Building Social Europe 3/4 – The Social Pillar is civil dialogue’s time to shine

It’s nearly twelve months since the European Commission released its first concrete proposals for a European Pillar of Social Rights, which aims to deliver new and improve existing social rights for people in the EU. As Social Platform we welcome the Pillar; it’s the right tool to bring about the necessary policy changes to address key trends, such as poverty and social exclusion, job precariousness and in-work poverty, and barriers to accessing social protection. However, its success hinges on the use of a comprehensive implementation approach encompassing policy, governance, funding and civil dialogue. In this series of four ‘Build Social Europe’ blogs I’ll take a look at each of these areas in turn, and layout Social Platform’s recommendations on how the EU institutions and Member States can turn the Pillar from words into action.

On 27 April civil society organisations gathered en masse along with policy-makers and other stakeholders at the European Commission’s third Annual Convention on Inclusive Growth. The aim? To discuss how to implement the European Pillar of Social Rights to improve the social dimension of the European Union.

The Annual Convention was just one of many meetings held last month that brought civil society organisations to the table for high-level discussions on the Social Pillar. Due to the leading role played by us and our members in shaping the Pillar, Social Platform was given prominent speaking positions at many of these events, such as the Commission’s DG Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion event “The Social Pillar and the European Semester as tools for delivering social Europe – A reflection with civil society”. A Social Platform delegation was present at last November’s Social Summit, and we regularly take part in the informal meetings of employment, social policy and health ministers (EPSCO) hosted by the country holding the rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU, to name just two more high-level occasions for dialogue.

But to be truly meaningful, civil dialogue needs to be regular and structured. Giving European civil society organisations the forum to present their positions alongside policy-makers and social partners is both interesting and important; we bring together local, regional and national members working with and representing the interests of people and organisations, including those who are traditionally underrepresented in decision-making. The role of civil dialogue has been recognised by the EU, with the treaties specifying that “[The EU] shall by appropriate means, give citizens and presentative associations the opportunity to make known and publicly exchange their views in all areas of Union action”. But in order to guarantee the success of the Social Pillar, there are four principles that can turn opinion-sharing into tangible improvements to the lives and wellbeing of people in Europe:

  1. The right to be consulted in decision-making: as well as agenda-setting and policy-making, civil society organisations should be actively involved in implementation, evaluation, and monitoring.
  2. The need for transparent and open decision-making processes, such as the introduction of a mandatory Transparency Register for all EU institutions.
  3. The need for protective regulatory and financial framework civil society organisations.
  4. Greater institutional recognition of the importance of civil dialogue.

EU civil society organisations have the expertise and on-the-ground evidence to turn the Social Pillar’s ambitious social goals into reality, and the Pillar is a great litmus test for the impact that meaningful civil dialogue can have on EU decision-making. We will continue advocating for a bigger role for civil society, a greater prioritisation of social rights, and a stronger voice for people in Europe!

Read more in Social Platform’s position, ‘Building Social Europe: A comprehensive implementation plan for an effective European Pillar of Social Rights’.