Feeling both energised and powerless
Editorial: July 20, 2012
Summer break is often thought to be the time of reflection on what happened in the last 6 months. Well, Iâ€™m split between two feelings. First - happiness that social NGOs have improved their work. We went deeper into our proposals with higher decision makers; we opened more doors for our members towards the EU institutions. And at the same time I feel sadness for feeling powerless in bringing positive changes to the people under social constrains in the EU.
It would be very difficult to feel satisfied when in 2012, after two years of austerity measures enshrined in an EU treaty, the EU entered into recession. In January we reiterated our great concerns on the overall economic orientation of the EU and its resulting social consequences. In less than two years we witnessed EU leaders ignoring their commitment to strive toward an inclusive, sustainable and smart recovery. Itâ€™s now clear that governments will not reach their commitment to lift 20 million people out of poverty by 2020. And the situation is getting worse: unemployment has steadily increased reaching 10.3% and young people have been particularly affected with an unprecedented unemployment rate of 22.4% (5.5 million).
Our job has been to raise these concerns to the highest level possible with the hope that the social unrest witnessed in Spain, Greece, Portugal, Italy, France, UK would improve the visibility of social NGO demands towards the EU leaders. We called for a Social Pact instead of austerity measures when we met twice with all the ministers of employment and social affairs. For the first time we had an exchange with the President of the European Council, Herman van Rompuy, with Mr Olli Rehn the Commissioner for economic and monetary affairs and the EURO, and we met with Commissioner Andor to transmit our concerns of the lack of a social dimension in the economic governance. We had continuous exchanges with members of the European Parliament as well.
However, connecting with EU decision makers in trying to improve the EU policies and EU legislation is one thing bringing concrete changes in the lives of people most affected by the crisis is another. Despite our constant calls for a Social Pact in June the focus of our leaders was still mainly on austerity measures and budget consolidation. The first recommendation from the Commission to all member states was strict implementation of budget control. The consequences of these policies in countries which are under EU programmes are detrimental to the population: the highest unemployment rates, cuts in social spending, increase in material deprivation.
But I want to feel energised â€“ we cannot afford to let it go: what we continue to do is to promote good initiatives that can support a social dimension in the EU while keeping in mind this question: how strong are these proposals to counterbalance the top priority of fiscal consolidation? There are good initiatives such as the new proposals for the EU funds. The negative attitude of member states towards the positive proposals from the Commission led us to act on different EU funds and we found good support from elected representatives in the European Parliament. Our joint campaign on the European Social Fund, the EU programme for social change and innovation, the general regulation ofstructural funds were positively echoed in the votes of the different EP Committees.
Our targets after the summer break will be the next â€śEuropean Semesterâ€ť, the economic priorities for the whole EU in 2013. We want the Social Pact for investment in social infrastructure, quality employment to be the level playing field in the EU and not precariousness, the investment in social services and social enterprises to respond to the social needs of the population and to be a source of employment, equality legislations and policies to be understood as a trigger for inclusive development of our society. And finally civil dialogue as a minimum requirement for participatory democracy, where peopleâ€™s needs and expectation are taken into account in future policies.
Energy will overcome sadness.
We will be back with our weekly update on September 7
Director, Social Platform