Commission presents first reflections on building a strong social Europe for just transitions
The Commission today presents a Communication on building a strong social Europe for just transitions. It sets out how social policy will help deliver on the challenges and opportunities of today, proposing action at EU level for the months to come, and seeking feedback on further action at all levels in the area of employment and social rights. Already today the Commission launches the first phase consultation with social partners – businesses and trade unions – on the issue of fair minimum wages for workers in the EU.
Valdis Dombrovskis, Executive Vice-President for an Economy that Works for People, said: “Europe is going through a momentous shift. As we go through the green and digital transformation, as well as an ageing population, the Commission wants to ensure that people remain centre stage and that the economy works for them. We already have an instrument, the European Pillar of Social Rights. Now we want to ensure that the EU and its Member States, as well as stakeholders, are committed to its implementation.”
Nicolas Schmit, Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, said: “The working lives of millions of Europeans will change in the coming years. We need to take action to allow the future workforce to flourish. Europe’s innovative and inclusive social market economy must be about people: providing them with quality jobs that pay an adequate wage. No Member State, no region, no person can be left behind. We must continue to strive for the highest of standards in labour markets, so that all Europeans can live their lives with dignity and ambition.”
Europe today is a unique place where prosperity, fairness and a sustainable future are equally important goals. In Europe, we have some of the highest standards of living, best working conditions and most effective social protection in the world.That said, Europeans face a number of changes such as the move to a climate-neutral economy, digitalisation and demographic shifts. These changes will present the workforce with new challenges and opportunities. The European Green Deal – our new growth strategy – must ensure that Europe remains the home of the world’s most advanced welfare systems and is a vibrant hub of innovation and competitive entrepreneurship.
Today’s publications build on the European Pillar of Social Rights, proclaimed by EU institutions and leaders in November 2017. The Commission asks all EU countries, regions and partners to present their views on the way forward as well as their plans to deliver on the Pillar’s objectives. This will feed into the preparation of an Action Plan in 2021 that reflects all contributions, and that will be submitted for endorsement at the highest political level
For its part, the Commission today sets out planned initiatives that will already contribute to the implementation of the EU Pillar. Key actions in 2020 include:
- Fair minimum wages for workers in the EU
- A European Gender Equality Strategy and binding pay transparency measures
- An updated Skills Agenda for Europe
- An updated Youth Guarantee
- Platform Work Summit
- Green paper on Ageing
- Strategy for persons with disabilities
- Demography Report
- European Unemployment Re-insurance Scheme
These actions build on work already done by the EU since the Pillar’s proclamation on 2017. But action at EU level alone is not enough. The key to success lies in the hands of national, regional and local authorities, as well as social partners and relevant stakeholders at all levels. All Europeans should have the same opportunities to thrive – we need to preserve, adapt and improve what our parents and grandparents have built.
Consultation on fair minimum wages
The number of people in employment in the EU is at a record high. But many working people still struggle to make ends meet. President von der Leyen has expressed her wish that every worker in our Union has a fair minimum wage that should allow for a decent living wherever they work.
Today the Commission launches a first phase consultation of social partners – businesses and trade unions – on the issue of a fair minimum wage for workers in the EU. The Commission is in listening mode: we want to know whether social partners believe EU action is needed, and if so, if they wish to negotiate it between themselves.
There will not be a one-size-fits-all minimum wage. Any potential proposal will reflect national traditions, whether collective agreements or legal provisions. Some countries already have excellent systems in place. The Commission wishes to ensure all systems are adequate, have sufficient coverage, include thorough consultation of social partners, and have an appropriate update mechanism in place.
Social justice is the foundation of the European social market economy and at the heart of our Union. It underpins the idea that social fairness and prosperity are the cornerstones for building a resilient society with the highest standards of well-being in the world.
The moment is one of change. Climate change and environmental degradation will require us to adapt our economy, our industry, how we travel and work, what we buy and what we eat. It is expected that artificial intelligence and robotics alone will create almost 60 million new jobs worldwide in the next 5 years, while many jobs will change or even disappear. Europe’s demography is changing; today we live longer and healthier lives, thanks to progress in medicine and public health.
