The Parliament is on our side for a stronger social Europe
Wanting the EU to have a stronger role in shaping social policy is not only a Social Platform call. Soon, it could also be a call from Members of the European Parliament. At least this is what I am hoping when I read with satisfaction the draft report from Maria João Rodrigues MEP on the European Pillar of Social Rights. So what makes this report so interesting for us as social NGOs?
The report includes rather ambitious targets. When in 2015 we adopted our position on minimum wage calling for progressively raising minimum wages – regardless of the wage fixing method used (through social dialogue or by law, in full respect of national traditions) – towards 60% of the median wage of a country, we were quite isolated on the European front. Our call is based on Eurofound findings. Now when I spot in the report an objective of 60% of the national average wage, I feel quite positive. The Parliament could be on our side on this one. We can discuss how good the proposal is until we’re blue in the face, but at least we know that it would increase the salaries of workers on minimum wage in the EU.
The report is not only good in its objectives. It is also good it its instruments. Despite Member States being increasingly reluctant to adopt EU legislation, the rapporteur has not hesitated to push the case for social Europe, such as through a Directive on fair working conditions, on family leave schemes and legislation for fair access for all to good quality and affordable social services. I feel quite relieved to see that objectives could be made binding with the use of legal instruments. Why? Until now, this has been the only way for Europeans to actually witness what the EU delivers for the improvement of their working and living conditions.
Right on objectives and right on tools, the report does not forget to cover the third rail: money. It addresses the need for social investment to be given more favourable treatment within EU economic governance. Social Platform supports allowing the necessary budgetary flexibility for public investments in social policies and services, giving Member States much needed fiscal space and providing strong incentives for such investments. I am quite happy that proposals to reverse austerity measures and promote investment in services and social protection are now on the negotiating table – at least in the Parliament.
Since the Parliament’s draft report contains many of our recommendations, we will be advocating for its adoption by all MEPs, and we hope that it will be seriously considered by the Commission when drafting its white paper on the future of Europe. This is a key element to reconcile Europeans with the EU project.
Pierre Baussand, Director