European Commission: Frequently Asked Questions about working time
Brussels, 22 September 2004

The Commission has today adopted a proposal for a modification to the existing Directive concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time. This background note is intended to provide detailed information about the issue of working time and the Commission proposal.

Why is the Commission proposing a revision to the Directive now?
The Working Time Directive was adopted in 1993 and has been amended several times since. The original directive requires the revision in 2003 of two aspects of the Directive. The first is the reference period, i.e. the time over which the average 48-hour weekly limit on working time is calculated. The second concerns the application of the so-called “opt-out” that allows Member States to put in place measures to allow individuals to agree not to be subject to the 48 hour limit.
The Commission conducted this review last year and extended it to cover two other areas: the definition of working time in the wake of European Court of Justice (ECJ) rulings on time spent on-call by health professionals and the possibility of introducing measures to promote the work/life balance.

What will be the objectives of the Directive?
The Directive aims at protecting workers from adverse health and safety risks, laying down provisions for a maximum 48-hour working week, rest periods and breaks and a minimum of four weeks paid leave a year. There is a clearly negative effect of long working hours on health and safety of workers. Research has shown that fatigue and loss of concentration increase with the number of hours worked and that the risk of industrial accidents is higher during the final hours of work. At the same time, the Directive will provide Member States and firms with the greatest flexibility possible for handling working time in order to improve the firm’s competitiveness. Unnecessary and harmful constraints on the firm’s way of dealing with working time should be avoided, especially for smaller firms. The challenge is to find a balance between worker’s rights and firm’s legitimate interests.

What are the main problems with the opt-out?
The 1993 Directive provides Member States with the possibility not to apply the 48 hour limit to the average working week. At that time, only the UK put into place general national measures to allow an individual to opt-out. On the accession of 10 Member States in May 2004, Cyprus and Malta also introduces a generalised opt-out. Luxembourg, Spain, France and Germany have all put in place measures to allow opting out in specific sectors (hotel and catering, health). Therefore the widest use of the opt-out, and thus the basis for drawing conclusions on its use, is in the UK.

What were the implications of the Court of Justice rulings on on-call time?
The current directive only defines "working time" and "rest time". Member States dealt differently with the time spent on call, which is not defined in the current directive.
This led to two Court of Justice rulings seeking to clarify the issue. In the SIMAP and Jaeger cases in 2000 and 2003, the Court ruled that time spent on call by health professionals had to be counted as working time, if they are required to be at their place of employment, even if they are resting. Currently, doctors work more than 48 hours a week in most Member States if on-call time is considered entirely as working time.
ECJ interpretations of existing Community law are binding on all Member States. Most Member States need to adapt their national law as a result of the above rulings. The rulings affect the health sector most seriously but not exclusively. In some Member States, it was estimated that tens of thousands of extra medical staff would have to be recruited. Following the rulings, France, Germany and Spain applied the opt-out to their health sectors.

What is the importance of the reference period?
For many firms it is very important to organise working time flexibly in order to respond to seasonal or demand fluctuations. Sometimes, there might be more work to do and employers could ask workers whether, for a certain period, they want to work more than the 48-hours limit a week.

Therefore, the 48 hours are not calculated over just one week, but over a reference period. The current Directive sets the reference period for the average weekly working-time at not more than four months. However, the reference period can be increased to six months and, if there is a collective agreement or agreements concluded between the two sides of industry, up to twelve months.
The use of collective agreements varies widely between different Member States and sectors, so many firms have not been able to make use of an extended reference period. The new proposal keeps the basic reference period at four months, but Member States now have the possibility themselves to increase it up to one year, while respecting the general principles of protection of worker’s health and security. Member States will have to consult social partners and promote social dialogue, but a collective agreement is no longer necessary. In any case, the reference period cannot be longer than the duration of the working contract.

What will change under the new Commission proposal?
The new proposal changes the provisions regarding the opt-out, "on-call time", the reference periods for calculating the maximum working week, and the time limits for granting compensatory rest.

Opting out
The conditions attached to the worker's individual consent are tightened:
- it cannot be given at the same time as the contract of employment is signed or during any probation period,
- it has to be given in writing
- it is valid for a maximum of one year (renewable).
- no worker can work more than 65 hours a week.
- employers are obliged to keep records of the number of hours actually worked and make these records available to the responsible authorities, if required.
Member States will be able to apply the opt-out if it is:
- expressly allowed under a collective agreement or an agreement between the social partners; and
- if the individual worker consents.
However, if no collective agreement is applicable and no workers' representation normally negotiates terms and conditions on the workers’ behalf, individual consent can be obtained by the employer directly.
The proposal states that workers’ representatives can be used to decide on the opt-out in line with existing national law and practice.

