Den Haag,

Minister Koolmees speecht over European Labour Authority

Minister Koolmees van Sociale Zaken en Werkgelegenheid gaf vandaag een speech bij de opening van een conferentie over de European Labour Authority (ELA) die medio volgend jaar van start moet gaan. Zo’n 17 miljoen mensen in de EU werken in een ander land dan hun thuisland. Zij staan bloot aan onderbetaling. Tegelijk ondervinden reguliere werknemers oneerlijke concurrentie. En er vindt misbruik plaats van sociale uitkeringen. Hier is nationale en Europese regelgeving voor, maar nog geen Europees samenwerkingsverband. De ELA voorziet hierin. Doel is het versterken van de effectiviteit van nationale inspecties bij het handhaven van deze regels. Tijdens een tweedaagse conferentie in het Museum voor Communicatie in Den Haag, vandaag en morgen, wisselen vertegenwoordigers uit EU-landen van gedachten over de manier waarop de ELA moet gaan werken.

Minister Koolmees wenste de deelnemers success en zei in zijn speech onder meer: ‘We are not looking for an Authority to solve all our problems. We, as Member States are first and foremost responsible for our social policy and the enforcement of these rules. But we do need support, from an authority that aims to serve the Member States.’

Ladies and gentlemen, excellencies,

A very warm welcome to the Hague, not just your ordinary sea side town, and not just the seat of the Dutch government. A very warm welcome to my colleague from Romania, mrs. Vasilescu and mr. Korte from the European Commission.

In this very city a congress was held in 1948, the Congress of Europe, where practically all important European statesmen were present. Adenauer, Churchill, Mitterrand, Schumann, you name them, they were here.

During this congress the foundations were laid for the Council of Europe, the European Coal and Steel Community, and with that the Europe as we know it today.

The Hague still is the International City of Peace, Justice and Security. The legal capital of the world, we like to think. It is home to a number of important international institutions. The International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court, Europol, Eurojust and the organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The European Patent Office is also just a few miles away from here.

What better place to discuss the creation of a new authority? An authority, dedicated to upholding the law, to improving cross border cooperation, and very specifically, to making life better for mobile workers.

In recent years respective Dutch governments have been quite active in promoting decent work and a level playing field. For example, together with a number of other member states, we have been pressing for better protection of workers from dangerous substances in the workplace which can cause cancer through expanding the list of limit values.

Another issue is equal pay for equal work at the same place. This has not only been a catch phrase, but also a leading principle for our actions in Europe. We were a proponent of the enforcement directive and of the revised Posting Directive. And we have always promoted better cooperation in cross border enforcement. Against this background we consider the creation of a European Labour Authority as a logical next step. A development very much worth discussing.

And as for the timing: we think that this is an excellent moment to explore the possibilities of the ELA. The negotiations are in full swing. The clay is still wet, so to speak. What better way to start an authority, then an open exchange of views between the people who will have to make it work?

You are all here, because you play an important role in securing decent work for workers across Europe. In making sure that the European project is not just about an internal market, but also about values. About social rights, about social protection. And, also of course, about fair competition between our entrepreneurs. In the framework of the social dimension of Europe we need to work together to ensure that the measures we take are working effectively. We have to make sure that cross border labour is set free from unfair working conditions, unclear information about living and working conditions, underpayment and exploitation. We have to guarantee that contributions to our social systems are paid. It is important that we create a level playing field for both business and labour. I am convinced that decent work and fair competition are very much interconnected and favourable to us all.

These are the overall objectives we want to reach with the creation of an European Labour Authority. We are not looking for an Authority to solve all our problems. We, as Member States are first and foremost responsible for our social policy and the enforcement of these rules. But we do need support, from an authority that aims to serve the Member States, where their interests meet… As we see it, the ELA should support the national enforcing agencies in their cross border activities. Information, cooperation and mediation are its core activities, without stepping into the competences of these same Member States. And we are here to discuss how it could perform these tasks in the most effective way.

Together, let's lay a new corner stone for decent work in Europe. I wish you a very fruitful conference.

Thank you.