In his opening remarks Nicolas Schmit, Commissioner-designate responsible for employment, social affairs and skills-development, presented his plans and how he intends to achieve them over the next five years. He explained that his two main goals – boosting employment and social rights for all – will be at the core of his mandate. SOLIDAR welcomes Mr Schmit’s dedication to implementing the European Pillar of Social Rights and boosting social investments. His pledge to further develop the social economy is furthermore promising for civil society organisations across Europe.
In his opening statement, Schmit argued for the stricter implementation of the existing social acquis. To this end, he envisions a strong role for the new European Labour Authority (ELA) in tackling the issue of social dumping and protecting workers’ health and safety in the workplace. He also announced that the child guarantee will play a central role in combatting poverty for both children and families. In response to questions from MEPs about the possible risk of EU legislation on minimum wages and/or a minimum income scheme undermining the national collective bargaining agreements, the Commissioner-designate responded that he would guarantee the protection of the collective bargaining process and did not intend to “fix what is not broken”.
Throughout the hearing, both Schmit and the MEPs of the EMPL committee who questioned him were strongly focused on the social affairs part of his portfolio. A major distance in this sense was taken by the EMPL Chair – ECR’s Lucia Ďuriš Nicholsonová, who took the floor after Schmit’s final remark to express her belief that the discussion should have focused more on jobs creation – well, apparently the other MEPs didn’t agree! This reaffirms SOLIDAR’s belief that the title for this Commissioner should not be merely ‘Jobs’, but should also make explicit reference to the importance of social inclusion. We, therefore, welcome and support the proposal brought forward by MEP Agnes Jongerius from S&D, to rename this portfolio ‘Jobs & Social Rights’. After this hearing, SOLIDAR is convinced of Mr Schmit’s competence and commitment to this position and we look forward to a close cooperation on all the topics covered by his portfolio.