The pillar of social rights – a step towards a social Europe?

On 26 May SOLIDAR organised a conference on the European Pillar of Social Rights together with the Austrian and German Trade Union Federations, the Austrian Chamber of Labour, the Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation and Diaconia Germany.

In March 2016 the European Commission launched a public consultation on the establishment of a European Pillar of Social Rights, after Commission President Juncker announced improvements to the EU’s social policies. The results of the consultation will feed into a proposal for readjusting the European Monetary and Economic Union due to be published in early 2017.

The consultation process will last until the end of the year and the European Commission remained very vague on what a European Pillar of Social Rights could look like in the end. In a total of three panel discussions experts from Civil Society, the Commission, MEPs and representatives from the private sector discussed the many open questions regarding the Social Pillar:

How can social rights and social protection be improved in the European Union? How can upward social convergence within and between Member States be achieved? Under which conditions may the announced European Pillar of Social Rights achieve substantial social progress? Will the Social Pillar just be a guideline for Member States or will it include binding law?

While the representatives from the Commission and from Business Europe spoke in favour of keeping minimum standards and seemed to prefer a guideline, the civil society representatives such as Heather Roy from Eurodiaconia called for implementing these social rights as binding laws and underlined that the Social Pillar should not only be binding for the Euro Zone but for the whole EU.

Conny Reuter, Secretary General of SOLIDAR, who spoke on the third panel together with Luxembourg’s social minister Nicolas Schmit, MEP Udo Bullmann (S&D) and Christof Cesnovar from the Austrian Chamber of Labour stressed that a Social Pillar needs a strong foundation. Austerity politics proved to be the wrong way, social rights and the provision of social services must be guaranteed throughout the European Union. There must not just be a repetition of the fundamental rights that already exist, there needs to be a fundamental change in terms of investment. The social economy accounts for 12% of all employees. It is one of the biggest employment sectors in the EU and needs to be strengthened.

SOLIDAR will actively contribute to the consultation together with its member organisations and will advocate for a Social Union that is a strong counterpart and addition to the fiscal and trade union.

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