Citizens are calling for a Stronger Social Dimension of the EU | CoFoE 4th Plenary 12 March 2022

Spring 2022 marks the final sprint for the Conference on the Future of Europe, which will end in May. After a slow start, the Conference has now picked up its pace required to deliver proposals based on the contributions to the debate that emerged from the multilingual digital platform, the citizens’ panels and the Plenary and its working groups. 

In SOLIDAR, we have been actively following the developments of the working group “Stronger Economy, Social Justice and Jobs", which at the latest plenary session held in Strasbourg on 10-12 March has discussed the final recommendations from the citizens’ panel, that you can find here. 

SOLIDAR has been participating in the debate not only on behalf of its members, but also on that of the 82 European Civil Society Organisations that gathered in the CSOs Convention for the Conference on the Future of Europe, prompted by Civil Society Europe. Together, these organisations elaborated recommendations that our representatives could present during the Plenary. In particular, Elisa Gambardella expressed contentment for the citizens’ recommendations covering fair working conditions for all and social protection – such as those for minimum wages, minimum income, housing, youth rights and healthcare – but she voiced a concern with regards to the need to underpin these recommendations with a proper framework to enable their implementation. She referred to the proposal of the CSOs Convention for reviewing the Economic Governance Framework and the European Semester in it, proposing to: 

  • Replace the Stability and Growth Pact with a Sustainability and Wellbeing Pact; 

  • Adopt indicators suitable to measure the wellbeing of people beyond the limits of GDP, and coherently adapt the Country Specific Recommendation to promote social and economic rights while acknowledging environmental boundaries; 

  • Explore post-growth strategies, such as decoupling employment and social security systems from economic growth and designing the subsequent welfare policies to consider socio-ecological needs. 

The Conference has been showing that citizens are asking for more Europe and remarkably for a stronger social dimension of the EU, that is now clearly seen as an instrument for better social protection, able to cover for the areas that would be unachievable for individual member states alone, such as digitalisation and the climate crisis, and the related crises such as the pandemic and its socio-economic impact. 

It is now time for the three institutions chairing the Conference – the Commission, the Council and the Parliament – to follow up on these demands by enabling a framework for the discussion that enhance the role of the representative organisations in the Plenary along with that of individual citizens, such as the social partners and civil society. And for these actors, together, to deliver policy proposals that can support the Union to make a leap forward for protecting its citizens. 

This can be the greatest innovation that this Conference can deliver, and the opportunity shall not be missed.