One year has passed since the EU Social Summit on 17 November 2017 in Gothenburg when the European Pillar of Social Rights was officially adopted. What has been done so far and what key actions are still required?
EUROCITIES took part in the breakfast discussion hosted by the incoming Romanian Presidency of the Council of EU to mark the first anniversary of the EU social pillar. European Commissioner for employment and social affairs, Marianne Thyssen, together with the Ambassador of Romania to the EU Luminita Odobescu, Austria's Ambassador Thomas Oberreiter and Sweden's Ambassador, Asa Webber, took stock of the achievements under the Pillar and the stepping stones for the future of social Europe.
How is the Pillar implemented?
The Pillar of Social Rights is implemented through three main instruments:
EU legislative proposals are currently being discussed on:
- work-life balance directive
- a new directive for more transparent and predictable working conditions
- Recommendation for access to social protection for all workers and the self-employed
- European Labour Authority to achieve fair labour mobility in the EU
- quality framework for early childhood education and care systems
- EU Accessibility Act
There is progress in negotiation of these files with the first three proposals recently receiving a green light from the European Parliament and ready to enter trialogue stage, and the EU Accessibility Act marking a recent agreement between the Council of the EU and the European Parliament.
The European Semester is the main tool to monitor performance in social policy based on the social scoreboard, which has been recently revised with two new indicators. The Semester process has become increasingly more 'social' by incorporating the principles of the Pillar in the monitoring process, but there is still much to do to achieve balance with the economic governance monitoring.
EU funding under the next multi-annual financial framework (MFF) for 2021-2027 is another key instrument. In particular, the €101 billion under the European Social Fund+ will be aligned to deliver measures that implement principles of the EU Pillar of Social Rights.
It is clear that the European Pillar of Social Rights is not a goal in itself, but an instrument to achieve social convergence in Europe, between and within member states, and a compass for addressing the changes in our society to prepare people for the future of work and increasing diversity.
There is unanimous consensus that the success of the Pillar depends on the shared commitment and responsibility of all actors, from EU, national and local authorities to social partners and civil society.
How are cities delivering on the Pillar's principles?
Even before the EU Pillar of Social Rights was officially adopted, EUROCITIES had already approved a strong commitment by cities to deliver on the Pillar to realise social rights for all people. This commitment was made at our Social Affairs Forum in October 2017 in Gothenburg.
One year after, we have proven our commitment by actions:
- Political pledges by cities: city authorities have signed pledges at political level to transfer principles into actions on the ground. For example, the deputy mayor of Madrid, Marta Higueras, pledged to invest €20 million to fight long-term unemployment while the deputy mayor of Stuttgart, Werner Wofle, pledged to invest €3 million annually into measures for the inclusion of people with disabilities. Other cities will soon follow with their own pledges.
- Collect evidence from cities to feed into EU policies: EUROCITIES has collected evidence on city measures already in place in line with the objectives of the EU Pillar of Social Rights. Many cities do already deliver inclusive social policies to achieve social rights for all people in their city, but such efforts are not always known or recognised at national and EU levels. We are using the evidence from local level to feed into the European Semester process to identify new emerging challenges and disparities within countries, not only between countries in the EU.
- Capacity-building for policy transfer: EUROCITIES is organising mutual learning activities to enable cities to learn from good practices in different areas of social policy and to transfer some promising elements to their city (e.g. how to combat long-term unemployment or homelessness).
The role of cities is recognised by Commissioner Thyssen who said: "Citizens is what Europe is about. That is why cities are key partners in the implementation of the Pillar. Many social challenges are concentrated in cities. Cities are the place to test and try new methods to address them."
The future of social Europe cannot be built without cities!