EU social dimension emphasised

EU applicant countries should take trade unions seriously, says Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja. Speaking recently in the Estonian capital Tallinn, Tuomioja added that the emphasis should be on a three-way labour market co-operation between governments, employers and trade unions.

"As enlargement becomes reality, one must insist that future member countries right from the start will adhere to the rights inherent in the Union's social dimension, i.e. work protection and labour market principles. They should also strengthen the position of trade unions."

In an interview with the social democratic newspaper Uutispäivä Demari (27 August 2001) in Tallinn, Tuomioja said that the Estonians tend to see the EU as some kind of neo-liberal project. The Foreign Minister added, however, that his Estonian counterpart, Hendrik Ilves, does consider it important that the Estonians understand the fact that the EU is based on a social dimension.

Tuomioja thinks that Estonia still has a long way to go to before becoming an EU member. According to the Finnish Foreign Minister, the problem is not so much updating the legislature but implementing the laws. Corruption is still a problem in all applicant countries.

The Estonian trade union movement wants a referendum on EU membership. Tuomioja believes that other applicant countries will also organise referendums.

On the future development of the EU, the Finnish Foreign Minister said that decision-makers should listen to citizens' opinions.

"The Union cannot and should not move further towards a federal state than people are ready to accept", Tuomioja said in a statement to Uutispäivä Demari.

In his speech in Tallinn, Tuomioja dismissed fears that masses of Estonians would move to Finland when their country becomes a member of the EU. He said that previous EU enlargements have shown that there will be no great migration.

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