ETUC presents memorandum to the Finnish EU Presidency

On 1 July 1999, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), which was holding its congress in Helsinki, presented a memorandum to the Finnish EU Presidency, which started on the same day. The memorandum focuses largely on the need to coordinate economic and employment policy on the basis of the new "European employment pact". The Finnish Prime Minister, Paavo Lipponen, promised in a speech to the congress that Finland will develop the new "macroeconomic dialogue" during its Presidency.

The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) held its ninth Statutory Congress in Helsinki from 29 June to 2 July 1999 (EU9907182F). The event coincided with the beginning of Finland's six-month term in the EU Presidency and on 1 July a delegation presented a memorandum to the Finnish Prime Minister and EU President in Office, Paavo Lipponen. The delegation consisted of the ETUC president, Fritz Verzetnitsch, and general secretary, Emilio Gabaglio, plus Lauri Ihalainen, chair of the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (Suomen Ammattiliittojen Keskusjärjestö, SAK), Esa Swanljung, chair of the Finnish Confederation of Salaried Employees (Toimihenkilökeskusjärjestö, STTK) and Risto Piekka, chair of the Confederation of Unions for Academic Professionals (Akateemisten Toimihenkilöiden Keskusjärjestö, AKAVA). The memorandum sets out ETUC's demands, proposals and recommendations for the EU Presidency.

The memorandum focuses largely on the need to coordinate economic and employment policy on the basis of the "European employment pact" agreed at the June 1999 Cologne European Council (EU9906180N). The new European "macroeconomic dialogue" between representatives from social partner organisations, Member States, and European institutions including the European Central Bank, established by the pact, will further reinforce existing procedures concerned with the overall policy mix, says ETUC, and the Finnish Presidency must now help ensure that this process gets off to a good start.

The ETUC also emphasises workers' rights and calls on the Presidency to begin negotiations in the Council of Ministers on the proposed Directive establishing a general framework for national information and consultation of employees (EU9812135F). ETUC also reiterates the importance of making progress in the establishment of a "European observatory on industrial change" (as proposed by the "Gyllenhammar report" on the economic and social impact of industrial change - EU9805106N).

On the enlargement of the EU, ETUC calls for the social dimension be given more prominent consideration. Furthermore, a clear message must be sent to accession countries that the EU is not merely a market and an economic construct, but also a social model which future Member States should respect and gear themselves towards.

Some responses to the memorandum were given in a speech to the Congress by Mr Lipponen. He promised that Finland aims to develop the macroeconomic dialogue to make it a successful process. Furthermore, he emphasised the importance of the social dimension by stating that "European cooperation must include a strong social content. Cooperation cannot be only freedom of enterprise and capital. It is a question of people's rights and opportunities. Together we must strengthen this side in the Union activities." In addition, he promised in an press interview that Finland, in the role of EU President, will aim to resolve disputes concerning the draft national information and consultation Directive.

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