Europe can’t ‘answer the call of history’ by ignoring social rights

With 300 days left to go for the current European Commission to deliver on its commitments, yesterday’s State of the European Union (SOTEU) address was an opportunity for President Von der Leyen to speak to millions across the continent on issues that concern them most. 

However, the number one worry for Europeans, the rising cost of living, failed to be mentioned once. The Commission President also failed to acknowledge the second biggest concern listed by Europeans, poverty and social exclusion. 

In fact, despite this year’s extensive hour-long SOTEU speech covering many diverse topics and proclaimed successes, it neglected to acknowledge that millions in Europe are facing a different kind of reality as they struggle with increased financial burdens and insufficient levels of social protection. 

How can Europe, in President Von der Leyen’s words ‘answer the call of history’, if our leaders continue to ignore what people really care about? 

If this year’s SOTEU speech had addressed the reality that Europeans face, it would’ve put social rights at its heart. Delivering social justice for all means keeping the European Pillar of Social Rights high on the EU agenda, ensuring ambitious implementation of the Social Pillar Action Plan and progress on all national targets. 

Progressing the EU’s goal of reducing the number of people in poverty by 15 million cannot be done without enforcing adequate minimum income schemes. The European Commission must propose an EU framework directive setting out targets for member states to guarantee that everyone can live above the poverty line. Currently, this guarantee of a decent life is not available in any member state.  

Finally, as Europe faces this period of transition described in the SOTEU, action must be taken to ensure these changes benefit all. Putting social rights and the well-being of people at the heart of Europe also means recognising the need to listen to people in all their diversity, including them and addressing their needs. Civil society is a vital part of representing these needs and putting the spotlight on the challenges people face. We need a Europe that recognises the value of civil society and the importance of protecting its role in our societies. 

The Commission President’s “solemn promise to leave no one behind” will undoubtedly be broken unless people’s concerns are listened to and taken seriously. Social Platform and our members understand the impact this lack of progress on social rights is having on people’s lives and together we call for a Europe that shows commitment to its goal to eradicate poverty and champion strong social policies. 

Read our network’s joint letter sent to President Von der Leyen this April 2023.