Start of the 2024 European Semester cycle – our recommendations for a more social Europe

For millions of people across the EU, staying above the poverty line is a daily struggle. It is both unsurprising and unacceptable that in the run-up to the EU elections, Eurobarometer found that on the cost of living 65% surveyed were not satisfied with the measures taken by their national government, and 57% were dissatisfied with the measures taken by the EU.   

The European Commission’s 2024 Autumn Package, published end of last year, offers guidance on how Member States should try to tackle current challenges, like the cost of living, in the coming year. With so much on the line for people fighting against poverty and social exclusion, there is no doubt that stronger measures are needed to build a more ‘social’ Europe. In response to what the European Commission has presented in its 2024 Autumn Package, Social Platform, together with some of our members, highlighted specific concerns and made recommendations to the Social Protection Committee (SPC) and the Employment Committee (EMCO). We call to further unlock the social potential of the European Semester process and implement much-needed social change. Read our reaction below.  

A permanent social convergence framework within the European Semester

We push for the full integration of the Social Convergence Framework into the 2024 Semester cycle, making it a permanent feature of the process. At the same time improvements to its methodology are needed to strengthen social monitoring. This framework would support Member States to put in place timely reforms and investments that strengthen social outcomes and social convergence within and across EU countries.  

Step up efforts to reduce poverty & social exclusion

High levels of inflation in recent years, combined with gaps in access to social protection continue to have a severe impact for those in vulnerable situations. Low-income households, for example, who spend most of their disposable income on essential goods and services are among those most at risk.  

 We reminded Member States of the important impact of inflation on vulnerable groups and voiced concerns about the demanded phase-out of broad energy-related support measures. This must be well thought out to avoid people in vulnerable situations suffering from the phase-out.   

We agree with calls in the Autumn Package to ensure existing social protection systems support vulnerable households. However, for the vast majority of Member States, minimum income schemes are inadequate to bring people above the poverty line. While reforms of many social protection systems are crucial to improve the adequacy and take-up of benefits to allow people to live a life in dignity, this will not happen fast enough. Without additional targeted measures and while prices of essential goods and services remain high, this gap in protection risks increasing and deepening poverty and social exclusion levels.   

Significant efforts are needed to achieve the EU headline target on poverty reduction and related national targets. To do so, the revision of the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan in 2025 must include concrete EU-level measures, including a minimum income directive and recommendations for action to help Member States achieve their national targets through measures based on an active inclusion approach. 

 Consequences of budget cuts

We also warned about the consequences of implementing contractionary fiscal policies, as recommended by the package, as centering fiscal contraction could lead to another drop in public investments in a context where, to tackle the climate crisis in a socially just way, we need to invest now to prevent the worst – and most costly – impacts of global heating. 

Strengthen structural involvement of civil society in decision-making

Finally, we reminded SPC and EMCO members that while civil society has consistently provided essential support to people affected by crises, their contributions to the recovery process have often been overlooked and their involvement in decision-making often remains ad-hoc. We called on Member States to structurally consult and involve civil society organisations (CSOs) in decision-making to achieve sustainable and inclusive change. A crucial opportunity to do so will be in the context of the Economic Governance review: CSOs must be involved in the development of national fiscal-structural plans to ensure that fiscal policies as well as reforms and investments correspond to the situation on the ground and build more sustainable, resilient and inclusive societies across Europe.