On Thursday, 23 May 2018, the European Commission published the Spring Package of the 2018 Semester Cycle. The main elements of the Spring Package are the Country-Specific Recommendations (CSRs) for 27 Member States (Greece is excluded, due to being subject to the stability support programme).
The focus remains on incentives for structural reforms at Member States’ level in order to “improve the business environment and conditions for investment; especially through product and service market reforms, fostering innovation, improving small and medium-sized enterprises' access to finance and fighting corruption.” In second place, the Commission calls for “reforms that prepare their workforces for the future and increase digitalization, reduce income inequalities and foster employment opportunities, for young people in particular”, followed by “reforms that strengthen economic resilience in the context of long-term challenges, such as demographic trends, migration and climate change. Only resilient economies can ensure long-term economic convergence and the reduction of social disparities.”
Only the last point mentions the European Pillar of Social Rights as a guide to reforms that pay special attention to social challenges.
SOLIDAR would have wished to see more emphasis on social progress oriented reforms such as investments in education, healthcare and social services as well as the integration of third-country nationals, especially as indicators in the social area remain at alarming levels: poverty rates are just about back to pre-crisis level, income inequality remains at high levels and even Member States with robust economic development experience high levels of old-age poverty, imbalances in educational outcomes and gender inequalities.
SOLIDAR agrees with Commissioner Thyssen’s social priorities of 1) skills reforms 2) quality of education and training 3) equal opportunities for men and women 4) inclusive and effective social protection 5) adequate pensions and quality services 6) effective social dialogue, but at the same time calls on the Commission as well as the Member States to use the current economic recovery to invest in people and their future to ensure they also feel the benefits of recovery. Fixing the roof while the sun is shining, as mentioned by President Juncker, cannot only mean resilient economies but must also include social investment. We want to see more action to prove the Commission’s determination to implement the European Social Pillar!