Speaking notes of Luca Visentini - Les rencontre économiques – Aix en Provence, 4 July 2020


Speaking notes of the intervention by ETUC General Secretary Luca Visentini at "Les rencontre économiques" – Aix en Provence, 4 July 2020

  • Let me comment about the topic for discussion today from a European perspective, which can of course vary according to the national circumstances, but has some elements in common.
  • We had a crisis of trust before the COVID-19 outbreak, now it was even worsened.
  • Civil society is the most affected by the COVID-19 outbreak: citizens in their health and personal liberties, workers in their health (heroes) and jobs (victims), companies in their survival.
  • We cannot repeat the mistakes we made after the financial crisis; we cannot accept that wrong policies are imposed to us.
  • This time civil society and social partners, together with local communities, must be involved in the design and implementation of any measure to respond to the emergency and to rebuild our economies and societies.
  • Involvement does not mean mere consultation; it means that the voice of civil society must be heard and must have an impact.
  • This is the only way to avoid the wrong recipes of the past: we all remember austerity, cuts to public services and social protection, worsening of wages and working conditions, rise of inequalities and social exclusion, attacks to rights and democratic values.
  • These wrong recipes are at the origin of the rise of populism and xenophobia, they have created major mistrust among citizens towards politicians and have undermined the European project and democracy.
  • We have to learn the lesson from the COVID-19 crisis, now it’s time to build a more sustainable economic and social model for Europe: such new model must be based on environmental just transition, on innovation and digitalisation at the service of people, on strong public services and universal social protection, on sound citizens’ and workers’ rights.
  • Environmental just transition: meet the targets without leaving anyone behind, just transition as a preventive and holistic approach, no more economic and social deserts.
  • Innovation and digitalisation at the service of people: everybody to benefit from it, improve quality of work, wages, data protection, rights in the digital economy (for citizens and workers).
  • Strong public services and social protection: repair the damage of austerity, invest in these areas, rebuild the European social model with global social protection accessible to all.
  • The emergency measures and the recent proposals of the European Commission for a Recovery Strategy go in the right direction: financial part, investment part, conditionality part, democratic process.
  • But it would be a disaster if we would return to business as usual and if the decisions will again be taken among leaders and governments only, with divisions and lack of solidarity prevailing.
  • Democratic accountability is essential, only civic and social dialogue can ensure it
  • Civic and social dialogue, together with democratic rights, economic and social rights have been under attack (examples).
  • Build new practices for proper involvement, we are the only ones who can really provide politicians and institutions with the right inputs from the ground.
  • Great opportunity offered by the Conference on the Future of Europe: democracy not only elections or institutional issues, it’s about economic and social democracy in the society.
  • To conclude: mistrust comes from wrong policies, but also from dis-intermediation of society.
  • We need to change policies and to rebuild proper dialogue channels.
  • Lack of representativeness of social partners (both): if we are excluded, we are not influential, if we cannot have an impact we are weakened and become marginal.
  • We are ready to cooperate for improving, but we need to be part of the game.
  • In Europe we have the context and even the legal basis for sound civic and social dialogue, it’s a matter of political willingness, we need to come back to our core values.