation and refinancing of SURE and the widening of its scope.

“That will be crucial to sustaining popular support for sanctions after European Parliament polling showed this week that people who don’t have problems paying their bills are most likely to support the strongest possible sanctions.”

On the conclusions of the Council on EU enlargement, Mr Visentini said:

“It is important to intensify efforts and initiatives to stop the horrific war following the Russian invasion of Ukraine and to achieve peace, as well as to provide humanitarian aid and support to Ukrainian people, to welcome and protect refugees in the EU and in the neighbouring countries.

“Confirming the candidate status for Ukraine and Moldova is an important decision and the right thing to do. Europe must learn the lessons from previous enlargements: candidate countries have to ensure the full respect of workers’, trade union and social rights. The rights and living standards of normal people have to be a top priority in the accession process.

“The EU’s values and principles, first and foremost, social dialog and social rights, should be the guiding principles for the reconstruction of Ukraine from the very start, to ensure success of democratic transformations and socially-oriented market economy.

“It is good news that the door of accession has been opened to Ukraine and Moldova, but regrettable that it remains closed for Georgia. It is important that candidate status is confirmed also for Georgia as soon as possible, as well as that the accession of Western Balkans can progress. The country has advanced much farther in implementing Association Agreement than other associates and Georgian people should not be held hostage by political games.

“The EU also needs to show Ukraine that its accession process is fit for purpose and cannot be held up by any one EU member state as is happening for the western Balkans.”  

On the conclusions on the Conference on the Future of Europe, Mr Visentini added:

“The European Council conclusions on the Conference on the Future of Europe lack ambition and real engagement, coming just a week after the Commission published a disappointing response.

“The correct response from EU institutions to this unprecedented consultation with trade unions, civil society and citizens would be proposals for concrete action, but instead the Commission gave us a rehashed list of things they had already done and the European Council provided a vague and non-committing reply.

“The Commission and the Council must respond ordinary workers’ and citizens’ needs and concerns, acting on the conclusions of the Conference.

“Following the Conference conclusions, we need significant changes to EU policy for a more social future of Europe. We need a Convention to be convened for the necessary Treaty changes for a more effective, social and progressive institutional framework for the European Union, including a social progress protocol in the Treaties to ensure people always come before profit. Treaty change cannot be avoided just because it is difficult.”