Greek PM’s initiative on labour relations found support in EU, European sources say

The Greek prime minister’s initiative in support of labour rights and the protection of Europe’s workers has the support of both European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, European officials told the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA) on Saturday.

The European sources pointed to Tusk’s statement during Saturday’s press conference and Juncker’s letter replying to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, which both confirmed the European leadership’s resolve to make the social acquis a priority for Europe in the coming decade, especially with respect to labour relations.

Despite the fact that there was no change to the text of the Rome Declaration after last Monday, sources close to the European Council presidency noted that Tusk had been in “close contact” with the Greek prime minister in order to respond to his call for support. Tsipras and Tusk had spoken on the phone on Tuesday, they said, at which time Tsipras raised the issue of the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) delays in completing the second review of the Greek programme, which were focused on labour issues and specifically the return of collective bargaining. This was then followed up by the Greek prime minister’s letter and Tusk’s reply on Saturday that Europe will continue to work with the social partners to implement a high level of social protection and “best practices in labour relations throughout Europe, including Greece.”

According to the same sources, meanwhile, the final text of the Rome Declaration had very strong references to the social acquis and to specific points that concern the European South, such as fighting unemployment and protecting the role of the social partners. These references were included as a result of the process that began in Bratislava last September and the political discussion that followed, the sources noted.

They also told the ANA that a more specific commitment in the Rome Declaration was not possible due to “legal constraints” – namely, because social policy is not an EU competence in certain countries. In any case, they added, the Greek prime minister’s initiative did not concern the Declaration itself so much as the delays in completing the second review and the pressures exerted by the IMF against the return of collective bargaining in Greece. This, they noted, was covered by Tusk’s statement on Saturday.

Regarding Juncker’s response, a community source said that the European Commission president’s letter sent a clear message to the heads of the institutions and especially the IMF to speed up the completion of the review, officially setting April 7 as the new milestone.