Dr. Christophe De Spiegeleer (Research Fellow, Liberaal Archief) opened the event with a short introduction to the Liberal Archief, the venue of the day’s event, and the history liberalism in Belgium.
The moderator, Annelou Van Egmond (ALDE Party Vice President) opened the session outlining the aim of the discussion was to discuss current changes and challenges related to the EU social pillar as well as giving a bit of background. She then left the floor to the speakers for initial presentations and statements.
Martina Dlabajová MEP (ANO & Member of the ALDE Party Manifesto Drafting Committee) said that she has been working on employment and social issues since she became a MEP in 2014 and that, as a liberal, this is quite a challenge. Indeed, she noted there is a constant fight between two different worlds – the business and trade unions – and so it is sometimes hard to find acceptable compromises. She then gave an overview of the main issues currently under discussion in the European Parliament – namely education for new digital and soft working skills for the future as well as entrepreneurial education; youth employment which is especially a matter of concern in Southern Europe where it is sometimes as high as 60%; and the Posting of Workers Directive. She emphasised the need to discuss the future of employment and education required for future skills and jobs in the framework of the upcoming Multiannual Financial Framework: more specifically, she called for an increase in money for these activities. She then reflected on how social Europe should be, how liberals should discuss it and, ultimately, on the terminology itself. In this regard, she said social rights are important, but they have to come with a balance. A balance which will still enable us to still freely make business in Europe, to move freely to work and to provide service across borders, without putting unreasonable barriers.