After 20 years - new social summit in Gothenburg sets Social Europe back on the EU agenda

After almost ten years of austerity measures, precariousness and high unemployment rates across Europe, social policies have returned to the EU agenda. After 20 years, at the invitation of the Swedish Prime Ministers Stefan Löfven and European Commission President Juncker, the Proclamation of the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR) is taking place at the Social Summit in Gothenburg today (17 November 2017).  It is the first important step towards social consolidation, in line with the broader discussion on the social dimension of Europe. As part of the Social Platform delegation, SOLIDAR Secretary General, Conny Reuter, was able to join several fringe debates and the outbreak session of the #SocialSummit17 and further strengthen the case for an Action Plan for Implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights that was officially proclaimed today.
 
Since the launch of the concept of a European Pillar of Social Rights, SOLIDAR has been advocating for a strong proposal introducing a set of enforceable social rights which can be implemented to achieve upward social convergence as well as upgrade labour laws and social protection systems in the EU. SOLIDAR Secretary General, Conny Reuter, participated in several fringe debates organised in the framework of the Social Summit on Thursday 16 November, by the Social Platform, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and the Socialist and Democrats Group. During the different discussions, the SOLIDAR Secretary General called for a strong proposal introducing a set of enforceable social rights for everyone living in Europe.
 
During the ETUC’s event ‘Building a better Europe for working people’, Conny Reuter called for a Social Progress Protocol to unambiguously clarify the link between social rights and economic freedoms. During the discussion organised by the Social Platform on ‘Our Europe: Civil society and the future of the EU’ focus was drawn to three key demands: safeguarding our democracy by tackling inequality; delivering a strong social agenda that goes beyond employment; and partnering with organised civil society to leave no one behind. Maria João Rodrigues, MEP (S&D) stated during the debate, “The ambition of the Pillar is to prepare a social model for the 20th century with no more working poor, in which everyone in Europe can realise their potential. The pillar should guarantee access to minimum income schemes combined with supportive social services.” At the S&D Group’s event ‘TOGETHER for Social Justice & Sustainable Growth’, SOLIDAR, together with MEP Rodrigues, questioned how to improve working conditions and how further social justice is to be promoted in Europe. Conny Reuter insisted that “Once the Pillar has been proclaimed, EU institutions, trade unions, social partners, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and Member States should work together for a social protocol that sets out the legal ground for social rights for all people living in the EU” as stated during the debate. In this regard, he reflected on the absence of the German Chancellor who is not in Gothenburg today and who was among the leading pioneers of the orthodox approach of austerity for almost ten years.
 
Conny Reuter also spoke today at a high level working session on ‘Fair employment and working conditions’ whose participants included Maria João Rodrigues, President of FEPS and EP Rapporteur on the Pillar of Social Rights, Vice-President of the European Commission, Valdis Dombrovskis, Director-General of the International Labor Organization (ILO), Guy Ryder, and Prime Ministers from Austria, the Czech Republic, Italy, United Kingdom, Ireland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Denmark. Civil Society was represented by constructive interventions from the European Youth Forum, Eurofound, Social Platform, the ETUC and others. During the session the SOLIDAR Secretary General underlined that “The European social model and welfare state is a reference for the rest of the world but is now under threat”. He also stressed that NGOs and CSOs are important social actors when it comes to the implementation of the Pillar.
 
SOLIDAR considers that the Pillar will be the framework that will enable concrete measures at national and European level to ensure modern social standards, decent working conditions and social protection across Europe. To coincide with the proclamation, SOLIDAR is launching its latest briefing ‘SOLIDAR Update on the Pillar of Social Rights’, calling for further legislative measures and an action plan for implementation to advance upward social convergence within the EU, such as an EU framework for adequate minimum income provisions in all Member States. At the same time, the enforcement and implementation of existing EU legislation is crucial, such as equality and non-discrimination legislation but also the strengthened implementation of the Active Inclusion Recommendations.

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