On-call time
The proposal introduces a new category, "on-call time", in addition to working time" and "rest time" and states that the inactive part of on-call time does not constitute working time within the meaning of the directive.
However, it also gives Member States the option, under national law or by collective agreement or agreement between the two sides of industry, of counting the inactive part of on-call time as working time.
Under the Commission proposal, on call time is defined as that period during which a worker must available to work, if required to do so by his/her employer. The proposal further defines the inactive part of on-call time, which is when a worker who is on call is not actually carrying out his duties. Any on-call time which is not classified as inactive should count as working time.

What happens next with the proposal?
It passes to Council and Parliament, which have to agree the new legislation under the co-decision procedure.

 

Press-links on working time:
http://www.euractiv.com/cgi-bin/cgint.exe/2924948-431?204&OIDN=1508249&-home=home
http://www.euobserver.com/?sid=9&aid=17354

UGL - Public services gathered in Rome
Rome (Italy), 07.09.2004

The chairmen and chairwomen of the different sectors discussed the problems at organisational level and trade union topics the public services are concerned with today in Italy. The social elections are approaching and require, such as in Austria, the full commitment of the trade union leaders and representatives.




 

The secretary general of Eurofedop, Bert Van Caelenberg, gave information about past activities and referred to the positive results of the Irish Presidency as regards social dialogue. He congratulated our Italian colleagues for their involvement before and during the Italian Presidency. Renata Polverini, who in the meantime has become member of the Board of Eurofedop, has had a great share in this from her experience as delegate to the European Economic and Social Committee. Words of appreciation were also expressed towards colleagues of Eurofedop namely the CCOD/CCSP. Thanks to their expertise, they contributed a lot to the training of their colleague trade union representatives from Italy.
During the year to come, delegates of the UGL will participate in sessions of Eurofedop and a delegation of UGL officials will pay a working visit to Brussels. This with the objective that national UGL representatives may be allowed to participate fully and in a short term to the maintenance and reinforcement of Social Dialogue at European level.

News from CNV Publieke Zaak:
“Action against disastrous government policies”

According to the unions the current plans are no more than simple cuts destined to reduce costs. CNV chairman Doekle Terpstra believes that Dutch employees and Dutch society deserve a better future and he is confident that trade action will have an impact.
For more information:
www.cnvpubliekezaak.nl
www.nederlandverdientbeter.nl.

 

ACOM and Eurofedop announce a conference on
“(Post)care for military personnel in Europe”, Veldhoven (NL) October, 1

In a time in which military personnel in peacekeeping/enforcing missions and humanitarian actions are increasingly confronted with the threat of terror and the results of this terror, the attention to the effects of this confrontation on the exposed military personnel is increasing throughout Europe.
Dutch research shows that 25% of the military personnel who participated in peacekeeping/enforcing missions and humanitarian actions suffer from post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSS) to a certain extent. One fifth of this 25% suffer such bad cases of PTSS that they can no longer function normally in their families and society. Since the extent of the problems only slowly starts to get general recognition, the question rises whether the current care for veterans has to be changed or adapted?

 

During a conference on October 1 organised by Eurofedop and ACOM, trade union representatives and experts will discuss this topic and compare and contrast the experiences and best-practices in various EU member states. The goal of this meeting is to list a number of proposals for policy-makers.
For more information don’t hesitate to contact us:e-mail: info@infedop-eurofedop.com
tel. : 02 230 38 65

Social dialogue Committee Telecom: Guidelines on customers contact centres

On June 15, European social partners in the telecom sector signed guidelines for the telecom companies and unions, which employ people in customer contact centres (call centres). On behalf of Eurofedop, Horst Sayffaerth (DPVKOM) participated in the negotiations.

For more information:
http://www.europa.eu.int/comm/employment_social/soc-dial/pdf/telework_pr_en.pdf
http://www.europa.eu.int/comm/employment_social/soc-dial/pdf/telework_guide_en.pdf



Council of Europe
Session of 21 June to 25 June 2004

Eurofedop was present both at the “summer session” of the NGO world and the Parliamentary As-sembly.
The activities at the NGO world were mainly dominated by the preparation of structural changes as a result of the “participatory status” that NGOs are now invested with at the Council of Europe.
This preparation is mainly carried out by members of the Liaison Committee that Eurofedop is a member of.
As regards the activities of the other groupings, especially the grouping “Health” took a very com-bative position. In particular the item of “Euthanasia” will be examined with the greatest care by this grouping.
Most of the NGOs in this grouping are of the view that, as far as the elaboration and execution of a possible law are concerned, consultation of the nursing staff is essential.

