A new wellbeing budget for the EU

Following the approval of the European Commission, incoming President Ursula von der Leyen has unveiled a new approach to running the EU’s finances. “We need to address the societal wellbeing of the European Union, not just the economic wellbeing,” she said during a discussion on “More than GDP”.

This means that from 2020, her Commission will present a “wellbeing budget” to gauge the long-term impact of EU policies on the quality of people’s lives.

So what does this mean in practical terms? The onus will be on each Commissioner to show how spending proposals in the field will benefit people, and to work with other Commissioners and EU decision-makers in all EU institutions and across party lines to ensure they have a positive, long-term impact, President von der Leyen explained.

The first female European commission president said that trade wars and Brexit were a proxy for the frustration people felt over a political and economic set-up that had left them behind. “Our people are telling us that politics are not delivering and meeting their expectations. This is not woolly, it’s critical,” said the Commission President. Instead, she called for politics to be more altruistic and more long-term to address the deep-rooted challenges we’re grappling with as the economy changes.

According to the European Commission website, the 2020 budget will use different measurements than in previous years. The Wellbeing Budget will broaden the Budget’s focus beyond economic and fiscal policy by using a Living Standards Framework to inform the EU’s investment priorities and funding decisions. Reports will be made against a broader set of indicators to show a more rounded measure of success, at national and EU level.

The results will play out over decades – but President von der Leyen argued for a shift beyond short-term cycles and for seeing politics through a lens of “kindness, empathy and wellbeing”…

Ok, you have probably gathered by now that these are in fact the positions of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern delivered during January’s World Economic Forum. Nearly one year on, is the EU close to standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the PM as a global leader of social rights? Not quite – but hope is on the horizon in the form of the new Commission. There are already positive steps in the rights direction: the creation of the ‘Economy that Works for People’ portfolio, a U-turn to reinclude ‘social rights’ as a responsibility for the previously titled ‘jobs’ Commissioner, and the creation of the first ever post of Commissioner for Equality are just three examples. The von der Leyen Commission has a mountain to climb if it wants to guarantee the wellbeing of all people in the EU and not just the wealthy few. Where there is strong political will, there is a way!

Best wishes,

Kélig Puyet, Director of Social Platform