On 3 October, SOLIDAR was present at a panel discussion in Zagreb to debate the following question with prominent figures from Croatian society: Can the European Pillar of Social Rights truly be effective in addressing and tackling inequalities in Europe?
The debate took place in the framework of the European project Commonfare, that aims at fostering the “welfare of the common”, a participatory form of welfare provision based on collaboration among people living in Europe who want to develop new ways of collectively responding to the everyday problems they face, improving their own lives. The project also developed an online platform, called Commonfare.net, which provides people with digital tools that will allow everybody to: inform and be informed about welfare state provisions and relevant data, share good practices through digital storytelling, support initiatives based on resource-sharing and bottom-up experimentation.
The debate was an opportunity to discuss the project results and next steps with internationals.
The panellists included Conny Reuter – Secretary General of SOLIDAR; Maja Pleic – Director of the Centre for Peace Studies in Croatia; Marina Skrabalo – Director of Solidarna Human Rights Foundation and member of EESC; Ana Pezelj – SSSH; Snjizana Cop – Udruga za djecu s poteskocama zvoncici. The discussion started off with an essential debate on the relationship between economic and social policies. Are they the same? How should they influence each other? For SOLIDAR it is clear that social policies are not only an economic investment but must also be appreciated for their intrinsic added value to a fairer and more equal society.
Indeed, the Social Summit held in Gothenburg in November 2017 marked a historic day for the proclamation of the European Pillar of Social Rights. The Pillar is of fundamental importance as such, but there should also be more stress on what many see only as a detail - for once, education is at the top of a whole set of principles regarding social rights and not at the end. Therefore, the structure itself shows a change of mind-set that must be followed by concrete policies as well. How can this be achieved? It might sound obvious, yet as Maja Pleic phrased it: when there is the political will you find the way. We have already seen similar political will for the Youth Guarantee – although with insufficient finance, especially if compared to other policies with no social dimension – and the same can happen with the Pillar.
Progressive civil society has to make its voice heard in asking for this. Just as in each Member State a fight was needed to develop a proper welfare state, the same will apply for it to acquire a European dimension, in face of the reluctances of some Member States.
The panelists provided an interesting statistical and political analysis that overall pointed to a clear conclusion – the Pillar of Social Rights can provide the solution to tackle the multi-folded challenges that the EU is currently coping with, but only if it consistently delivers on all of its principles