convergence of economies and social models at the Spinelli group with G. Verhofstadt, P de Grauwe, R Guaktieri and D Cohon Bendit
Is the EU our answer to globalization? Or is the nation state alone an efficient model? If Europe can govern itself, then the EU is the answer to globalization. Due to crises in the Eurozone, the question 'Do we need minimal social standards at EU level?' was put during a forum March 2013 at the Spinelli group. Has the private sector become a dominant agent of social change? Paul De Grauwe, a Belgian academic at the London School of Economics, said the eurozone crisis had nothing to do with social convergence. He argued that in a situation where the eurozone countries cannot respond to the crisis by devaluating national currencies, they need to 'devaluate internal' by reducing salaries. Because of the crisis, there is a tendency to strip the social component of its substance, De Grauwe said, adding that the problem raised was how to deal with the negative consequences in terms of recession and social destabilisation.

“The crisis we experience in the eurozone has nothing to do with the lack of social convergence … Some may say: in order to avoid future crisis in the eurozone, social convergence is needed. I say this is not needed at all,” De Grauwe said. Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the European Parliament’s liberal ALDE group, said that the inability to devaluate national currencies in the eurozone requires countries to engage in another type of reform that should be done at European level, in the economic, fiscal and social fields. However, such a policy does not exist, he admitted. Unlike the USA or Japan where the central banks foster the market’s confidence, the common EU currency has “nothing behind it”, Verhofstadt said. This is why the only response brought so far was introducing discipline, he said. The lower the EU budget is, the more convergence is needed, with minimum values to prevent social dumping and maximum values to guarantee the competiveness of the economy, he said.

As a social benchmark, he mentioned setting an EU-wide minimum level of pensions at, for example, 45% of the last salary. Some countries have lower percentages that that, and a few have a higher one, such as the Netherlands which has a 62% minimum level, he said. Other social benchmarks that Verhofstadt mentioned were guarantees for every citizen inside the EU a “health package” that consists of a number of minimum services, standards in taxes and minimum wages policy.

MEP Roberto Gualtieri from the centre-left S&D group said that with the eurozone crisis, the Union had built “a weird model that doesn’t exist anywhere in the world”. He made reference to the fact that 8% of GDP of eurozone countries was a guarantee for the European Stability Mechanism, which he described as national money obeying to technocratic rule. Gualtirei argued that what is needed instead is coordination of economic policies by introducing binding obligations at EU level. “I don’t think that any government, at national or European level, has the capacity to identify the sectors with a future perspective. I think we should rely to the market system for that,” he said.


Drs. Kathalijne Buitenweg, Hans Goslinga, Dr. Klaas Dijkhoff

De deelnemers luisteren aandachtig

Tuesday, February 28, 2012, 17:17, THE HAGUE

"More ambition for a social Europe. That was the premise during the debate 'Europe for citizens'. The internal market is down, but now there have still to develop a social Europe. "European legislation should prevent social breakdown. It can be argued that the national States in the European Union should take the lead concern social policies. But if the way through Brussels is demonstrably a better one, only then Brussels should take the lead. The debate was part of the series on the state of democracy.


More ambition for a human Europe was called. But it was said that a human Europe does not need to go along with more Europe. Politicians should make choice for policies related to Europe every day. The peace argument as a reason for European cooperation has become anemic. Students can not imagine that there was war in Europe. They know no better than there is no need to change money when crossing the border or that you must show a passport. For the current generation is that all very obvious. The European Union must therefore constantly prove itself each time and politicians have to come each time with new arguments to explain the European cooperation to the citizens.


On one hand it was stated that European citizenship goes through the European Union. On the other side one can view that citizenship is a national concern, since the EU level of governance is an abstract administrative layer.

Anyhow, it is not only about loyalty towards Europe, but also on the rights you have, and on the participation opportunities available to the citizen. Themes that are now on the European conference table are not close to the people of Europe.


During the debate it was discussed that people find education or health interesting. Europe plays in these areas barely a role and that is why Europe is so far away from the citizens.

The debate took place in the House of Europe in The Hague. There was a lively discussion between the two speakers and from the floor, where sharp questions raised, eg about the democratic deficit.
It was argued that
democracy in Europe is technically well put together, but that there is a problem with accountability. If another decision is wanted, on whom should you vote as there is often decided by consensus.