On 8 March 2016, the European Commission launched a public consultation on their proposals for a European Pillar of Social Rights. Today (27 September), after consultation with its members, EAPN launches its position paper on the Social Pillar and its response to the Commission’s consultation.
EAPN welcomed the proposal of a European Pillar of Social Rights as the major rights-based social initiative coming out of President Juncker’s Commission so far. However, EAPN sees a strong risk that the initiative is not sufficient to ensure action to protect and promote the access of Social Rights and make a decisive impact on poverty and social exclusion, or reverse the strong threat of disintegration that faces the EU today.
Whilst the 3 areas and 20 policy domains in the proposal are all relevant, the predominance of an economic and employment frame for the proposals, and the lack of explicit priority given to tackling poverty and inequality linked to existing policy frameworks (e.g. European Semester and Europe 2020 poverty target) raises huge question marks. Neither is it clear how it will be implemented, beyond a voluntary set of principles and benchmarks.
The White Paper, promised as a follow up to the Consultation, must match the ambition and expectations raised of having a Social Pillar and propose concrete measures that can make a difference to people’s lives. Unless the final proposal can be part of a change of paradigm, which can transform the current macroeconomic approach, explicitly putting people before markets, it will have little impact. This change has to entail a shift to a rights-based social and sustainable development strategy that stops austerity, backs public social investment, and ensures access to quality jobs, universal services and social protection for all, financed by progressive taxation. Without such a commitment, the Social Pillar will not be able to persuade people on the ground that the EU is able to defend social rights in the face of globalization.
“We call on the EU to use what could be a last opportunity to give Europe a new heart and take urgent action to make an EU based on social rights a reality! We need a decisive sign that the EU is not just going to be “business as usual’’ as highlighted by President Tusk – but is capable of protecting and defending social rights and addressing with concrete measures the realities of the 1 in 4 people at risk of poverty in the EU today” said Sérgio Aires, President of EAPN.
EAPN calls for 4 urgent steps to ensure that the EPSR can contribute to making Social Europe a reality!
- A new paradigm: A transformative EU strategy that invests in social rights, and reduces poverty and inequality
- Invest in concrete measures to guarantee social standards, starting with a Minimum Income Directive and a Golden Rule on social protection spending
- Use EU funds to deliver on social rights – a new EU poverty and inequality programme, underpinned by an anti-poverty strategy
- Champion real democracy and participation at all levels