Building a social standards Union, what role for the European Semester?
by Catherine MALLET
EAPN – the European Anti-Poverty Network organized an event to discuss how the European Pillar of Social Rights together with the European Semester process can deliver of social rights and social standards in the EU. Catherine Mallet from The EU Affairs Office reports.
- See HERE for EAPN's report and the presentations.
The first panel discussed how well is the European Semester delivering on social rights reviewing the National Reform Programmes (NRPs). EAPN concluded that 60% of poverty NGOs had not been consulted on the NRPs although there had been an increased focus on poverty and social exclusion. However Europe 2020 goals have low visibility, there are continuing cuts in services and benefits and still not enough meaningful consultation with civil society. There has been a shocking rise in homelessness and growing indebtedness is not addressed.
UK MEP Jean lambert (Greens) stressed the long standing need for greater ownership of the European Semester at national level. The housing issue is ongoing in the UK and a big problem. She questioned how to make citizens feel more connected to the European Project and the European Semester process. We should learn our lesson from the UK referendum she insisted.
MEP Yama Toom, (ALDE) pointed out that a number of Member States still don't have a minimum income. We need to convince new MEPs about active inclusion she said. Social inequality is now greater after the last enlargement of the EU. Minimum income is principle in the new Pillar of Social Rights and this together with the Child Guarantee could be most effective way of fighting poverty. However minimum income in some countries is so low it doesn't solve problems at all.
Heather Roy, Eurodiaconia lamented that the European semester is a very dry process and for their members it has been very hard to see outcomes and impact after 8 years. However with the adoption of Pillar there is some momentum for change. Whilst there are some improvements, we still have 20% of the population at risk of poverty which is scandalous she said.
In the discussion, concerns were raised about the trend to turn to private funding to pay for social and public services. MEP Maria Joao Rodrigues reflected on the period of post financial and economic crisis, where the big goal was to reduce deficits at any cost. Now she said looking forward we need put pressure on the Member States to implement the European Pillar of Social Rights which is our first tool in the box and goes beyond what is in the treaties and Charter of Fundamental Rights. The second tool is the European semester. She encouraged civil society to work increasingly with national level ministers.
Sian Jones from EAPN stressed the need for a roadmap to implement the Pillar of Social Rights and the need for guidelines on how to involve civil society. Specifically EAPN is calling for a framework directive in minimum income. Barbara Kauffman from the European Commission explained that they now try to mainstream the European Pillar of Social Rights into all other documents.
- See here for more about the European Semester process
- See here to read about the newly adopted Pillar of Social Rights