By Sarah Collins - 12th March 2008
STRASBOURG - MEPs have urged the commission to tell the spring council that the Lisbon strategy needs to be focused on eliminating social exclusion.
A day ahead of the summit, they told commission president José Manuel Barroso that guidelines for implementing the strategy must be altered because of growing social inequality.
But Barroso advised MEPs that maintaining the strategy as it is will promote security.
“The Lisbon strategy has an inbuilt flexibility which allows us to adapt to changing circumstances. Keeping the guidelines sends a signal of stability to member states and reinforces the likelihood of delivery,” he said in Strasbourg on Wednesday.
However, Socialist group chairman Martin Schulz told Barroso, “We have achieved progress, unemployment is down, productivity is growing, but precarious jobs in Europe are increasing, they’re not secure or permanent. There is still social imbalance.”
“All this is in favour of a revision of the guidelines. Please deliver this message to the council and we will be on your side,” he added.
The council, which will take place in Brussels on Thursday and Friday, will launch the 2008-2010 cycle of the renewed Lisbon strategy, the EU’s blueprint for strategic development.
The Green group's Rebecca Harms said, “We’re not assessing the Lisbon strategy if we ignore the fact that profit from globalisation is not distributed evenly. What about the working poor?”
“In our resolution in the European parliament we made a special request on sectoral minimum wages. It’s a great pity that neither the council nor commission have entered into that suggestion,” she added
Gabriele Zimmer of the GUE/NGL group agrees. “Social exclusion has not been prioritised. The European parliament should be pushing this question to the spring summit: What practical measures can we expect to combat poverty? What about the fact that 18.5 million people out of the 70 million officially poor are actually in work?”
EPP-ED group chair Joseph Daul drove the point home, saying, “Globalisation is an opportunity for Europe but we will not accept unregulated globalisation. We must protect the weaker sections in society. “
“This is not the time to change course but to redouble our efforts,” he added
Graham Watson of the ALDE group told the gathering that there is a solution.
“Markets are the most powerful tool we have to improve living standards,” he said.
But UEN co-president Brian Crowley said that we need to take the best ideas out of all the proposals put forward by MEPs.
“Our experience over the last 30 years has shown us that it's not one or the other. You can’t have protection of the environment without investment in new technology, you can’t have economic growth without social cohesion,” he said.
“We have to ensure that the foundations we put down today will be as strong in 15 years as they are today. Our best asset is young people and we need to invest in education.”