Bringing the European leaders on board of the proclamation of the European Pillar of Social Rights at the Gothenburg summit (2017) was hard. Were the Leaders against Social Europe or against Social Rights in the EU? No. But were faced with enormous diversity. For instance, the way of organizing and building national rules on labour rights has to do in particular with the union movement history, which differs from country to country. Such is the case of Sweden, co-host of the Summit, where Social Rights stem more from union negotiations, very powerful in this country, rather than from labour legislation. Labour legislation that in Portugal protects workers. This proclamation was obviously intended at boosting the promotion of social rights, pull them to the highest levels in all Member States and not draw back the most advanced level reached in some other countries.
The European Pillar of Social Rights is very ambitious in the diversity of rights and updates these for a more just society based on digital transformation. The 20 principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights “constitute the guiding framework for building a strong, just, inclusive and opportunity-rich social Europe”. In addition to the right of access to life-long learning and decent employment and income, I highlight the social dialogue and worker’s participation at European level; as well as, the right to minimum income benefits ensuring a life in dignity at all stages of life, and effective access to enabling goods and services; health care, housing and adequate shelter and services to the homeless; equal opportunities – which should be promoted and not just ensured – regardless of gender, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.
The Porto Summit is the right moment. The time has come to adopt an Action Plan for these Rights become a reality and not a mere list of good principles. However, this is not enough; it is not enough for citizens to benefit from these social rights.
There is a huge effort to be made. The period we are going through reveals how important social rights are. I want to highlight, once again, two dimensions to this Action Plan that is not just another action plan at European level.
First: the European Union’s budget, already in 2022, must integrate the European Pillar of Social Rights as a political priority. At a time when there are significant risks that the economic recovery is uneven with a high probability of growing divergences and increase of poverty, public policies focused on a more just recovery specific to the most vulnerable groups such as young people, women and the least qualified are essential. The political agreement made in the negotiation of the Multiannual Financial Framework 2021/2027 left leeway for this purpose. National Recovery Programs must also reflect this priority.
Second: we are reviewing the European Union’s rules of economic governance, namely the political and macroeconomic framework of the Stability and Growth Pact and the principles and rules of the so-called European Semester. The Social Criteria, particularly the ones arising from the European Pillar of Social Rights, must benefit from the same level of protection as the fiscal and environmental criteria. Macroeconomic policies must integrate the capacity of States to promote appropriate social policies.
In the European Parliament, we are committed to achieving these two dimensions. For the European Pillar of Social Rights to be in fact the pillar that allows for all citizens to enjoy European Social Rights and not merely a systematization of good intentions. The Porto Summit will be decisive in the search for a political commitment.