Do all roads lead to Social Europe?

As the road clears towards Heads of State and Government collectively committing to a strong European Pillar of Social Rights, hopes and doubts regarding the impact of such an “instrument” have never been so big. So what is the right direction to take to ensure that Member States set priorities at national and European level to tackle social deficits?

At a European Parliament event Social Platform co-organised with civil society, trade union and enterprise representatives last week, I welcomed the Social Pillar as a good first step towards a right-based approach to work on social issues at European level. But what does it mean to have rights when there is no clear commitment of accountability to guarantee them? As a leading network promoting social standards, should our strategy be to advocate for the creation of social rights with clear mechanisms to ensure they are respected? That’s the rights-based road. Another approach could be based on the assumption that we are talking about non-binding principles, meaning they’re not backed up by legislation. Is this less powerful? Not with good policy coherence to support them. Realistic? Not if Member States don’t have the financial means to make ambitious public investment.

All of the possible directions carry with them many ‘ifs’. But what is sure is the need to have strong political will to carry out the necessary changes – and the will of decision-makers should emerge from the will of people. For this, social cohesion is a must, even if political and economic times are tough. Too often we have witnessed social rights slip down the list of priorities when different crises arise, whether it’s the economic crisis, increased migration, or even last week’s referendum in Catalonia. The primary victim of all these crises is the social agenda. The Social Pillar should cement social rights as an unshakable top priority of decision-makers.

Whatever road we take, let’s make sure it leads to effective social progress. The future or Europe will depend on our joint capacity to make this difference.

Best wishes,

Kélig Puyet, Director of Social Platform