These changes, opportunities and challenges affect all countries and all Europeans. It makes sense to face them together and address change upfront. The European Pillar of Social Rights is our answer to these fundamental ambitions. The Pillar expresses 20 principles and rights essential for fair and well-functioning labour markets and welfare systems in 21st century Europe.
After Ukraine: Arming down for lasting Eurasian security
It is time to start thinking outside the box. A long-term solution requires an institutional design and steps to ensure that front-line states, including Russia, feel safer, proposes Gordon Adams, a political commentator who has created think tanks, worked for Bill Clinton in the White House, taught national security.
Make no mistake: This war is not about democracy versus authoritarianism or the “rules of the international order” as defined by the United States. It is about insecurity and fear on both sides. The fear of invasion and the need for reassurance is an old one. It’s about sovereignty and the inviolability of borders — the right for people to live in safety, be they Ukrainians, Poles, Balts, or Russians.
Fear runs strong on both sides of this conflict. For Ukraine, Poland and the Baltics, the fear is existential; for Russia, the fear is historical.
Broadly speaking, there are two ways nations might alleviate this fear. One is to “arm up” to deter any potential adversary. The other, especially relevant in the space from Brest to Vladivostok, is to “arm down,” lowering security risks through a reduction in tension and reassurance. Both are “realistic” options — but only the first is being pursued today.
The goal of statecraft needs to be security for everyone in the Eurasian region. The Russians need to feel as secure as the NATO members do. In addition, the major powers — the U.S. and China — need to be part of such a regime or its guarantors.
Here are several suggestions to stimulate discussion:
1.) First and foremost, all interested parties need to be included in the regime so all security needs are met. Most important, Russia needs to be an integral member, shaping and participating in the design. This was not done in the 1990s (yes, I was part of the administration that failed to do it). Instead, Russia was marginalized as NATO expanded.
2.) Including everyone means the regime should eventually replace NATO, not make NATO its heart. Otherwise, including Russia is a non-starter.
3.) This might mean putting the European Union at the heart of the regime — a European solution, not an American one. This would be a major challenge for the EU, which has devoted only marginal attention to military capabilities and security strategies for Eurasia. NATO has been Europe’s default.
4.) It means taking Macron seriously when he (like other French presidents before him) calls for “strategic autonomy” for Europe. Europe will need and want independence of action; indeed the caution of France and Germany about confrontation with Russia reflects that reality.
‘Autonomy’ will mean creating a more comprehensive European military capability, one that can work in tandem with the U.S. and others, but also on its own. That would make a significant U.S. military withdrawal from Europe possible, a step that would reassure Russia, too. A European capability would have to reflect the larger security regime being created. The reassurance such an agreement brings could make Europe’s military investment less costly.
5.) Arms control and arms reductions would be a central feature of such an arrangement. Arms control agreements will need to include nuclear weapons — strategic and tactical — and missile defenses. This means a revival of global nuclear arms negotiations, including the U.S. and China, and specifically revived agreements on the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons and missile defenses in the European region. It must include a serious discussion of the role of French (and British) nuclear capabilities.
7.) New institutions will be needed. This is a moment for institutional innovation, as was the moment that led to the UN, the EU, NATO, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Could the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) be redefined to play a central role, since it has a security mission and all European players belong? What changes would have to be made for it to play a serious role?
8.) The U.S. and China would both need to be central partners in shaping this regime. Would they be members? Guarantors? Answering this question could ensure that the U.S. plays a role but is less centrally involved with the decisions. This would mollify those in Washington who want the Europeans to carry more of the burden. It would also recognize China’s growing role in security issues globally. This is about Eurasian security, remember. A U.S.-China confrontation could blow the whole idea up…
Lest this proposal be thought “idealistic;” it is actually realistic. If security is the goal, a Eurasian security arrangement — “arming down” — is a more realistic way of providing long-term security.
Report: Russia adapted arms and tactics ahead of Ukraine offensive
Widespread perceptions of Russian army weakness are in some cases either out of date or misconceived according to the 30-page report by the UK’s Royal United Services Institute.
While the report described a military which is often dysfunctional, over-reliant on artillery and suffering poor morale, it said the focus on these weaknesses means Russia’s battlefield advances have often been overlooked.
The study was drawn from April-May field interviews with 10 Ukrainian brigades that had fought Russian units across the war.
