So in Europe, we need a revamped social model: not one stuck in the twentieth century, and not that of a catchup economy. We need to set out the terms at European level, as this is the right scale for this battle. I would like to begin talks as early as November to define the common minimum European social standards, and to build that floor I would also like to build rules for convergence. We should establish a minimum wage that takes into account the economic realities of each country, while gradually moving towards convergence.
Our social contributions are too disparate today, and when workers are posted to other countries, the main source of inequality among inequality today is these contributions. This is why, above and beyond the reforms on posted workers I would like to see by the end of the year, I propose that the higher rate of social contributions should be paid, but to the home country. This money would go into a solidarity fund for the less wealthy countries to support their convergence.
In the coming months, we need to define simple and relevant social convergence criteria to guide the 2020 budget debate and enhance consistency in the structural funds. We also need to create access conditions to the market and this budget at the heart of Europe, because it is through this convergence that we must integrate the solidarity I spoke about earlier.
This is what solidarity that unites is: a fair, protective and ambitious Europe. Monnet wanted to unite people. Sorbon called on people to live together in harmony. The goal remains the same. That is to what we must always return.
The strongest cement that binds the European Union together will always be culture and knowledge. This Europe, where every European recognizes their destiny in the figures adorning a Greek temple or in Mona Lisa’s smile, where they can feel European emotions in the writings of Musil or Proust, this Europe of cafés that Steiner described, this Europe that Suares called “a law, a spirit, a custom”, this Europe of landscapes and folklores, this Europe of Erasmus, the continent’s preceptor, who said every young person should “travel the continent to learn other languages” and “unlearn their natural boorish ways”, this Europe, which has lived through so many wars and conflicts: what holds it together is its culture.
Our fragmentation is only superficial. In fact, it is our greatest opportunity. Instead of deploring our many languages, we should make them an asset. Europe must be a place where all students can speak at least two European languages by 2024. Instead of lamenting the divisions between our countries, let’s step up exchanges. In 2024, half of students in a given age group should have spent at least six months in another European country by the time they are 25, whether they are university students or learning a trade. In this place where pioneers, like those in Bologna, Montpellier, Oxford or Salamanca, believed in the power of learning, critical thinking and culture, I want us to be worthy of this grand design.