 

It is the intention that the NGO world will weigh heavily, through its grouping “Health”, on the deci-sion that the Parliamentary Assembly will take in this matter.
The Session of the Parliamentary Assembly had as one of its main items the election of a new Secre-tary General.
Mr Terry Davis was chosen in the first round by absolute majority.
Mr Davis has been English MP for the Socialist Party for 28 years.
There was also a lively speech uttered by Mr Jean-Claude Trichet, President of the European Central Bank.
Johan Vermeire
Secretary of the Trade Council Defense
05.06.2004

At the invitation of the Irish presidency, a meeting between the troika of the directors general of public administration and the European trade unions took place in Dublin.
The results of the items that had been discussed by the directors general of the 25, were explained to the trade unions by experts concerned.
These subjects were : innovative Public Services, e-government, better regulation, enlargement, as well as two files that had already been prepared in cooperation with the Dutch Presidency : ethics and public sector pensions.



The speakers for Eurofedop were Gabriel Keaveny (Ireland), Paul Koeslag (Netherlands), Willy Gloss (Austria) and Bert Van Caelenberg (Secretary General). Our remarks concentrated on 3 items: ethics, enlargement and pensions.
The Dutch Presidency presented its programme and more specifically spoke about the 3rd Quality Conference.
The “Memorandum” that we had prepared for this occasion, corresponded perfectly with the subjects that the Irish and Dutch Presidencies are/will be giving attention to. The merit of this is that we indicate in this document what our standpoints as workers are on documents of the Presidency that, by the way, are not without importance : “Implications of Demographic Changes on Pension Systems within the Public Sector of EU Member States”, “Ethics in the Public Services of the European Union Member States” and “”. Eurofedop had already studied the theme of Ethics at a previous Congress, for which a video had been prepared. We used this video to show what, in our opinion, the stakes are with the theme of ethics in the public services.
Another positive element of this meeting with the Troika was that it gathered all three European workers’ organisations around the discussion table. We believe that this may positively contribute to the further development of this informal dialogue, for the benefit of public services and the workers of these public services.

European Health Agora VII-AGORA VII
Paris (France), 27.05.2004
European Commission convinced of the importance of the sector

In his speech one of the experts of the European Commission, indicated that the health sector represented 10 % of finances in the 15 member states. In the 10 new countries, this is 6 %. This fact alone, given the catch-up operation, will have a strong economic influence. And there is also the ageing pattern of the staff in this sector, showing that the majority of these people are already between 45 and 55 years old.
The demographic structure of the population is also an element of great significance. In this context, it is not possible for the Commission to speak of the quality of care without speaking of the quantity of the personnel.
Although subsidiarity imposes restrictions, the Ministers of Health want to speak of aspects of Health, in particular as regards : access, quality and financing, in the beginning of June, on the basis of the open coordination method.
By further working out these matters, they also want to conclude freely established agreements about the mobility of patients and the introduction of a European social insurance card.
If you know that the current working time directive creates great turmoil with doctors in Germany, the remark of the speaker was that all this will happen in consultation with the actors on the ground.


The OECD expert, J. Hust, submitted a thesis that he defended by making use of the great amount of information available to his service.
In contradiction to other studies performed earlier, e.g. by J. Pacolet at the KUL, the OECD starts from the conviction that, if no profound measures are taken, there will be serious personnel shortages. This partly due to the ageing of the personnel and the increase in the number of patients.
EUROSTAT too has recently published that doctors and nursing staff are ageing in Europe.
How to respond to that ? What are the challenges ?
Training, migration, reform of salary and working conditions, increase of productivity.
Other speakers such as Mr Jos van den Heuvel of the Council of Europe specially referred to the migration issue. This institution works on an immigration file with governments, employers and professional organisations. A first proposal will be put on the table in June.

Martin Staniforth, chairman of the working party “Human Resources”, gave a summary of the “causes” and “solutions” in relation to the issues mentioned above.
Among the causes he sees : underinvestment in training, poor perception of the profession, undervalued, not seen as high status profession, pay issues, increased workload/demands, inflexible working arrangement.
His solutions are : increase training, international recruitment, encourage return in practice, more flexible working arrangements, support systems (children), image campaigns, salary rises, objectives adjustment and change of job.

This speech was an ideal introduction to the afternoon discussion in which five other experts expressed their opinion. For Eurofedop spoke Bert Van Caelenberg, Secretary General. He concluded his intervention with the following standpoints:
1. The “core business” of hospitals is to provide health care. The main factor to achieve this is he/she who provides this health care.
2. To improve the quality of health care and satisfy the increasing demand = recruit more personnel, avoid that too many people abandon service and invest in permanent training = improve the working conditions of the personnel.
3. To satisfy the increasing need for health care, more personnel are necessary. Isolated campaigns are not enough. The recruitment, retention and departure of personnel cannot be seen separately from each other. Elements of negatively orientated inflow are sometimes at the origin of outflow.
4. The high work pressure and inflexible flexibility in this profession are among the main reasons why people abandon this service. Indeed, flexibility should imply that workers can take time for their private life and assume their own responsibilities in determining their work schedule.
5. A possibility to reduce the work pressure of nursing staff and guarantee the quality of health care towards the patients is to reduce or to move administrative tasks or other supplementary tasks, so that the personnel can spend a maximum of their time with the patients.
6. In addition, the career prospects in this profession should be more attractive, both for new workers and for the more experienced. It is important that people have the feeling that career opportunities e.g. through permanent training are available to them in their profession.
7. Physical complaints which make people leave this profession early, should, in this sector of all sectors, be limited to a minimum e.g. through the introduction of new work equipment.
8. A good social dialogue and individual monitoring could do a lot to prevent frustration, unnecessary stress and burnout.
9. A dialogue at European level could deliver a positive contribution in the discussion around recruitment and retention of personnel. A dialogue in which Eurofedop would like to be one of the partners.
This daring initiative fitted well in the whole of the Public Hospital Forum but, actually, also got a bit lost in it.
The question remains whether, in term, HOPE can fulfil the role of social partner. In the meantime, activities such as these are an informal platform for social dialogue but, considering the importance of the sector, this deserves more attention from the political responsible people.
---------------------
See also the web report of HOPE: http://www.hope.be.

