Macron’s Call for European Sovereignty and Job Market

Social Policy

In this world and in these difficult times “the European democracy is our best chance”. On the 17th of April, during the speech to the European Parliament’s plenary in Strasbourg, the French President, Emmanuel Macron, set out his proposals for greater EU integration, as a way to win the “civil war” between liberal democracy and rising authoritarianism. While repeating his major policy ideas, such as reforming the EU’s Monetary Union, Macron touched upon many crucial issues for the future of the Union also ahead of the European Parliament elections in May 2019, the first after Brexit.

The EU appears to be definitively ready to come out from the big crisis caused in the past years by the financial, resulting in Brexit and in the rising populism. But to complete this process, it seems crucial to change something in the EU project and in the balance of power among its Member States. Thus, Macron’s speech was part of an offensive ahead of the European Parliament elections in May 2019. “For these reasons, and in view of the 2019 European elections, we must defend Europe’s democracy”, reviving it with a new project and “building European sovereignty to protect citizens and respond to their anxieties and expectations”. And the French president called for an “urgent road map” for reforming the Eurozone. At the same time, Macron called for an overall budget reform and he demanded, unequivocally, the elimination of all “rebates” – the cash-back budget systems introduced by Great Britain while asserting the country was paying too much. “The rebates cannot survive Brexit”, Macron asserted in Strasbourg.

Anyway, the path to reform the EU seems not so easy. Only some days after Macron’s speech in Strasbourg (on the 19th of April), the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the French President stressed their common will to reform the EU, but without bridging their fundamental differences namely on economic and fiscal policy. So it remains to be seen whether Macron approach can convince the French and other Europeans of its strong pro–European ideas. “There are always different starting points when it comes to the opinions of Germany and France,” Merkel admitted at a joint news conference with Macron, “we need open debates, and in the end we need the ability to compromise.”

Despite the existing differences between France and Germany, Macron made clear he won’t drop his demand for greater financial solidarity, particularly among the 19 countries part of the Eurozone. And this is a key issue, also considering the success story of Greece bailout that is coming to an end in the summer 2018. “No currency union can survive if there aren’t instruments for convergence,” Macron said, citing the need for a banking union. So far, Germany has tried to prevent it from happening, fearing that it will have to face future bailouts, as happened in the past with Greece. And if it will be difficult to think that Merkel could change her government position as regard this crucial issue, on the other hand it is not sustainable a Union where there is not a complete burden sharing between Member States. From this point of view, it is interesting to highlight that over the last decade the number of mobile citizens, people living and/or working in another Member State, has almost doubled to reach 17 million in 2017. EU Member States from this point of view are deeply integrated, and this issue affects directly millions of young Europeans.

For this reason, ensuring more rights to Europeans working in another Member States is a key issue at stake when it comes to strengthening the EU project. At the end of the day, this is the real success story of the EU: while trying to radically change the economic approach when it comes to big issues, Brussels should also keep on working on the integration of the Member States’ job market. Also on this fundamental issue, directly affecting daily lives of millions European citizens, should be followed Macron’s call for an “European sovereignty”, as an attempt to overcome tensions between national sovereignty and European integration.

Thus the concrete proposal set out in Brussels for a stronger integration of the job market should not be seen as a mere bureaucratic approach, but as a key leverage of the EU success. In march, the European Commission presented its proposal for the creation of an European Labour Authority, as announced by President Juncker in his 2017 State of the Union address. The European Labour Authority will be a permanent structure, made up of approximately 140 staff members, some of them seconded from EU countries. It will facilitate the access for individuals and employers to information on their rights and obligations as well as to relevant services. It will also support cooperation between EU countries in the cross–border enforcement of relevant Union law; mediate and facilitate a solution in cases of cross–border disputes between national authorities or labour market disruptions.

The European Labour Authority will help individuals, businesses and national administrations to get the most out of the opportunities offered by free movement and to ensure the fair labour mobility. It will provide information to citizens and business on opportunities for jobs, apprenticeships, mobility schemes, recruitments and training, as well as guidance on rights and obligations to live, work and/or operate in another Member State of the EU.

Furthermore, the Authority will support cooperation between national authorities in cross–borders, and will be able to provide mediation and facilitate solutions in case of cross–border disputes. The European Labour Authority will be established as a new decentralised EU agency and, following the completion of the EU legislative process, should be ready to work in 2019.




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