Athens pushing to reinsert ‘social acquis’ in Europe’s agenda in Rome

epa05868740 The European Union flag is projected on the Colosseum on the occasion of the celebrations to mark 60th anniversary of signing the Treaty of Rome, in Rome, Italy, 24 March 2017. EU leaders gathered in Rome to mark the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome. The treaty was signed on 25 March 1957 at Campidoglio Palace in Rome by Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and West Germany to form the European Economic Community (ECC). EPA/ANGELO CARCONI

Following statements by Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Friday, government sources said that more European leaders were expected to make statements supporting the need to protect Europe’s “social acquis” in response to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ letter, before the adoption of the Rome Declaration.

Following Athens’ intervention, the sources added, the section of the Rome Declaration referring to social Europe was retained in spite of objections from many countries, while a reference to fighting unemployment that was not in the first draft had been added.

The government sources also welcomed Juncker’s acknowledgement that Greece was not excluded from the European social model as a “positive step” and a “vindication of Greece’s efforts.”

In a letter sent to Gentiloni, Juncker, European Council President Donald Tusk, the current chair of the rotating EU Council presidency Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and the heads of the other 27 EU member-states apart from Greece, Tsipras asked them to clarify whether “the European acquis applies to all countries without exception or whether it applies to everyone except Greece.”

Gentiloni: EU’s social acquis must be protected, without exceptions

Speaking during a meeting with the social partners (trade unions and employer associations) on Friday, in the run-up to the Rome Summit, Gentiloni noted that the European Union’s “social acquis” must be protected without exceptions.

The Italian prime minister noted that the EU was a system of values and rules that included the so-called “social acquis” – and that this was one of the most important achievements in its 60 years of integration.

“And I believe we must do whatever is in our power to protect this social acquis in all the member-states, without exception, as my friend the Greek prime minister quite rightly noted in his letter,” Gentiloni added.

Juncker: I supported the return of collective bargaining with the Greek prime minister

In a statement after receiving Tsipras’ letter, the European Commission’s president pointed out that he had joined with Tsipras in publicly expressing his support for fair and effective collective bargaining systems since May 2015, while also noting that Greece’s creditors must give it the necessary and desirable room to manoeuvre, in order to create its own future. He further underlined his respect for the social acquis, “of which we are the guardians.”

Juncker then referred to the ongoing negotiations for the second review of the Greek programme, noting that all sides must work toward achieving a staff-level agreement as fast as possible.

The next deadline was the Eurogroup of April 7, he added, and noted that “ideally, we must be in a position to present a staff-level agreement by then and we will continue to support you for this purpose.”