Seminar Vilnius
Eurofedop-LDF
Lithuania, 24.05.2004

On the 24th of May 2004, Eurofedop held a successful seminar in Vilnius, Lithuania, organised together with the Lithuanian Labour Federation (LDF). Participants from all over Lithuania gathered together and different public sector branches were represented.
Vydas Puskepalis, Chairman of the Lithuanian Labour Federation, opened the seminar together with Bert Van Caelenberg, Secretary General of Eurofedop. Both parties were very satisfied with the opportunity given to hold this seminar in Vilnius and have a good social dialogue.
Mindaugas Kuraitis, Director of the secretariat of the Tripartite Council of the Lithuanian Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour, held an explanation on the working of the tripartite agreements between the Government, Trade Unions and the Employers’ organisations of the Republic of Lithuania. In his opinion, social dialogue spreads throughout Lithuania and embraces major spheres of society.



Mindaugas Kuraitis, Juozas Kankevicius

In the second part of the seminar, Juozas Kankevicius, Director of Labour Exchange in Vilnius, held a presentation on the working of the organisation. He provided the participants with recent information on the unemployment situation in Lithuania and all the social development questions that are related to this unemployment.
A special visit to the conference was made by Paulius Skardzius, Director of the department of Public Administration of the Interior of the Republic of Lithuania. He held an up-to-date report on the Public Service developments in Lithuania. Different related subjects such as the public enforcement law, equal conditions, public resources quality of the public services, mobility, pensions, were discussed together with the participants during this presentation.



Bert Van Caelenberg, Paulius Skardzius

At the end of the seminar, all participating branches (Culture, Transport, Medical, Utility, Water supply branches and the Women’s Committee) presented themselves and explained the difficulties they were dealing with.



Some of the participants at the seminar

16th Conference on Trade Union Cooperation in Europe
Vienna (Austria), 07-09.05.2004

From the 7-9th of May Eurofedop attended the 16th Conference on Trade Union Cooperation in Europe in Vienna (Austria). This conference with theme: “Trade Union co-operation and social dialogue in Europe after the accession” was held by the Austrian Centre for Workers’ Education (ÖZA) and supported by the European Commission and the European Centre for Workers Questions (EZA).



Karl Klein

Karl Klein, Vice-President of the Austrian Trade Union Federation, opened the conference and welcomed the participants who represented 24 different countries. He welcomed the opportunity of Trade Union cooperation after the enlargement of Europe and stated that all anxieties that were formed in Eastern Europe in the past could be removed by Social dialogue.



Othmar Karas


The first presentation was given by Mag. Othmar Karas, member of the European Parliament on “In the run-up to the European Elections after the accession”. A small article concerning his presentation can be found on www.kgze.org. More information on this Austrian member of parliament can be found on www.othmar-karas.at



Othmar Karas, Bert Van Caelenberg

Subsequently, Dr. Rudolf Strohmeier, member of the Cabinet Prodi, European Commission gave a report on “What are the opportunities of the two sides of the economy taking part in making the process of integration socially liveable”.
During the two-day seminar, the EZA project for Central and Eastern Europe has been evaluated for the first time by different country reports that were given by the participating countries.

European Health Agora VII-AGORA VII
Paris, 27.05.2004
“Human Resources for Health: a European perspective”

Conclusions of the Speech of Bert Van Caelenberg, Secretary General of the European Federation of Employees in Public Services (Eurofedop)
1. The “core business” of hospitals is to provide health care. The main factor to achieve this is he/she who provides this health care.
2. To improve the quality of health care and satisfy the increasing demand = recruit more personnel, avoid that too many people abandon service and invest in permanent training = improve the working conditions of the personnel.
3. To satisfy the increasing need for health care, more personnel are necessary. Isolated campaigns are not enough. The recruitment, retention and departure of personnel cannot be seen separately from each other. Elements of negatively orientated inflow are sometimes at the origin of outflow.
4. The high work pressure and inflexible flexibility in this profession are among the main reasons why people abandon this service. Indeed, flexibility should imply that workers can take time for their private life and assume their own responsibilities in determining their work schedule.

