Change and continuity for social policy in 2017

Timing is everything for effective advocacy, as is prioritisation.

That is why, when planning our activities for the year to come, it is always a good idea to spend some time taking stock of the previous year and analysing what is in the European agenda in the coming months to pinpoint possible windows of opportunity for our work.

Timing and prioritisation are particularly important for Social Platform in 2017; we are embracing change and continuity through our newly adopted four-year Strategic Plan that aims to relaunch and improve our activities in traditional areas of work, while expanding our actions to new fundamental areas of activity.

My portfolio is no exception in this sense. While continuing and complementing the important work done on EU social standards over the past three years, we’ll start working on tax justice.

For both areas of work, 2017 might prove to be a decisive year.

In the framework of our work on EU social standards, we dedicated a substantial part of our 2016 advocacy activities to the proposed European Pillar of Social Rights. After a long public consultation process last year, we will now transition to action, with the new proposals from the European Commission expected in March, together with the White Paper on the future of Europe and the euro area. Building on the extensive work carried out with our members and allies last year, we will be carefully monitoring this process to assess the extent to which our proposals have been considered, and we remain ready to provide further input and constructive criticism on what we believe to be a fundamental initiative.

This year we will build alliances to develop joint advocacy activities to maximise our impact in areas in which we already have clear and meaningful proposals, such as minimum wages and minimum income schemes, in order to build momentum for EU action on these two areas, within or alongside the Social Pillar. At the same time, we will add to this by putting together concrete proposals on unemployment benefits and quality employment in the era of digitalisation.

But 2017 is a key year for tax policies, too. The Commission put forward significant proposals to fight tax avoidance and tax evasion, and having focused on the efficiency of taxation last year it has publicly expressed its willingness to focus on fairness this year.

At the same time, the European Parliament will continue is important work in this policy field, with its push for stronger transparency through improved country-by-country reporting – which would entail multinationals reporting information per country on revenue, profits, taxes paid, capital, earnings, tangible assets and the number of employees – and the work of the Committee of Inquiry into Money Laundering, Tax Avoidance and Tax Evasion (PANA), created after last year’s Panama Papers scandal, with the first conclusions expected to be released later this year.

Taxation is already one of the key elements of our ongoing campaign on EU social standards and it is the right moment for Social Platform to build its capacity in this policy field, cooperating with its members and engaging with actors and coalitions that have considerable expertise working on these subjects.

If we succeed in this, we will be able to put forward concrete demands and recommendations to reform our tax systems – to make them more just and progressive and to ensure adequate and sustainable funding of our welfare systems – at a time when this debate is gaining momentum.