Mr Leitl played up the role of small businesses, which make up the bulk of his organisations members, in creating jobs across Europe: oIn the last decade, SMEs in Europe accounted for a 4% increase in jobs, while industry accounted for a 4% decrease in jobso. oWe represent 70% of employers in Europe, UNICE represents 30%o, he added. Eurochambres has member organisations in 44 countries representing a network of 2,000 regional and local chambers with over 18 million member companies. UNICE, founded in 1958, speaks for more than 20 million companies. Its membership includes 38 central industrial and employers' federations from 32 countries.
In the past two years, Eurochambres has only been invited to one of four tripartite social summits. These meet at least once a year, before the Spring European Council, bringing together the Council Presidency and two subsequent Presidencies, the European Commission, and the social partners employer and employee organisations represented at top level. The next social summit which was held, on October 24, aims to build consensus between business and employee representatives ahead of theinformal summit of EU leaders focusing on social and economic policy on October 27-28.
Mr Leitl said he did not mind whether Eurochambres was invited to events like the anniversary of the European social dialogue, hosted by the Commission in Brussels on September 29, as this was olargely a ceremonial functiono (see separate article). But he was seriously irked that UNICE has snubbed Eurochambres three times in a row now. oThere are 10 seats available for employer organisations at the table how can it be that the most important business organisation does not get at least one of those seats?o, he said in an interview with Europe Information.
It is the Commission that gave UNICE the coordinating role among employers organisations, and Mr Leitl's overtures to Employment Commissioner Vladimir Spidla have elicited only a polite reply confirming this. Mr Leitl derives no comfort from UNICE's consistent invitations to UEAPME, the European Association of Craft, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises, of which Eurochambres is a member. This indirect representation is not enough for the chambers of commerce and industry.
The trouble, as Mr Leitl sees it, lies with the business organisations central management making key day-to-day decisions. Mr Leitl claims he had an excellent working relationship with former UNICE President and BASF...