There’s an ongoing debate on what is the added value of the European Union and whether it’s really worth it. You just have to look at the recent decision on glyphosate to find people convinced the EU and the European Commission in particular doesn’t care about European citizens and is there only for the big corporations. However, just like that decision was the result of an agreement among Member States, the situation is often much more complex.
Of course, one of the Commission’s first purposes is economic development and the open labour market. It is built from the European Economic Community, after all, and has brought a wide array of peace and prosperity on the continent. Nonetheless, this is not its only purpose, and the Commission should also be recognised as a key player for social developments, with a series of important initiatives developed in the last few years.
First and foremost, the European Pillar of Social Rights has been recently adopted by the European Union which could become a landmark for Social Europe. The renewed objectives of the Education and Training 2020 and the following New Skills Agenda for Europe firmly place social inclusion at the centre of education objectives. The recent ‘Communication on school development and excellent teaching for a great start in life’ brings inclusion and accessibility to the forefront of the debate. The European Solidarity Corps aims at fostering solidarity among European citizens and support social work across Europe. The European Semester process is increasingly used to promote reforms in the field of social inclusion. We could also witness the interest in our successful conference on how the EU Investment Plan can support social investment with more than 100 participants including representatives from several European institutions.
While it can be argued the EU does only the bare minimum when it comes to social policies, and that these policies are flawed or don’t go far enough, it seems clear the Commission is indeed attempting to develop a more Social Europe, better answering the needs and expectations of its citizens.
So what can you do for a more Social Europe?
As representatives of civil society and of the social sector, it is our role to engage in a constructive and positive dialogue to bring the views of our sector to the European decision makers. Reports such as the ones on how the Semester can support the development of inclusive labour markets and on the importance of social investment have proven to have an impact.
The key is always to have data to support your argument, and that is why the feedback and expertise of all our members is crucial when we develop our positions, and why we are now aiming to develop country fact sheets on social care and support services for persons with disabilities throughout our Europe.
Let’s work together for a more Social Europe.