Wanja Lundby-Wedin met with Nicolas Sarkozy

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On 1 September, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) represented by President Wanja Lundby-Wedin and General Secretary John Monks, as well as the general secretaries of the French trade unions affiliated to the ETUC, were invited to a meeting with the President of France, Mr Nicolas Sarkozy. In his role as current President of the European Union, Mr Sarkozy wanted to discuss topical issues with European trade union leaders.
Countries that hold EU presidency often have meetings with the social partners. This meeting was however a specific meeting with the trade union representatives who had been invited to the Elysée Palace. Immediately after this meeting, Nicolas Sarkozy left for Brussels for the summit on Georgia.

During the discussions, in which also five ministers from the French government participated, Wanja Lundby-Wedin conveyed wage-earners’ anxiety due to the four cases in the European Court of Justice that have impeded trade union rights. She described how, due to these judgements, it is nearly impossible to protect individuals working temporarily in Sweden from being discriminated against. There is now an imminent risk of a considerable decline in wage-earners’ support for the EU, Wanja Lundby-Wedin stated and emphasised that it is vital that the political leaders of the EU do something about the situation that has now emerged.

Nicolas Sarkozy shared the opinion that we have to act towards maintaining workers’ confidence. Failing in this would be to the disadvantage of all. He was familiar with the Laval case since before, having been kept informed by the French trade unions, and he agreed with the trade union standpoint that the distribution of power between free movement and fundamental rights must be balanced.

The President emphasized that Europe needs strong political leaders and strong European institutions that are able to act. He stated a somewhat controversial fact that each country holds EU presidency for merely six months, whereas the jurists of the European Court of Justice serve for six-year terms. He asked rhetorically what power this provides to the political leadership. How do we solve this?

Wanja Lundby-Wedin informed that the ETUC has a part of the solution and called upon John Monks to speak, who presented the proposal to add a social progress protocol to the Treaty in order to protect the trade union rights. ETUC cannot accept the fact that ECJ makes political decisions.

Nicolas Sarkozy answered quickly that he was looking forward to the ETUC letter with a detailed description of the proposal on the social progress protocol. He promised to reply to the letter so that the process can get started. We must not be so naïve in Europe as to import lower standards from low-priced countries, Nicolas Sarkozy said and reminded that EU was built to protect its citizens.

John Monks raised also other issues important to trade unions, such as problems with high inflation, rising oil prices and the importance of investing in green jobs.

Nicolas Sarkozy highlighted the two issues given top priority under the French Presidency: the adoption of the Climate and Energy Package and finding a solution to the Treaty issue. Lastly, the President was looking forward to further co-operation on the social progress protocol and the Green Jobs Policy.