The political ambition of the Portuguese Presidency of the EU (PPUE21) in dedicating the Informal Summit of Porto to the European Pillar of Social Rights, brought to the forefront of the debate on the future of the European project the key issue of combating inequalities that are, globally and also in the European Union, the basis for a context that undermines confidence in societies, keeps citizens away from political participation, increases the frustration of new generations and leaves the destiny of the world to a non-democratically legitimized elite.
Poverty, precariousness, exclusion, the perception and practice of injustice are fertile fields for populism, hate speech and totalitarianism, in a context in which technological acceleration and the exponential increase in information and available knowledge open up new opportunities for transformation so that people can live better and the planet can be more sustainable.
It is therefore necessary to tackle the root of inequalities and fight with lucidity and determination what has been inflating them. The broad framework of social support must be maintained and strengthened and the continuous investment in qualifications continues to be the most powerful weapon against exclusion. However, indicators show that more needs to be done.
It is fundamental to reorganise the platforms of actors and partners that fight for the reinforcement of social rights, structurally change the models of distribution of generated wealth and redefine the social protection systems in order to make them adequate to the new models of organisation of society and, in particular, to the new labour models that require flexibility in the ways they are implemented, but cannot be seen as a synonym of precariousness for those who perform them.
Therefore, the high-level conference with Social Partners that will also take place in Oporto on 7 May and will precede the Informal Summit on 8 May is particularly relevant. The action plan for social rights must be a mobilising and federating instrument, expressing a broad social commitment to change, free from the risks of institutional inertia or pressure from the beneficiaries of the “status quo”.
The action plan of the European Pillar of Social Rights proposed by the European Commission has well-defined quantitative objectives, even if they are not very ambitious, especially as regards reducing the number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion.
But getting to the root of inequalities also presupposes qualitative actions of great importance, which may be beyond the action plan, but which it must influence. I am referring, for example, to the area of fair taxation, the regulation of new jobs and the assertiveness in the application of own resources to support fair transitions towards a more sustainable economic, social and environmental model.
A harbour is by nature a point of arrivals and departures. The city of Porto will have to continue Gothenburg, but with the tools of the new times and above all, with the strength of shared values and wishes, so that the reduction of inequalities allows us to navigate through other directions.