5. A possibility to reduce the work pressure of nursing staff and guarantee the quality of health care towards the patients is to reduce or to move administrative tasks or other supplementary tasks, so that the personnel can spend a maximum of their time with the patients.
6. In addition, the career prospects in this profession should be more attractive, both for new workers and for the more experienced. It is important that people have the feeling that career opportunities e.g. through permanent training are available to them in their profession.
7. Physical complaints which make people leave this profession early, should, in this sector of all sectors, be limited to a minimum e.g. through the introduction of new work equipment.
8. A good social dialogue and individual monitoring could do a lot to prevent frustration, unnecessary stress and burnout.
9. A dialogue at European level could deliver a positive contribution in the discussion around recruitment and retention of personnel. A dialogue in which Eurofedop would like to be one of the partners.

Eurofedop was present in Strasbourg
Council of Europe
Session of 26 April to 30 April 2004

The role of Eurofedop within the activities of the Council of Europe is twofold :
- on the one hand, it is member of the liaison committee of NGOs,
- on the other hand, it is observer to the activities of the Parliamentary Assembly.
Below, we give a short report on both structures.
NGO structure
The liaison committee has mainly concentrated on how the new status of NGOs with the Council of Europe has to be further elaborated.
Indeed, since January 2004, the international NGOs affiliated to the Council of Europe enjoy a “participatory” status instead of a “consultative” status.
This means that besides the Committee of Ministers, the Assembly and the Congress, a fourth pillar has been created, namely the international NGO group.
In other words, the group of NGOs will be more involved in files under discussion at the Assembly, the Congress and the Committee.
Therefore, it is necessary to drastically change, improve and professionalise the way of working. Eurofedop will play an active role in this, also by contributing to the discussion on which place has to be assigned to NGOs in the “new Constitution” of the European Union (art. 46).

The Parliamentary Assembly
Apart from the usual debates on items such as the application of Monaco for becoming the 46th member country of the Council of Europe (unanimously adopted), other files on the agenda were euthanasia and the situation of European prisons and pre-trial detention centres.
The file on euthanasia was referred back to the Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee.
As regards the file on prisons, among other things, a recommendation was made to the Committee of Ministers to draw up a European Prisons Charter in conjunction with the EU.
As a fringe subject, the Assembly decided that it could not but ratify the credentials, that had been challenged, of the parliamentary delegation for Serbia and Montenegro.


Johan Vermeire
Secretary of the Trade Council Defence
02.05.2004

Eurofedop says goodbye to two highly valued collaborators at
the Council of Europe
Strasbourg, 29.05.2004

During the spring session of the Council of Europe from 26 April to 30 April 2004, Eurofedop said goodbye to two personalities at the Council of Europe.
By the mouth of its Secretary General Bert Van Caelenberg and in the presence of its permanent representative at the Council of Europe Johan Vermeire, Eurofedop expressed its appreciation towards Mr Hans De Jonge, Director External Relations to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe.



Bert Van Caelenberg, Hans De Jonge


In his speech, Secretary General Bert Van Caelenberg put emphasis on the professionalism and charisma of Mr De Jonge and specially underlined the great spirit of cooperation Mr De Jonge has always shown in his relations with the NGO group in general and Eurofedop in particular.

Bert Van Caelenberg, Victor Bolley


Furthermore, we said goodbye to our dear friend, permanent representative at the Council of Europe for Eurofedop since 1974, Mr Victor Bolley.
We praised and appreciated his many deeds of (devoted) representation, over so many years.
Some gifts were handed over, after which this short ceremony in Strassburg was concluded with a much appreciated lunch.
We most sincerely thank Hans De Jonge and Victor Bolley and wish them all the best.

Eurofedop’s visit to the Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs
Tallinn (Estonia), 29.04.2004

Eurofedop visited the Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs on the 29th of April where it was invited by the Minister, Marko Pomerants (Res Publica), to present itself during half an hour.
On the 29th of April, Eurofedop’s representative, Marieke van der Wilk, and Leo Pauwels, chairman of EZA (European centre for workers’ questions), were invited at the Ministry of Social Affairs in Tallinn at 08.30. During half an hour, both organisations were given the possibility to present themselves. The social affairs minister, Marko Pomerants, reacted enthusiastically to the activities of both organisations. Because nowadays, the trade unions that exist in Estonia, merely work from a socialist point of view. Therefore the minister supports new initiatives such as the one of Eurofedop, because we are a European Federation of Employees in the Public service which specifically appeals to Christian and other democratic trade unions in Europe. Moreover, the minister showed his interest in the different seminars that are organised by EZA.
Eurofedop and EZA sincerely hope to welcome the minister on the 21st and 22nd of June on the seminar “Civil society – Social Dialogue – Best Practices, Estonia in a close-up” that will be organised in cooperation with the two Christian democratic parties of Estonia, Res Publica and Pro Patria Union. The programme will incorporate presentations such as the development of Social Dialogue in Estonia and the organised Estonian civil society. Furthermore “Best/Worst Practices” workshops will be organised by members of Eurofedop in order to exchange knowledge and experiences with the participants of this seminar.

