Minutes of proceedings of our meeting in Brussels
November 13th/14th,1999



The European Marches have become known by their actions througout the European continent. The activities have been organized with other networks and were centred on the summits of the EU dealing with questions such as employment, unemployment, precarious work and exclusion. Past actions are linked to the names of the cities of Amsterdam, Luxembourg, Cardiff, Vienna and Cologne. In the course of these activities the European Marches could go beyond the limits of national borders developing a European platform for debates and exchange of ideas and advance in the definition of common demands: In Brussels, at the summer university in Greece and in Cologne hundreds of people have met to prepare actions, to exchange experiences and to discuss political contents. In our third year of common action and debate, organisations, fighting unemployment and precarity, trade-unionists and as well as political forces have come together to fight on a European level against long term mass unemployment.

The 1999 Coordination of the European Secretariates had therefore a particular relevance. We had to evaluate the situation in Europe, but also our capacity to further carry out an efficient action: European governments now are pretending to have succeeded in bringing down unemployment, but it is quite clear that unemployment is still at a very high level (10% of the active population) and that the fast increase of the number of precarious jobs does not answer the demands of employed and unemployed people. The European Marches' Network also had to see its functioning and the mobilisations for the european Days of Action of 10th and 11th December 1999 (EU-summit in Helsinki). Finally we had to define our mobilisation lines for 2000, as well for the »social summit « of Lisbon (March 2000), then for the French summit, (December 2000) intending to close down the IGC. (The IGC is the EU's instrument to change its fundamental texts.) These were all topics of our meeting in Brussels.

European Marches




Institutional Meetings

Report of the Coordination
Saturday the 13th
Sunday the 14th


November 11th, 1999: »INSTITUTIONAL« MEETINGS!

We know that the European Parliament has limited powers and the European Marches' Network puts emphasis on its independence towards political parties, Nevertheless, we are absolutely astonished to see how easily the texts of the EU-Commission usually pass through the European Parliament. After our meeting in Cologne and the European elections we have asked the different left groups in the European Parliament to meet us and explain their standpoints concerning the recommendations and directives of the Commission. We met in September 99 representatives of the Greens and in November 11th we have been received by the parliamentary group United Left European/Nordic Green Left. We also had contacts with socialists parliamentarians. These meetings have allowed us to have deep exchanges on the texts, and also shown the necessity of an increased control on what is produced by the Commission in the direction of the gouverments. The parliamentarians and us have agreed to keep each other regularly informed; the parliamentarians will support forthcoming initiatives of the unemployed people movements at European level.

The same day there was a meeting of the european ministers of Employment and Labour. As we had done before, on May 25th, 1999, when we had asked to meet the German Minister of Employment, Walter Riester, we now? talked with the Finnish Minister of Employment, Mrs. Mönkäre. We have expressed to Mrs. Mönkäre our total refused of the Commission´s recommendations, especially those having just recently dealt with the tax and indemnisation system of unemployed women and senior workers (50-64) We have denounced the argument directed against these two groups of unemployed people that this benefit system diminished their will to work.


REPORT of the Coordination, November 13th/14th, 1999

60 delegates were present, representing 11 countries:, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, , Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Sweden.and U.K. Problems of air traffic (bad weather )and organisational problems (change of meeting place on Sunday) caused the absence of our Irish friends (INOU). Our Spanish friends had also to be excused.


SATURDAY, November 13th, 1999

The first half of the afternoon meeting was chaired by Michel Rousseau (France) and started with the presentation of the delegates representing groups of unemployed people and trade-unionists. After the presentation the delegates reported on the development of the movement in their countries after Cologne. Another subject was the development of the European Marches' Network in each country. (The Austrian representative also reported on the demonstration which had taken place in Vienna the day before and which was directed against Jörg Haider, the leader of the extreme right-wing FPÖ party. which had gained the second position in the general elections and wants to get to power.) The reports have shown that both the European Marches' Network and the movement of the unemployed people had strengthened their position in Europe.

