Where do European economic and social policies interlink, and how does the EU exert influence over these policy areas in the Member States? In the framework of the European Semester, the European Commission annually gives country-specific recommendations to Member States to coordinate their economic policies and address economic challenges. With the adoption of the European Pillar of Social Rights in 2017, there has been a slow “socialisation” of the European Semester and its recommendations. This means that more consideration has been given to social policies in the European Semester than previously, but a lot more needs to be done.
During an event organised by Eurodiaconia named “Balancing Economic and Social Policies”, SOLIDAR participated in a debate in the European Parliament that called for the implementation and mainstreaming of the European Pillar of Social Rights in the European Semester cycle. The policy report and recommendations can be found here. Also taking part in the discussion were two members of European Parliament Maria Arena (S&D) and Sofia Ribeiro (EPP), representatives of the European Commission Steven Engels (DG ECFIN) and Federico Lucidi (DG EMPL) and Klaus Heeger from the European Confederation of Independent Trade Unions (CESI).
The debate demonstrated that countries with strong social protection systems were more resilient to economic shocks and crises, as Steven Engels from the European Commission showed. Maria Arena, a Belgian MEP from the S&D Group, confirmed the importance of well-functioning social protection systems but also stressed that economic stability – as often demanded by the private sector – must likewise be guaranteed to workers and employees that all too often are in precarious and vulnerable working positions. Federico Lucidi (DG EMPL) added that country-specific recommendations focusing on social issues have been overlooked by national media outlets which still only highlight the economic indicators. The debate was concluded with arguments that national consultations with civil society has to be improved and that the Social Pillar must be the guiding compass for country-specific recommendations.
For SOLIDAR, it is clear that the emphasis of social issues in the European Semester must continue and be strengthened to make sure that the economy is at the service of its citizens and not the other way round. We strongly agree with our partner Eurodiaconia that putting citizens’ faith back into the European Project is vital at this point in time. This is achieved through inclusive social policies ensuring that the benefits of growth are shared commonly within and across EU Member States.