On 17 December, the new European Commission adopted the ‘Autumn Package’, including the Annual Sustainable Growth Strategy (ASGS) 2020 and Joint Employment Report (JER). EAPN presents its full analysis of the Annual Sustainable Growth Strategy.
2019, EAPN wrote to President Juncker and President Von der Leyen presenting our key recommendations, drawn from our assessment of the 2019 European Semester. We are therefore pleased that several of our key messages were picked up, i.e. : “economic growth is not an end in itself and the economy must work for people and planet”. The shift to a new growth model “that will respect the limitations on our natural resources and ensure job creation and lasting prosperity for the future”. Highlighting that the European Green Deal as the EU’s ‘sustainable new growth model’ will help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This shift is already reflected partly in the 4 new ASGS priorities: 1) Environmental Sustainability, 2) Productivity Growth, 3) Fairness and 4) Macroeconomic Stability that replace the previous AGS ‘virtuous triangle’ of investment, fiscal sustainability and structural reforms.
Overall, the ASGS takes an important step forward to embracing the rhetoric of a more social, inclusive and sustainable economic model, embracing the SDGs and particularly the commitment to transform the current growth model into Green growth. However, it falls short of achieving an equal balance between social, environmental and economic. A Green Deal must also be a Social Deal – tangibly setting out how it will not only prevent ‘harm’ from climate change and transition as proposed by the European Green Deal, but actively reduce inequality and fight poverty, as part of a comprehensive 10 year social and sustainable post 2020 strategy. At the moment, although the European Pillar of Social Rights jointly proclaimed by the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the European Commission in November 2017 is mentioned, and has its own section, no mention is made of poverty or inequality or the structural changes and investment that is needed to achieve this – i.e. by investing in adequate welfare states: social protection/minimum income, quality jobs and services – particularly housing and health.
This is highly surprising given that Europe still has nearly 110 million people facing the risk of poverty and/or exclusion, marking a large shortfall from the original poverty target of Europe 2020. Instability and social unrest is also becoming increasingly evident from the ‘gilets jaunes’ and similar type grassroots movements across the EU, where poorer areas and people feel ‘left behind’ and their needs ignored. e.g. for accessible, affordable and quality public infrastructures and services, adequate wages and income support.
Whilst a stronger commitment is made to the engagement of EU and national parliaments, and social partners, civil society is conspicuously absent despite Guideline 7 and Recital 11 of the Employment Guidelines. More concrete action is needed to convince the public – including organised Civil Society – that they are being treated as vital, equal partners, as stakeholders, in making an input to the EU’s decision-making processes.
Our key messages:
- We need a coherent 10 year social and sustainable EU post 2020 strategy!
- Refocus on ‘ending Poverty’ with a new poverty target, and EU integrated anti-poverty strategy, based on integrated active inclusion to ensure concrete results.
- Ensure the Green Deal is Social: that the poor benefit and don’t pay for transition
- Mainstream all social rights/principles throughout the ASGS and the European Semester supporting the action plan for implementation in all areas
- Give priority to social investment in strong welfare states: particularly an EU framework to ensure adequate minimum income as well as minimum/living wages, social protection and access to key public services as a social right! (housing, health, social services!)
- Increase focus on person-centred, right-based, integrated support to quality, sustainable jobs, for all ages and excluded groups, avoiding punitive conditionality.
- Promote a holistic approach to Education and Lifelong Learning as a social right.
- Ensure at least 1 Social Rights CSR for each country, with a dedicated section in the Commission’s Country reports assessing delivery on the EPSR/Social SDGs, including poverty.
- Clarify that EU Structural Funds and Reform Support Programme should be used for ‘social reform to guarantee social rights’ not just for restructuring reforms aiming at reducing costs on public services and jobs.
- Confirm/invest in Civil Society Organisations and dialogue with people with direct experience of poverty as equal partners