Followed the report of Angela Klein (Germany) on the Cologne 99 campaign. The demonstration of May 29th was succesful because it had been joined by many forces beyond the European Marches' Network. The results of foregoing marches were more mitigated and bring again to the forpoint the question of well adapted type of actions There was a comparatively low participation of trade-unionists, although the call for Cologne which was directed to the unions had been signed by around 1000 trade-unionist leaders, in particular in Germany.Finallly the staff who had organized and directed the demonstration was too small to face all the problems which occured and the situation created by an overblown and agressive police force: the police was able to split the demonstration in two, blocking the second part, for more than an hour. The Parliament of the unemployed which took place the week after was a good idea and was well covered by the media. In spite of that we have to see the limits of the preparation and of the organisation of the initiative. Further debates will follow.

After the pause Jack Houssa (Belgium) chaired the meeting. Christophe Aguiton (France) made an introductory report on the social situation in Europe, our relationship to the unions, the institutions, the EU's extension to the East of Europe, the world context, our campaigns,etc.... The broad exchange of views which followed shew the necessity of considering the problems on a European level and of organizing us, to take into consideration the numerous due-dates of 2000. The debate shall be deepened and extended notably by texts.

In the evening three commissions prepared the following subjects:

  1. Social Minima and rights, coordinated by Marie Paule Connan (Belgium) and David Antona, (France).
  2. Actions and the Parliament of the Unemployed, coordinated by Ingrid Schindler (Germany), and Patrice Spadoni (France).
  3. A smaller group worked on the problems of functioning of the network.


SUNDAY, November 14th, 1999

The plenary assembly, chaired by Leo Gabriel, Austria, started with the reports of the commissions.

Followed a discussion on the decision which could be taken by the Coordination and the set-up of specific work groups. Important decisions are indeed taken by the Coordination for the whole network. Only the decisions taken by consensus of the delegations and checked by an indicative vote of present people are valid.

1. General functioning of the European Marches' Network

(Report Michel Rousseau)

Until now the prevailing situation was that the French secretariate took charge the tasks of the European coordination: This situation has been overwhelmed by the development of the European Marches' Network in other countries. Already in the course of the preparation of the campaign for Cologne 99 the Secretariates of France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg have been constantly cooperating and working together.

The Coordination of the European Marches' Network has now asked the French Secretariate to create an »European Coordination Bureau« in 2000. The timetable for the first meeting of would be after the decisions of the national secretariats for naming their delegates but before the EU-summit in Lisbon, something around the beginning of February. It was also wished that the European Coordination would meet twice a year, if sufficient financial means are available. (Broad support of the delegates.)

Demands for financing have been introduced at national and european levels. If these subsidies can be obtained, they would pay travellings and overnight stays (which until now are a heavy burden more often for the delegates from Southern Europe), they would pay the costs for an internet homepage, a more regular multilingual bulletin would be printed and the translation (one of our great weaknesse) at all our activities would be ensured. In no case may our activities and initiatives depend on these subsidies!

Institutional Meetings

Report of the Coordination
Saturday the 13th
Sunday the 14th

2. Social Minima and rights

(Report Marie Paule Connan)

The commission has worked to define a common European demandof a level of social minima under which it cannot be asked to a citizen or an inhabitant of Europe to live »decently«. The debate was based on data which some activists had collected, prepared in advance and put into a document.

The commission then named the points (a-d), which will commit us to vigilance and resistance:

