EAPN presents its members’ main messages – A Step Forward for Social Rights? – and annex containing a country-by-country detailed assessment of the Country-Specific Recommendations (CSRs), in terms of their contribution to the fight against poverty, exclusion and inequality.
Last month, the European Commission adopted the 2019 Country-Specific Recommendations (CSRs) and published a Communication. Whilst stability and growth remain the focus, there is a stronger message of the need to support inclusion and advance “social convergence in line with the European Pillar of Social Rights.” The Communication celebrates the return of growth, increased employment and overall reductions in poverty levels but acknowledges growing difference and gaps in the coverage of social protection systems and access to services in many Member States. In-work poverty and the persistence of poverty facing specific disadvantages groups is acknowlegded.
What are the results? The overall picture on progress on social rights is more uncertain. Whilst all countries receive Recommendations restraining public budgets, 16 receive CSRs on poverty reduction, but focussing on individual measures rather than an integrated approach. Despite a large number of references to social principles (i.e. minimum income, health, care, etc.) not all enforce social rights, requiring instead ‘reform’, i.e. expenditure cuts and efficiencies which undermine social rights rather than embed them.
With 113 million people still in poverty and widening gaps across the EU, urgent action is needed to ensure that the macroeconomic and social CSRs together invest in social rights, universal welfare states and integrated anti-poverty strategies that lead to concrete results, if the EU is to regain credibility and grassroots support.
Whilst a welcome reference is made to Social Dialogue with Social Partners in the “successful design and implementation of policies… improving ownership of policies… leading to better and more sustainable policy outcomes”, civil society organisations and people in poverty are not included. This is a missed opportunity to build on the important new legal base embracing Civil Society as an active and equal partner in the European Semester.
Key Messages on Country-Specific Recommendations 2019
- Priority to cost-cutting reform rather than social investment financed through tax justice puts social rights at risk.
- Coherent anti-poverty strategies based on active inclusion guaranteeing rights to adequate minimum income/social protection/services still missing.
- Supportive pathways to inclusive labour markets and quality jobs are still not prioritised, with getting people into employment the main priority.
- Some positive proposals on inclusiveness and quality of education, while still primarily being perceived as a labour market tool.
- Support to civil dialogue must be put on a par with social dialogue.