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TUC conference - Bring back social Europe: the 21st century case

  • Date(s)
    10 September 2007
  • Time
    5.30pm to 7.00pm
  • Location
    TUC Conference, Meeting Room 4, Brighton Centre

It is now vital for Europe's future legitimacy that it embraces social issues as well as market liberalisation, Roger Liddle, vice chair of Policy Network and a senior adviser to the European Commission, told a joint Policy Network and Fabian Society event at the TUC conference in Brighton.

His comments, based on the findings of his Fabian freethinking paper, Bring Back Social Europe, were reported on the BBC news website.

The EU adviser was joined in the debate by John Monks, the general secretary of the ETUC; Francis O'Grady, deputy general secretary of the TUC; Margaret Prosser, deputy chair of the Commission for Equality and Human Rights; and Thorben Albrecht from the Confederation of German Trade Unions.

John Monks stressed that questions of corporate governance and family policy needed to be urgently addressed. ‘There was a lot for the Unions in the EU but there has been a lot of carelessness in the social agenda in the past decade. Gordon Brown has a lot to do,’ he said. Frances O’Grady developed this by suggesting that Britain has ‘lacked an active industrial policy for far too long’.

In relation to issues of gender equality, Margaret Prosser argued that the EU has shown a high level of undertaking. However, she warned that though there is a commitment to gender equality at an institutional level, its state-level practice has been considerably poorer – especially in the ex-Soviet bloc.

Thorben Albrecht and Frances O’Grady also noted the diminishing support for the ‘European project’ in both Germany and the UK. In a contribution from the floor, the trade union academic Robert Taylor added a ‘note of pessimism’, highlighting the high levels of attendance at eurosceptic TUC fringe meetings. He also said that the government needed to be convinced of the necessity of an EU social agenda.

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