  1. the EU acknowledges that a »guarantee of a standard of living corresponding to human dignity is necessary, BUT: the principles and modalities of implementation of an appropriate standard of living are very different in the countries of the EU:
    • the definition and figuring of the standard of living creating massive inequities between the European unemployed!)
    • the minimum age which allows to demand for benefits (In several European countries young adults are excluded!)
    • Dependance on the family situation (If the benefits are not granted
    individually, but depend on the position of each individual in a certain household, then this will necessarily be followed by control of private life!)
  2. The states and have introduced additional benefits, help in nature or services, given in a framework of social control implying a permanent justification of needs (medical services, housing, education, formation, transportation, heating, household equipments, clothing, food, ....)
  3. The states which are granting the highest benefits are the target of the recommendations of the broad guidelines of Economic Policies which as the the Guidelines for Employment, are the results of the Pact of stability and growth. These recommendations are demanding savings on these »too generously granted benefits by means of controls and social pressure«. In particular readiness for jobs has to be proven. This is tested by the means of »activation to work« which implies accepting any work and any integration contract offered by the unemployment offices. The American practice of »workfare« is thus introduced in the European social model.
  4. To push through the reduction of benefits the EU holds a club in each hand. With one of these the EU puts the blame on the unemployed and the precarious workers with words like unemployabilitiy, unadapted or lack of spirit of enterprise. The second club is »competitivity« between unemployed and workers of different countries. As the states cannot speculate any more on the exchange rates, the states are competing for the lowest work costs. Too generously granted benefits would have increased laziness and therefore the number of unemploymed. One adds to that the knowledgable word of »poverty trap«. This is also a US import, providing the legitimation for workfare. This cynical policy is reinforced by subvention for low wage, jobs aiming to get to work, the people whom righteously thinking persons name as »beneficiaires of social aid«.
The task group has reiterated its will to put an end to this competitionbetween unemployed and workers of the EU and to demand a upwards homogenization of all elements linked to employment, social aid benefits and distribution of wealth. The unemployed and the precarious workers refuse the status of a semi- citizenship. We are a potential of creativity which has to be recognised as such. Putting the blame on us will make things worse. Anger is only the logical reaction for all those who are suffering of misery and refuse inequalities. A common European framework of revendication has been discussed and proposed: For a majority of the participants this common framework demand could be based on an the reference used by the EU: The BIP per head. A certain percentage of the BIP would be defined as the minimum short of which a suitable standard of living isn't possible. Others would prefer to use other criteria like the amount necessary to satisfy human needs (as is done in France to figure out the statutory minimum wage called SMIC).

Decision (unanimous):

to form a permanent task group which is open to all and which is aiming to:

  • collecting and exchanging all data usefull to the definition of this percentage or amount.
  • meetings with the responsables of Networks are already working on this to confront, enrich and push to a upwards convergence the various positions (European Federation of Pensionists and Senior People, European Anti Poverty Network, BAGSHI, Commission Income of AC! etc.)
  • to establish a european demand which is to be sent to the European governments and to institutions for March 2000.
Finally a majority has decided the principle of a immediate and meaningful increase of the social minima in each european country (e.g. 1500 FF - 230 Euros in France).

3) Actions

(Report Ingrid Schindler) The following EU dates are already known:
  • January-June 2000: Presidency of Portugal; »Social Summit« in March
  • July-December 2000: Presidency of France; conclusion of IGC
  • January-June 2001: Presidency of Sweden (Summit in Göteborg)
  • July-December 2001: Presidency of Belgium
The representants from Sweden will inform us on the details for the Göteborg summit. A task group has been created to examine the EU enlargement and our relations with the countries in the East and in the South (Voted with a broad majority of the delegates).

10/11 December EUROPEAN DAYS OF ACTION against unemployment and precarious work:

Two days of »action against unemployment, workfare and for a decent income.« National demonstrations will take place in several countries, such as the Netherlands, Finland, Italy, France,....

The european governments are planning to adopt a »Social Charter«. The European Marches' Network will
  1. present its own platform on the basis of our texts to participate in the public debate
  2. contact trade-unionist and social forces in Portugal to consider the organization of a counter-summit
  3. prepare another European Day of Action in March 2000 » For an income, against precarious work!«
The Coordination of the European Marches' Network proposes:
  1. a large European meeting of the fighting unemployed, precarious and excluded at the end of October 2000 in Paris
  2. a great European demonstration in France in December 2000 (similar to those of Amsterdam and Cologne).

(Thanks: We heartily thank our Belgian friends who have invited us and all voluntary translators.)

Institutional Meetings

Report of the Coordination
Saturday the 13th
Sunday the 14th


French Original






European Marches