EAPN has sent a letter today to the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs (EPSCO) Council meeting next week 18-19 June as they will discuss the new developments in the European Semester, i.e. the European Commission’s proposals on 2015 Country-Specific Recommendations and the proposals for new Integrated Guidelines.
European Commissioners debated on 9th June orientations on EU social policy. Commissioners Thyssen and Dombrovskis gave a clear message on their priorities: “rebalancing economic priorities on a par with social policies”, “a coherent vision for social dimension”, “quality jobs”, “investment in strong social protection systems” and “adequate minimum income”.
However, the policy reality totally contradicts that message. The European Commission’s 2015 Country-Specific Proposals give an even lower profile to concrete action on poverty and social objectives, and the Europe 2020 strategy. At a time when poverty affects 1 in 4 of the EU population and keeps increasing in 2/3 of Member States, only 6 countries now have received proposals regarding poverty, instead of 12 last year. The proposals for Integrated Guidelines step away from Europe 2020 and the poverty targets, focusing on fairness rather that ambitious guidelines to deliver integrated strategies to fight poverty and social exclusion.
“These good intentions risk remaining empty words unless this balanced approach is first and foremost explicitly reflected in the European Semester – particularly in the Country-Specific Recommendations and in the Guidelines, reintegrating a balanced smart, sustainable and inclusive vision from Europe 2020, with real priority to economic and social policies that can achieve the poverty and other social targets”, says Sérgio Aires, President of EAPN.
Overall, the European Commission’s Country-specific Recommendation proposals clearly worsen the imbalance between economic and social objectives. They continue to press for further austerity, resulting in cuts in social spending rather than social investment, with no visible link to the inclusive or sustainable Growth agenda of Europe 2020. Employment is still proposed as the main solution, focusing on “reducing disincentives to work” by increasing conditionality and sanctions rather than focusing on quality job creation, and supportive personalized approaches, which also ensure access to quality social protection and services.
If Ministers meeting next week turn a blind eye to these realities, prospects are gloomy for the social crisis and growing unrest about the future of the EU project, hence for the economic situation of the EU as well. Trust in EU leaders is once again at stake.
Notes for the Editor:
- EAPN Letter to the EPSCO Council, 12 June 2015 (see key messages below)
- EAPN Assessment of 2015 Country-Specific Recommendations and Detailed Country Annex
- EAPN Proposals on the Commission Integrated Guidelines (see key messages below) and proposals for amendments on economic including recitals and employment guidelines
- EAPN Letter to Employment Committee on Employment Guidelines
EAPN’s KEY MESSAGES
Regarding the European Commission’s Country-Specific Recommendations
- Rebalance the Semester and put Europe 2020 vision of inclusive, sustainable as well as smart growth and the targets at the heart.
- Move from austerity to social investment, backing adequate minimum income and quality social protection and services financed through inclusive taxation.
- Give CSRs consistently on poverty to all Member States and require integrated anti-poverty strategies, supported by at least 20% European Social Fund.
- Invest in quality job creation, supporting positive activation within active inclusion.5)
Regarding the European Commission’s Integrated Guidelines
1. Mainstreaming Europe 2020 Reinstating references to Europe 2020 is crucial, if the Mid-Term Review is to ensure that inclusive growth and the targets are to be re-incorporated into the Semester.
2. Beyond ‘fairness’ – support an ambitious Guideline 8 on combatting poverty and social exclusion for all. Given the crisis on poverty in the EU, a multidimensional approach to poverty and social exclusion must be explicitly mentioned, beyond an ambiguous ‘fairness’ approach, promoting preventative, integrated strategies rooted in holistic Active Inclusion (adequate income support, accessible quality services and inclusive labour markets).
3. Back pathway, integrated pathways to quality jobs and inclusive labour markets
The guidelines need to give more emphasis to investment in sustainable, quality job creation as well as inclusive labour markets. EAPN denounces current trends of compulsive, punitive activation as well as increased precariousness and segmentation, downward pressure on wages, working conditions and rights. Supporting people through holistic, pathway approaches, into quality sustainable jobs is the priority.
4. Ensure meaningful stakeholder participation, including civil society organizations.
Ownership is crucial for effective delivery. But stakeholders including organized civil society must be involved in a regular dialogue at all stages of the policy process, not just in the implementation i.e. design, implementation and monitoring. (Recital 6)
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The European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN) is the largest European network of national, regional and local networks, involving anti-poverty NGOs and grassroots groups as well as European Organisations, active in the fight against poverty and social exclusion. It was established in 1990.
EUROPEAN ANTI-POVERTY NETWORK
RESEAU EUROPEEN DES ASSOCIATIONS DE LUTTE CONTRE LA PAUVRETE ET L’EXCLUSION SOCIALE
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