SOCIAL POLICY : JOINT GERMAN-FRENCH PROPOSAL TO STRENGTHEN SOCIAL EUROPE.

 
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Creating an EU apprentice status and starting dialogue on a minimum salary set at national level are some of the proposals made by the French and German ministers for labour to reinforce the social dimension of the EU.

"Social Europe has broken down. Structural factors explain this breakdown: it is difficult to move forward when there are 27 participants, there is the temptation of individualism, etc. The situation is worsened by the financial crisis. And yet, we will only emerge from this crisis if the social dimension of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) is reinforced," German Minister Ursula von der Leyen and her French counterpart, Michel Sapin, write in an unofficial document, which they handed to European Council President Herman Van Rompuy in the margins of the 28 February Employment and Social Affairs Council.

These proposals are part of the ongoing dialogue at the Council on reinforcing the EMU. The two ministers suggest four areas to focus on: young people; the evolutions of the labour market; protection of workers; and the governance of social Europe. The most innovative proposals include supporting an EU targeted and broadened mobility scheme for first jobs. This would be proposed to a certain number of young people, together with more general help (housing benefits, for example), and would have a cross-border European dimension. When it comes to the protection of European workers, the ministers recommend safeguarding workers' professional paths: this would enhance their mobility by guaranteeing that the rights they already have will hold fast - regardless of geography and time.

The ministers are also calling for the establishment of a minimum salary defined at national level, which would guarantee a decent salary for all European workers. "We could discuss a mechanism that would leave the choice of the vehicle (law, committee or collective agreement) used to set this minimum minima salary," said von der Leyen and Sapin.

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