matisse site

Pro Europa

Building Unity, Sustaining Identity

Speech to Trades Union Congress, Bournemouth, 8 September 1988.
From The Pro-European Reader, Palgrave editions, 2002.

delors1[The election in 1979 of a Conservative government, under Margaret Thatcher opened a difficult period in British relations with the European Community. It coincided with the discovery that, despite the re-negotiation of British membership terms under Harold Wilson, the British financial contribution was set to grow disproportionately large. Mrs Thatcher reacted violently to this, thumping the table at the Dublin summit in December 1979 and demanding ‘our money back'. It took nearly five years of ill-tempered haggling before a settlement (involving large rebates) was reached at the Fontainebleau summit in 1984. Unfortunately, the Labour Party, together with the trade unions, had reverted to outright hostility, and fought the 1983 election on a platform of withdrawal. A crucial stage in coaxing them back was the speech made by Jacques Delors, who had become President of the Commission in 1985, to the Trades Union Congress. In a subtle speech, ostensibly in support of the 1992 programme for completing the EC's internal market, he emphazised the Community's concern for social issues, and made it clear that the TUC's voice would carry weight in Brussels, even if it was effectively ignored by Mrs Thatcher's government. The delegates responded with enthusiasm, giving him a standing ovation and serenading him with a chorus of 'Frère Jacques'.]

President, dear friends,

It was with great pleasure that I accepted the invitation to address congress today. Europe is again on the move. This is confirmed by your report ‘1992: Maximizing the benefits - minimizing the costs', and the wide interest in the topic, evident from the large number of motions that have been put forward. I look forward to hearing the debate that follows.

Europe matters to each and every one of us. As your general secretary says things have changed, there will be more change, as your excellent report demonstrates. We are living through a peaceful revolution in which we must all participate. We must all adapt. This is why the challenge of 1992 is now being taken up by Trades Unions across Europe. The commission will respond.

Today I wish to concentrate on four main themes:

First, there is the challenge before us. The potential benefits of completing the internal market by 1992 are very large. But we must, as your report says, maximize these benefits while minimizing the costs, we must also preserve and enhance the uniquely European model of society.

Second, we must again become masters of our destiny. It is only by relying on our own strengths that we will be able to resist adverse external pressures.

Third, close co-operation and solidarity as well as competition are the conditions for our common success.

Fourth, the social dimension is a vital element; your report shows that you are ready to be involved.

1. The challenge

Your organization has played a pioneering role in the history of the trade union movement. It has served as a model for other trade unions in neighbouring European countries in their fight for the rights of workers and for the defence of their dignity. This historic achievement helped to forge in Europe a new model for society, a model based on a skilful balance between society and the individual. This model varies from country to country, but throughout Europe we encounter similar mechanisms of social solidarity, of protection of the weakest and of collective bargaining. This model was associated with three decades of expansion following the Second World War. In recent years it had been threatened by adverse economical developments, some of which have an external origin. Europe has grown increasingly vulnerable. We must now rely on our own forces.

The globalization of markets and new technologies affect our perceptions and our way of life. All those concerned with the organization of our society must adapt. This of course includes the Trade Unions of Europe.

The countries of Europe are responding to the challenge in more or less the same way. They have rejected drastic reductions in wages and levels of social protection. They have sought to adapt to the new world situation through an increase in productivity. They have succeeded in part, but at the price of massive unemployment.

Unemployment is our major challenge. It is particularly young people and the disadvantaged who are suffering. A number of policies have been tried. There have been successes: but the problem is far from being solved. The policies tried have not been adequate.

2. Mastering our destiny

It is essential to strengthen our control of our economic and social development, of our technology, and of our monetary capacity. We must rely on our own resources, and preserve our European identity. We must pool our resources. In keeping with this spirit, there must be full and broad consultation with those involved in the production of wealth. Since we are all closely dependent upon each other, our futures are linked. Jointly, we can enjoy the advantages to be derived from this situation.

It is necessary to give a broader framework to this co-operative action, 1992 does this.

The governments and Parliaments of the 12 member states have solemnly committed themselves through the Single European Act to such a framework. European unions and employers have also approved the objective of a truly common market, with their own conditions. This shared objective calls for a concrete and productive social dialogue at the European level. That is the reason why I invited those concerned to relaunch this dialogue in January 1985.

Many of the major decisions necessary for the completion of the internal market have already been taken or are in the pipeline, as explained clearly in your report. The Heads of State and government at the European Council in Hanover in June agreed that implementation of the 1992 programme has become an irreversible process.

Your report rightly points out that there will be far-reaching consequences for industry and the economy. The potential benefits are enormous. Realizing that potential depends on all of us.

There are a number of ways of reacting to 1992.

