Europe and its single market — its foundations — are not a race to the bottom, as we thought in the early 1990s, distorting the ambition of the common market, giving the idea that it was an environment for the lowest bidder: it was the diktat of a market that had lost its sense of direction! This is not what the common market, Europe’s essence, is about. As Jacques Delors said, it is meant to “create competition that stimulates, cooperation that strengthens and solidarity that unites” — all at once. We must strike that balance again, without which unbridled competition will become unsalvageable discord.
This is the aim of my current combat to revise the Posting of Workers Directive, which is no minor issue at a time when France is also striving to reform its labour market. We must revitalize labour relations, but I will never do that if I cannot defend those who work in the face of social dumping. Europe does not currently protect against social dumping and we have allowed a European market to develop that runs contrary to our labour market’s very philosophy of unity. No matter where I go in Europe, no one is pleased with this situation.
Reforming this directive is a fight for justice and social convergence in Europe. In this respect, I applaud JeanClaude Juncker’s proposal to create a European Labour Authority to ensure that rules are enforced. Such an authority is necessary, but we must go further and establish genuine tax and social convergence.
To do this, I have two concrete proposals. The first is corporate taxation. Efforts are already under way, but we must work faster to harmonize the tax base. And France and Germany should be able to finalize plans within the next four years. We have the opportunity of a clear mandate — let’s move forward with this. However, it goes deeper than this: we cannot have such disparate corporation tax rates in the European Union. This tax divergence fuels discord, destroys our own models and weakens all of Europe.
This is why I would like to see a binding rate range that member states must commit to ahead of the next European budget in 2020. Compliance with this corridor would determine access to the European Cohesion Fund, because members cannot enjoy European solidarity and play against the others at the same time. I commend the European Commission’s recent initiatives in this regard and, through the efforts of Margrethe Vestager and Pierre Moscovici, its push for certain players and countries to make changes. We must go further: we cannot have lower corporation taxes financed by our structural funds. Doing so is to take Europe backwards, to encourage division.
My second proposal is to develop true social convergence and gradually bring our social models closer together. Doing so is entirely compatible with our global competitiveness. I don’t see any contradiction between these ambitions. Because we must see the world as it is. A few years ago, some people would say “you know, a panEuropean ambition is a bad idea; competitiveness is our priority.” Those who tried lost their people’s trust. What did the British people say ahead of the Brexit vote? The British middle class said “your competitiveness is all good and well, but it is not for me. The attractiveness of London’s financial centre is not for me.” When you listen closely, what were the American people really saying? “This open America, this competitiveness that you have sold us, isn’t made for us, the middle classes.” Isolationism is gaining ground, wherever democracies have taken this no-holds-barred approach to competition as far as it can go.