"Money makes the world go around" – not only the world but especially Europe in times of BREXIT and other political as well as financial constraints. We expect from the EU leaders to come up with a serious proposal for a budget that corresponds to the ambitions of doing more and better together. The Commission presented the first numbers with a first serious debate among EU leaders expected to take place on 23rd February during Informal Leaders’ meeting. When even a French President is ready not to consider the PAC part in the EU budget as a "holy cow" there should be room for manoeuver. It is a matter of political courage and not to hide behind the most conservative of the EU member states. More needs more! Especially if the European Pillar of Social Rights shall be implemented and become more than a recommendation set of principles.
Gathering under the Bulgarian Presidency at the occasion of 60 years of the European Social Fund this is more than only the commemoration of successes. The challenge is indeed “Investing in people” and looking for "a way forward". The debate on the future of this important policy tool illustrates nevertheless the choices to be made. When it is a question of using the ESF for pushing member states for reforms in the European semester there remains unclarity unless the statement is not clearly another kind of reforms than the usually so-called structural reforms. SOLIDAR together with other actors has developed scenarios for progressives reforms and at least social investment has been set back on the agenda. Furthermore, if the ESF shall contribute to raising the awareness of citizens what the EU can bring good, the real added European value needs to be translated by an even stronger encouragement of a real transnational dimension. When praising for example ERASMUS+, the reference is always on the cross-border and intercultural experience. Why shall the ESF continue to be partly used by member states for hiding the fact that they do not invest sufficiently in education and training?
Scope and flexibility are also nice wordings. The real issue remains sustainability and predictability of action and programmes as the effect is and cannot be immediate: again it is about the outcome and not output. Sustainability and predictability are also relevant for the actors, not only the government and state agencies but also for the social partners and social NGOs who are not the beneficiaries, they are the intermediator’s who develop programmes for specific target groups and needs to be able to do this at least in a mid-term and not short-term perspective. As also European NGO networks, whose role as bridge builders with citizens, is undeniable need to be able to build on a partnership principle a not a thumb up or down.
Investing in people means also investing in professionals and volunteers who just do it!