European Conference 2021 – “BUILDING BACK BETTER: Social rights and wellbeing at the heart of a new EU economic governance”

On 1 December 2021, SOLIDAR organised in collaboration with FEPS (Foundation for Progressive Studies) their annual European Conference. The event, titled “BUILDING BACK BETTER: Social rights and wellbeing at the heart of a new EU economic governance” coincided with the official presentation of the Social Rights Monitor, SOLIDAR’s flagship publication that assesses the state of social rights in Europe. The 2021 edition, the third of the publication, analyses 16 countries – 13 EU countries, 2 candidate countries and the UK – and considers four main dimensions: (1) equal opportunities and access to the labour market, (2) fair working conditions, (3) social inclusion and (4) civic space. The presentation of the Monitor offered the perfect occasion to reflect on the challenges in terms of social justice and inclusion that Europe is facing and to identify ways to tackle them also through a new EU Economic Governance that integrates ambitious social objectives. Experts from EU institutions, social partners, civil society, and the academia intervened to take stock of the current situation and explore possible improvements in the direction of a more social EU Economic Governance, right during the review process re-launched by the European Commission on 19 October 2021.  

The speakers who intervened were:  

Panel I: The point on the EU Economic Governance Review: Objectives & ambitions  

Judith Vorbach, Member of the EESC Workers’ Group   

Margarida Marques, Rapporteur of the EP report on the fiscal framework, S&D  

Gustav Horn, Member of the federal executive committee of the SPD  

Valeria Ronzitti, Secretary General, SGI Europe   

Panel II: Economic Governance and Social Justice: How to combine them   

Liina Carr, Confederal Secretary, ETUC   

Jessica Nguyen, Lead on the Economic Governance Review, Social Platform   

Amandine Crespy,Associate Professor, Université Libre de Bruxelles   

The discussion was organised in two panels. The first, moderated by David Rinaldi, Director of Studies and Policy at FEPS, focused mainly on the state of the EU Economic Governance and on the speakers’ expectations and hopes for the review process. The second panel, moderated by Mikael Leyi, Secretary General of SOLIDAR, addressed the possible solutions and mechanisms that could be integrated in the EU Economic Governance to ensure a stronger focus on social rights and wellbeing. Both panels were followed by a Q&A session in which the speakers could interact with the audience and exchange their views in a more direct way.  

Among the main takeaway messages of the Conference, the three below emerged: 

  • A stronger economy is based on an equal society. This requires an EU-level social and economic coordination, in which the social and economic components are equally important. Therefore, the European Semester and the Social Pillar need to be much more integrated. 
  • Civil society and social partners need to be involved in a more systematic way in the definition and implementation of a socio-economic coordination system. 
  • SURE and Recovery Fund should be turned into more permanent instruments

If you missed the Conference, do not worry! You can watch the recording