Berlin to Push Revival of EU Social Model
Germany is to seek ways to breathe life into the European social model during its six month stint at the helm of the EU beginning in January.
According to an outline of the programme for its EU presidency, obtained by Reuters, Berlin will concentrate on creating more jobs, as this is one of the main concerns of citizens and will also try and make the bloc's social model more relevant.
It plans to host a ministerial conference that makes clear that the economy, employment and social affairs do not contradict one another and wants to make sure that the social effects of European laws are taken more strongly into account.
The European social model, which has proved hard to pin down to a single coherent definition, has been a constantly recurring theme in EU debate over the last two years.
It was a dominant feature of discussions on the EU law on opening up the market in services, with its opponents claiming its aims of making it easier for service providers to set up in different member states would undermine the social model's fabric.
It has also cropped up in several other debates including the one leading up to the referendum on the constitution in France - which saw the charter rejected - and in issues such as protecting European shoe manufacturers from cheap Chinese shoe imports.
Berlin's stated intentions in its programme indicate it is going to have another stab at the problem of how to keep essential elements of the model such as social protection, with Europe facing an increasingly tougher struggle to keep itself competitive, against other rising economies such as China and India.
Legal certainty, energy and the constitution
Other points in the programme include pushing for more uniformity across a range of legal questions including issues to do with alimony, divorce and inheritance so that citizens have a clearer legal framework.
Energy is also set to focus strongly in the first six months of next year as Germany plans to make it a focus point at the EU leaders summit in March and push dialogue between oil-producing and receiving countries and transit countries.
With this, Berlin is giving a helping hand to the European Commission which has announced that it wants to revamp the bloc's energy policy in light of its dependency on Russia – a fact that was clearly highlighted during a Moscow-Kiev energy spat in January, which affected several member states.
On the internal market front, electricity and gas market liberalisation is supposed to be completed by 1 July.
Another point where Berlin is to try and make waves is with the European Constitution, with its presidency programme announcing that "the government will strive to see that the constitution goes into force at the latest in 2009."
It will kickstart the process by sounding out various compromise proposals which will then be put in a June report to be used to push the whole debate further.
Germany's move represents the first time an EU presidency has really attempted to revive the document which has been on political ice since it was rejected in two referendums mid-last year.