The Conclusions from the Spring Council (19/20 March) published today represent a disappointing narrowing of the focus of the EU economic recovery packages – prioritising financial regulation, employment and new investment rather than an integrated strategy to tackle the social impact of the crisis.
The proposals on social impact primarily focus on employment, with only a passing reference to the “stabilising role of social protection systems” and the need to pay attention to the “most vulnerable and new risks of exclusion“. But what about the impact on the 79 million people that are already at risk of poverty and exclusion?
“We thought that the Council was serious about putting people at the heart of the recovery packages, but it’s hard to believe this when the only proposals to tackle the social impact come on the seventh page of the Conclusions with two short paragraphs” remarked Ludo Horemans, President of EAPN. “Whilst we are the first to underline the relevance of helping to keep people in jobs (particularly those with precarious jobs) this is not the whole story what is being done for people who are already excluded from the labour market? What measures will ensure that unemployed people have an adequate income and get access to services? How will people who are being made homeless be helped, who can’t get access to affordable housing? What about those with mounting debts? These conclusions are not likely to give people experiencing poverty confidence that the EU is really putting their concerns first“, the President added.
The decision by the Council to reduce the Commission’s original proposals for the May Employment Summit, is further evidence of this narrow approach. Where the original proposal in the Commission’s Communication of the 4th March mentioned three objectives: promoting flexible, secure and inclusive employment, limiting the social impact and long-term viability of social policies, this has now been reduced to a focus only on employment.
” The decision to focus only on employment highlights the impression that the Ministers are out of touch with people’s real fears and concerns. This summit is a crucial opportunity for the EU to show that it is committed to developing integrated approaches to tackling the social impact. This should obviously prioritise employment retention and creation of an inclusive labour market, but also take active measures to reinforce adequate minimum income and social protection, as well as making social investments to develop jobs in new social services, as an investment for the future” remarked Fintan Farrell, Director of EAPN.
It’s not too late ! – EAPN calls on the EU to ensure that the May Summit is made a full Social Summit dealing with how to reinforce social protection and new social investments as well as employment, as a key step to ensuring an integrated social and economic approach to the crisis.