First, there are the sceptics. They doubt that the potential benefits are large. They also fear that increased competition will only put at risk our social achievements. These people are already pointing an accusing finger at the single market and blaming it for all difficulties.

Second, there are the enthusiasts. They see the completion of the internal market as the answer to all their problems. They maintain that it, alone and unaided, will result in the convergence of economic policies, the creation of millions of jobs, and spectacular growth.

Third, there are the architects. They see the opportunities that it creates and are ready to tackle the difficulties to which it might give rise. I am in this camp: and I hope that you will join it. Your report gives me confidence that you will do so.

Membership of the camp requires constant effort and imagination. Without these, the reality will not correspond to the dream.

3. Co-operation - solidarity

The European Community will be characterized by co-operation as well as competition. It will encourage individual initiative as well as solidarity. If these characteristics are not present, the goals will not be achieved.

A large market of 320 million will increase competition. It will benefit the consumer, and allow European industry to compete on a world scale. It will create new job opportunities and contribute to a better standard of living. These benefits will only be fully achieved with increased co¬operation, and they must be spread throughout the Community.

It was by no means a foregone conclusion that the governments of the 12 member states would reach the agreement that they concluded in Brussels in February of this year. The measures agreed will increase the solidarity of the Community.

Between now and 1992 about £40bn will be devoted by them to following five objectives:

• The development of the backward regions of the Community

• The restructuring of regions in industrial decline

• The fight against long-term unemployment

• The provision of jobs for young people

• Rural development

You will notice that most of these objectives concern all member states. Some have expressed a fear that the North/South problems of a nation like the United Kingdom would be neglected at the Community level. This is not the case, as the list of objectives clearly shows.

With these accompanying policies and with an increased co-operation in areas like technology and the environment, 1992 will not only be a factor contributing to additional growth and employment: but it will also be possible to ensure that the advantages of the single market spread to all regions.

4. The social dimension

Our Europe also needs clear rules and respect for the law. While we are trying to pool our efforts, it would be unacceptable for unfair practices to distort the interplay of economic forces. It would be unacceptable for Europe to become a source of social regression, while we are trying to rediscover together the road to prosperity and employment.

The European Commission has suggested the following principles on which to base the definition and implementation of these rules:

First, measures adopted to complete the large market should not diminish the level of social protection already achieved in the member states.

Second, the internal market should be designed to benefit each and every citizen of the Community. It is therefore necessary to improve workers' living and working conditions, and to provide better protection for their health and safety at work.

Third, the measures to be taken will concern the area of collective bargaining and legislation.

Now we have to make concrete progress. For this we need the contribution of the architects. In May last year, when addressing the European Trade Union Congress, I made three proposals, which were designed to clearly show the social dimension of the European construction. You have noted these in your report. They are:

• The establishment of a platform of guaranteed social rights, containing general principles, such as every worker's right to be covered by a collective agreement, and more specific measures concerning, for example, the status of temporary work.

• The creation of a Statute for European Companies, which would include the participation of workers or their representatives. Those concerned could opt, on the basis of their traditions and wishes, between three formulae.

• The extension to all workers of the right to lifelong education. This would be done on the basis of existing provisions, and after a full consultation of unions and management.

These initial proposals should be studied and discussed. Other suggestions from both sides of industry are welcome. In my opinion social dialogue

and collective bargaining are essential pillars of our democratic society and social progress.

Dear friends,

Europe must reassert itself. The world is looking at us. It is watching you, the British; it is watching the Germans, the French, the Italians and all the others. It is wondering how these nations, which have fought each other over the centuries, have managed to rise up again when so much was pointing to their decline.

The answer is that Europe is reaffirming itself by managing its diversity. You, dear friends, will remain British. More precisely some, like you President will remain Welsh: others will remain Scottish, Irish or English, and I am not forgetting the others. You Mr Breit [Chairman of the German Trade Union Federation] will remain German. We will all maintain our individual ways of life, and our valued traditions. Thanks to co-operation and solidarity between Europeans, we will succeed in preserving our identity and our culture. Through the richness of our diversity and our talents, we will increase our capacity for decision and action.

I did not come here with a miracle cure, with promises of millions of jobs, and general prosperity. There are no easy solutions. This world is harsh, and rapidly changing. Properly managed, 1992 can help us to adapt, to meet the challenges and reap the benefits. It will re-invigorate our European model of development, 1992 is much more than the creation of an internal market abolishing barriers to the free movement of goods, services and investment. To capture the potential gains, it is necessary to work together.

Download this file (delors-necessary-to-work-together.pdf)delors-necessary-to-work-together.pdf[Delors, Jacques: It Is Necessary to Work Together]

About Us

Pro Europa is a project of the Ambelos Cultural Centre

President: George Mylonas

Read More