Leo Pauwels, Marko Pomerants, Marieke van der Wilk

Eurofedop-members in Serbia

Belgrade, 22 April - On 22 April, Secretary General Bert Van Caelenberg visited Belgrade to meet with the Eurofedop member unions from Serbia evaluate the co-operation and discuss the political situation. The international department who chaired the meeting had also contacted unions in the postal and telecommunication sector. The recommendations and conclusions were presented to the Eurofedop Trade Council Post and Telecom in Tirana (25-04-2004). In the near future, an intersectoral seminar will be organised as part of a series of seminars hosted by Eurofedop in the new member states as well as the applicant countries.

“The European Debate in Central and Eastern Europe on the eve of the enlargement”
Université libre de Bruxelles, 23rd of April

After successfully growing from 6 to 15 members, the European Union is now preparing for its biggest enlargement ever in terms of scope and diversity. On the 1st of May 2004, 10 new member states will join the EU. A representative of Eurofedop, Marieke van der Wilk, attended the international seminar on ‘The European debate in the Central and Eastern European Countries on the eve of the enlargement’ that took place on the 23rd of April 2004 at the sociology faculty of the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) and was organised by the Institute for European studies.
A number of speakers from the new member states analysed the debate on the EU in their countries. According to Mrs. Rechová, International relations faculty of the higher institute for economic studies in Prague, the Czech Republic is one of the fastest developing countries of Eastern Europe and takes therefore a different position in the European accession process. The evolution of the European debate in Slovakia was the subject of a next presentation given by Mr. M. Perotinno of Cefres in Prague. He stressed the accession problems Slovakia is dealing with at this moment, such as a weak democracy, corruption and a complicated judicial system.
Mrs. Z. Farkas of the College of Business studies in Budapest stressed the progressive attitude towards the West and the EU that Hungary has adopted since the Soviet period. However, the turnout at the European referendum on the YES/NO question to join the EU was the lowest of all accession countries. Different reasons such as the polarised environment, the feeling of “a decision that has already been made”, no other alternatives and the criticism on the media campaign, were probably the underlying causes for this low turnout. However, Mrs. Farkas concluded in her speech that the average Hungarian is not against EU membership but is sceptical towards any membership.

According to Mr. I. Bernik of the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia has gone through different stages. After the introduction of democracy, the introduction of the market economy, the building of an independent state, it is facing its fourth transition stage : the EU accession. In his perspective, the accession to the EU will eventually be followed by a disenchantment. Because, the question may be asked, will the utilitarian expectations be met ? He also fears for a “disenchantment” at the level of the political elites. This because there will be no need anymore to impress “the others” once the accession will be a fact and the national interests will much more prevail than they do today.
Mr. V. Pettai from the University of Tartu explained the evolution in the European debate in Estonia. He mentioned the geographic prejudices or small perceptions that generally exist towards Estonia in relation to European Issues or the small-state-idealism. Estonia is a liberal and sovereign country that is oriented towards the establishment of economic relations and against the harmonisation of economic issues. A pseudonym for Estonia is the “small little tiger” to refer to its view on a Europeanised and globalised world. Estonia has been the most EU sceptic country towards EU accession. There is an overall anti-EU sentiment, however not linked to EU accession but to EU dominant control. Estonian citizens are against the “lead project”, the “shock therapy”, the sense of “we know better so we know how do it” attitude.

Report on the public consultation on the Green Paper

The Commission services have presented a Report on the public consultation on the Green Paper on services of general interest.
The Report is now available in the 11 official languages of the European Union.

pfeil  REPORT                       

Press Release CESI • Eurofedop • EPP-DE
Strasbourg, 31.03.2004
EU ENLARGEMENT: TRADE UNIONS CONTRIBUTE TO STRONGER PUBLIC ADMINISTRATIONS IN ACCEDING COUNTRIES

Exchange of views between Mr Elmar Brok, member of the European Parliament (CDU/EPP-DE), Mr Peter Heesen, President of the Union of German Civil Servants (DBB,) and Mr Fritz Neugebauer, President of the Austrian Union of Civil Servants (GÖD).

