Thanks to the invitation from Social Platform, a network of civil society organisations for social justice and participatory democracy in Europe, SOLIDAR participated in the Flagship Conference “Building a Social Europe” that took place in Lisbon, 27.-29.11., this week.
The date of this conference was not a coincidence. It marks the first anniversary of the proclamation of the European Pillar of Social Rights which was agreed upon at the Social Summit in Gothenburg in November 2017. While the support for and agreement on the Pillar was an important step, now, one year later, it is our role as civil society to demand that the principles of equal opportunities, fair working conditions, social inclusion and protection are put into real and tangible policies and outcomes.
Trust is earned when actions meet words
As the social challenges of Europe are multiple and diverse, and as the European Pillar of Social Rights remains a soft-law instrument without any legally binding force, we must join forces and explore what is possible in the current EU legal framework. There are still a couple of social initiatives in the pipeline that need to go through the “Trilogue” negotiations between Commission, Council and Parliament before this mandate ends with the European Parliamentary elections in May 2019: The work-life balance directive, the directive on transparent and predictable working conditions, directive on access to social protection to name but a few. Continuing working on those directives will be crucial to meet the expectations set out by the Pillar and to regain the trust of citizens in the European project.
We must learn to explain complex solutions in much simpler terms
At this moment in time, it is all the more important to demonstrate that it is not only the EU’s responsibility to stimulate growth and creation of jobs. For people to truly believe in a social vision of Europe, we need to strengthen and manifest social safety nets, decent working conditions and inclusive communities that enable the prospering of all. What the discussion at this Flagship Conference has underlined was that the European institutions must regain trust by delivering on these expectations. This can be achieved when we are able to articulate our vision for a Social Europe in a way that is understandable and tangible for all.
Ending homelessness in Portugal – a role model for Europe
This conference’s aim was furthermore to highlight examples of best practice in social policies in Member States. One of them was to be found in the host country of this conference: Last year, the Portuguese government announced a five-year strategy to end homelessness in Portugal. To achieve this objective, a sum of 60 million euros is being invested in permanent individual housing, health and employment services. It was thanks to this conference that we were able to meet people who have overcome the hardships of homelessness and are now participating in recovery and social integration projects. More crucially, it was an important reminder that it is people with unique stories we must truly focus on when we decide upon social policies and not numbers, data or statistics.
SOLIDAR thanks and congratulates Social Platform for organising this Flagship Conference. The proclamation of the Pillar has created a momentum – a window of opportunity – that must not be missed. This gathering in Lisbon was a vital step to bring together agents of change from civil society, national governments, academics and European policy makers to make our vision of a Social Europe a reality.