Russia’s military is far from the spent force often characterized, according to Nick Reynolds, one of the report’s two authors. “There is a lot being thrown around on social media to suggest Russia’s lack of capacity, but social media is awash with propaganda on both sides and at this stage we thought a more sober assessment was needed,” Reynolds said, adding that expectations for Ukraine have been set “very, very high.”
Understanding how Russia has changed its approach matters not just to Ukraine, but also to members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that face an increasingly hostile and evolving rival in Moscow, the report said.
Russia has largely remedied early failures in battlefield air defense by properly connecting missiles systems and their sensors along the invasion’s 1,200 kilometer (750 mile) front, according to the report.
As a result, Russian forces have been able to largely shut down the threat from Ukraine’s radar-seeking HARM missiles, intercept rockets and down a low-flying Ukrainian combat jet from 150 kilometers.
Russia’s electronic warfare capabilities, now deployed from airborne to platoon level, are evolving constantly. That’s costing Ukraine 10,000 drones per month. Russian forces appear able to decipher Ukraine’s encrypted Motorola communications systems in real time, according to the report.
On the ground, Russian combat engineers were able to build pontoon bridges at speed even at the start of the war and are now creating trench defenses and complex minefields that any offensive will have to break through.
Russian command centers, which proved vulnerable to precision attacks by US HIMARS rockets last July, and routinely had their communications hacked, are now dug into hardened bunkers. They’ve commandeered local phone networks in occupied territories, isolating and dedicating them to the war.
Russia’s army made its T-80 and T-72 main battle tanks less vulnerable to Ukraine’s arsenal of Western anti-tank weapons by improving their explosive armor defenses and making them less detectable to heat-seeking missiles.
The much criticized shift to fight in so-called ‘human waves’ around the eastern city of Bakhmut was a rational, if brutal response to the large losses of armor, experienced troops and artillery munitions Russia suffered earlier in the war, the report said.
The shift from attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure could indicate a Russian intent to hit and degrade military targets ahead of the counteroffensive, yet that’s unclear, according to Ben Barry, senior fellow for land forces at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
If the targets are indeed military, “the Ukrainians would not necessarily be telling us,” Barry said.
Gen. Milley: “F-16s won’t be a ‘magic weapon’ for Ukraine”
The military’s top general cautioned that F-16s won’t act as a “magic weapon” for Ukraine, but the U.S. is fully behind a group of NATO allies taking the lead on training and potentially transferring the jets to Kyiv.
“The Russians have 1,000 fourth-generation fighters,” Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. Mark Milley told reporters at the Pentagon following a virtual meeting of the multinational Ukraine Defense Contact Group. If you’re gonna contest Russia in the air, you’re gonna need a substantial amount of fourth and fifth generation fighters, so if you look at the cost curve and do the analysis, the smartest thing to have done is exactly what we did do, which is provide a significant amount of integrated air defenses to cover the battlespace and deny the Russians the airspace.”
Fighter jets are vastly more expensive than artillery rounds and ground vehicles, which Western allies have focused on flooding into Ukraine to help push Russian forces back in the south. Spending the money on those near-term weapons, as opposed to expensive warplanes with their complex logistical needs, has been worthwhile, Milley said.
“If you look at the F-16, 10 F-16s [cost] a billion dollars, the sustainment cost another billion dollars, so you’re talking about $2 billion for 10 aircraft,” Milley said, adding that if the planes had been sent sooner, they would have eaten up the funding for those other capabilities that have put Ukraine on their front foot.
“There are no magic weapons in war, F-16s are not and neither is anything else,” he said.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced that Denmark and the Netherlands are taking the lead in the joint coalition to train Ukrainian pilots on modern fighter jets. He said Norway, Belgium, Poland and Portugal have also pledged to take part in the training.
The coalition plans to train roughly 20 Ukrainian pilots initially, although the exact number will depend on the countries’ capacity to support the project, according to a UK government spokesperson, who was granted anonymity to discuss details ahead of an announcement.
Ukraine will require a pipeline of pilots to learn the fundamentals of flying who can then move up to jets, the spokesperson said. To that end, the first stage of instruction will focus on ground-based basic training of Ukrainian pilots, who will then be ready to learn specific airframes, such as the F-16 and others. The F-16 training will take place at a site in Europe, Defense Department officials have said.
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