On 31 March 2004, Mr Elmar Brok, President of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament (CDU/EPP-DE), Mr Peter Heesen, President of the Union of German Civil Servants (DBB – Beamtenbund und Tarifunion) and Mr Fritz Neugebauer, President of the Austrian Union of Civil Servants (Gewerkschaft Öffentlicher Dienst) exchanged views on the enlargement of the European Union.
The report of Mr Elmar Brok, general rapporteur, on the state of preparation of the ten countries that will adhere to the European Union on 1 May 2004, which the European Parliament adopted on 11 March 2004, served as a background for this debate.
Mr Brok indicates in his report that the acquis communautaire has already been largely transposed to the ten future member states. Nevertheless, there are still voids in the administrations, and the working of the legal systems is not yet entirely satisfactory. Corruption, a widespread occurrence, is another major problem. Mr Brok points out "the need to fight this scourge that is sapping the reconstruction works, foreign investment and the growth of prosperity", adding that "this task falls both to the future member states and to the present members of the European Union".


Fritz Neugebauer, Bert Van Caelenberg, Jacques Santer

As regards the trade unions in the acceding countries, they all saluted the positive contribution of the workers' organisations to the reconstruction of the former "socialist" societies and to the introduction of law-based regulations. Mr Heesen and Mr Neugebauer confirmed that "it was the very public-sector unions that supported, to the extent of their possibilities, the consolidation of administrations and justice". Also the very close cooperation of the German and Austrian trade unions with their neighbours in the east was qualified as most gratifying


Helmut Müllers, Elmar Brok, Peter Heesen, Fritz Neugebauer,
Bert Van Caelenberg, Valerio Salvatore (CESI)

Mr Heesen and Mr Neugebauer agree to say that "the diversity of the trade unions in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe can and must serve as an example for the future enlarged Union". The trade union presidents deplore that "only one trade union confederation represents the EU workers to this day", adding that "the pluralist societies in Europe should also reflect on a European trade union pluralism. This would result in the recognition of the deserved place of our European umbrella organisations, CESI and Eurofedop".
--------------------------------
Please contact for further details the following press offices:
EPP-DE : Rupert Krietemeyer
tel +32-(0)475-80 86 00
e-mail: rkrietemeyer@europarl.eu.int
Eurofedop : Bert van Caelenberg
tel +32-(0)2-230 38 65
e-mail: bert.vancaelenberg@eurofedop.org
CESI : Jürgen Noack
tel +32-(0)2-282 18 76
e-mail: noack@cesi.org

Preparation of the Dutch Presidency
(July-December 2004)

Den Haag, 08.04.2004

Jan Kleian (ACOM), Drs J. Veldt (CNV Publieke Zaak), Paul Koeslag (CNV Publieke Zaak), Bartho Pronk (Europees Parlement), Bert Van Caelenberg (Eurofedop),
Thijmen Horst (ACP), Alfred Lohman(CNV Publieke Zaak)

EZA’s initiative seminar on “Adapting Structures of the European Social Dialogue – Labour organisation and environment”
2nd – 4th of April 2004, Prague, Czech Republic

From the 2nd to 4th of April 2004, Eurofedop was invited by the European Centre for Workers’ Questions (EZA) to participate in the initiative seminar that EZA had set up to start a special project to be carried out in the year of the Enlargement of the European Union, 2004, for employees’ organisations in the new Member States (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia) and in the pre-accession countries (Bulgaria, Romania).
The aim of EZA’s project is to work out the status of Social Dialogue in the specific countries, to show the possibilities of Social Dialogue strengthening and to define the need for assimilation (also with regard to general legal conditions) into the European integration process. Therefore, during the 2-day seminar, topics were discussed such as the composition -according to democratic principles- of labour organisations in companies, the co-determination of employees, the flexibility of the working time, telecommuting, the obligatory presence in companies and influences of project orientated work. Analyses were made of the consequences of those phenomena on family and profession compatibility.


Participants from all over Europe

Mrs. Anne-Karin Glase, member of the European Parliament, representing the EPP-ED group, opened the seminar and welcomed the 60 participants who represented 19 different countries. She started with the words that the European Union (EU) faces a historical event. The enlargement with the 10 new accession states on the 1st of May 2004 is a prime movement for the European Union. All these countries will never have to face each other as enemies anymore. Therefore, the European foundation should hold all these countries together and, as Mrs.Glase stated, it is important that we constantly keep this in mind, as the economic goals are put too much in the foreground and not the initial goals of the European Union such as freedom and democracy. Furthermore, she stressed that economic and social policies should not contradict each other. She concluded by saying that Social Dialogue has been a successful model and that we should therefore treasure it.
The development of European Social Dialogue from the beginning until today was dealt with by Herman van Zonneveld, former Adviser to the Director General of the DG employment and social affairs.


