The day after Spanish Premier José Zapatero presented his country's EU Presidency Programme to the European Parliament, EESC Members discussed the Presidency's priorities with Mr Diego López Garrido, Spanish Secretary of State for European affairs. "This timing underlines the importance we attach to the social dialogue and to the EESC's role in facilitating it", stressed López Garrido.
"Economic union will be the leitmotiv of our Presidency, nothing more, nothing less", Mr López Garrido said. He underlined the need to fully implement 20-year old agreements that paved the way for the single currency. He pointed out that economic union should have preceded monetary union, but this had not happened. He then pledged to strive for an EU-wide cooperation between economic, employment and social policies. "The EESC will support you in this endeavour. We also hope and call on Member States to muster the political will required to achieve this", added EESC President Mario Sepi.
In the same vein, Mr López Garrido hammered home the need for the 2020 Growth Strategy to be based on binding commitments, rather than on recommendations. The Lisbon Strategy's failure to achieve economic convergence was largely due to its voluntary character, he said.
Mr López Garrido also called for "a new European social pact for the 21st century". Such a pact would encompass active job creation policies, equal opportunity policies and appropriate migration and asylum policies. He called for greater civil society participation in designing policies and underlined the importance of social dialogue.
Lastly, he announced that the Presidency will trace out a major blueprint for future developments in the EU insofar as it will tackle practical issues glossed over by the Lisbon Treaty.
In their statements, EESC Groups' Presidents insisted on the need to consolidate a social Europe and to strengthen the internal market; they called for the EU not only to speak with one foreign policy voice, but also to deliver a single message based on shared values.
(European Rapid press release)