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24 November 2013

EduDay in Madrid highlights alternatives to the EU’s austerity policies

More than 100 trade union representatives met in Madrid to discuss the future of the European trade union movement and the threat of austerity during the ETUI’s Education Day (‘Eduday’) on 20 November. The debates focused on the impact of the EU’s austerity policies, the threat to European democracy and the EU’s social model as well as the role of trade union education as a key instrument to solve Europe’s crisis.

The annual Eduday public conference held under the title ‘Time4SocialEU’ was this year organised with the help of the Spanish trade unions and was followed by a two-day internal conference (‘Educonf’) on the training priorities of the ETUI for the coming years.

Ulisses Garrido, director of the education department at the institute, opened the Eduday by pointing to the importance of training for the European trade union movement, especially in times of crisis. He also warned the conference of the danger of extreme anti-EU populism in the next European elections.

ETUC Secretary-general Bernadette Ségol presented her critical reading of the economic crisis saying the crisis was not caused by workers although the brunt of the austerity measures now falls on them as a result of direct attacks on the EU’s social model. But “we cannot just denounce and criticise”, she continued, “that is why the ETUC has worked on an alternative plan” in the form of an EU recovery and investment plan.

After having listened to the analysis by Spanish trade union leaders of the austerity crisis in their country, the debate continued with three “external” speakers.

Maria Helena André, director of ACTRAV, the Bureau for Workers’ Activities at the ILO, expressed the need for cooperation between the different training organisations for workers. But she also called on trade unions to be “self-critical” saying the trade unions “have not been able to liaise enough with new progressive movements which are looking for a new model of economic development”.

Bartho Pronk, President of the European Centre for Workers Questions (EZA), talked about practical experiences in cooperation for workers’ trainings and answered questions from the floor on the lack of legitimacy of the EU Troika.

For the Foundation of European Progressive Studies (FEPS), senior research fellow Ania Skrzypek presented ideas from civil society for a new ‘Social Contract’. She also looked at the 2014 EU elections stressing the fact that the current EU debates “are not about what people really want, but about how the markets will react”.

The Eduday ended with a knowledge fair where ETUI trainers and Eurotrainers presented innovative new tools and instruments to be used for future trainings.

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