Greet Vermeylen, Research Manager in the Dept. Working Conditions of the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions in Dublin, presented the results of the report on “Perceptions of living conditions in an enlarged Europe”, which can be found through the link www.eurofound.eu.int/publications/files/EF03113EN.pdf. This report provides an in-depth analysis of Eurobarometer data on living conditions and related issues in the ‘new’ Europe including social exclusion and integration, life satisfaction, income and deprivation, health care issues, migration, fertility and family solidarity.
The second day of the seminar, Edmund Erlemann, Epicopal representative for the pastoral Church and workers in the diocese of Aachen, was invited to hold a speech on “The concept of Decent and Dignified Work – The Ethical Seal of a Democratic Society”. The main concept of his speech was that nowadays man serves money and not vice versa. In the society of today, the disabled, the people who are living on the street, the sick and the dying people are not welcome. They are seen as a cost factor. Therefore, labour agencies have to play an important role, so that people can still fall back on the welfare system. In his opinion, the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity should be more valued.


Eurofedop delegation:
Fritz Neugebauer, President; Marieke Van Der Wilk, Represenative;
Bert Van Caelenberg, Secretary General

Furthermore, the social dialogue in the new member states and pre-accession countries was discussed as different representatives of employers’ and employees’ organisations of these countries were present and gave introductions on their organisation and the situation in their country.
During the seminar, different working groups were also set up, that had to be composed of at least 2 different countries, an EU member state and an EU (pre-) accession country. These countries have to organise together a seminar in the specific new member/pre-accession country. Topics concerning Social Dialogue, workers’ questions, “work organisation and environment” should be dealt with during the seminar. For example, Eurofedop is going to organise a Seminar in Estonia. We will report continuously about the project and we will present the results on our website.


Fritz Neugebauer; Anne Táklaja (Pro Patria Union); Bert Van Caelenberg


If you would like to know more about the work of EZA, have a look at www.eza.org

Marieke Van Der Wilk
Representative Eurofedop

European Economic and Social Committee
Public services: the role of civil dialogue in provision of quality economic and social services
Dublin, 06-07 April 2004

After the publication of the results of the consultation regarding COM (2003)270, a few weeks ago, it was now the turn of the Economic and Social Committee to discuss the Public Service / Services of General Interests with all parties concerned. More specifically, this meeting emphasised first of all the challenges posed by globalisation. A second theme to be addressed was the complexity arising from the need for high-quality services tailored to citizensŐ needs and provided from constrained public revenues. Since Eurofedop has been monitoring the ongoing process very closely, Secretary-General Bert Van Caelenberg presented the point of view of the employees at this conference.

In his opening speech, Mr. Briesch, President of the European Economic and Social Committee, stressed the importance of services of general interest for the well being of citizens and enterprises. Moreover, he considered it vital for the European Union, at the brink of enlargement, to discuss the future of its social model and the necessity (or not) to adopt a number of rules and principles on a European level. Finally, Mr. Briesch, concluded that the social dialogue is indispensable in managing this change.

The first item on the agenda was a discussion on social services. Most participants agreed that a more substantial discussion is necessary, especially in light of their growing importance

. These services (including pensions, health services, unemployment benefits) should allow all citizens to participate economically and socially in our society. A European framework could be useful in safeguarding the basic principles of this type of public service.

In the conclusion of the debate, a number of principles were highlighted:

-       the need for stability in change

-       the need for a clear legal definition

-       a change which provides structures to involve all stakeholders

-       change with clear targets and a sound financial basis

A second debate focused on the Green book on Services of General Interest and the subsequent consultation. On behalf of the Commission spoke Mr. Marcel Haag, who addressed the Chairmen and secretaries of the Eurofedop trade councils already in October 2003 on this topic. Other speakers emphasised the need for a European framework. One participant held a plea for honesty: "quality public service cannot be had at zero tariff".

-----------------------------

For more info:

http://www.esc.eu.int/pages/en/acs/events/06_04_04_public_services_dublin/index_en.htm

http://europe.eu.int/comm/secretariat_general/services_general_interest/index_en.htm

Hearing of Mr Stavros Dimas,
European Parliament, 30 March 2004

During an extraordinary meeting, the EP Committee on Employment and Social Affairs met with the new member of Commission, Mr Stavros Dimas (Nea Demokratia, Greece) who will replace Ms. Diamantopoulo at the head of DG Employment and Social Affairs. For Eurofedop, Secretary General Bert Van Caelenberg was present.
Mr. Dimas responded to general and thematic questions of the questionnaire. Regarding the European Social Dialogue he confirmed that “The Commission closely follows developments in the area of representativity, and the composition of the social dialogue committees is updated when necessary and justified. In this context, the Commission encourages an efficient and wide integration of organisations from the acceding countries into the structures of European social dialogue, both cross-industry and sectoral. It also pays attention to the representativeness of the organisations from the new countries.”

But there were also additional questions from many MEP’s. Ms. Miet Smet, among others, urged the new commissioner to make headway with a Social Europe. Eurofedop subscribes this demand but nevertheless looks forward to a fruitful cooperation with Mr Dimas. Shorthly the Eurofedop Board will discuss the specific problems facing the public sector in Europe with the new commissioner.
-----------------------------
More info:
http://www.europa.eu.int