European Anti-Poverty Network: Is the 2019 European Semester more social? EAPN assessment of the European Semester 2019
The European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN) presents its report on the European Semester – ‘Is the European 2019 European Semester More Social?‘ – an assessment on how far the European Semester in 2019 has supported progress in terms of delivery on social rights and the Europe 2020 poverty reduction target, as well as promoting participation of civil society and people facing direct experience of poverty.
2019 marks a crucial transition year for the European Union, following the elections of the new European Parliament and the new President of the European Commission, Council, and Parliament. It is also the ninth year of the Europe 2020 strategy and second year following the adoption of the European Pillar of Social Rights, delivered through the European Semester as the main ‘economic and social coordination instrument’. However, we have to ask how much progress has been achieved on the main objectives, including the poverty target and the implementation of the Social Pillar.
2019 has finally seen some welcome progress towards the poverty target, with a five million reduction since 2008. However, 113 million are still at risk of poverty and social exclusion. Additionally, much higher levels are experienced by children and other groups like single parents, migrants, Roma and ethnic minorities and the long-term unemployed. With rapidly growing in-work poverty (9.6%) and a widening poverty and inequality gap across the EU, where in three Member States over one-third of people face poverty (38.9% BG, 35.7% RO, 34.8% EL), how can we be complacent about a more social Semester?
There have been some important shifts in rhetoric of the Semester, recognising that “growth is not benefiting all citizens” and ensuring that the Social Pillar, particularly the social scoreboard was more visible in the main EU documents of the Semester. However, it is the lack of mainstreaming and coherence with the macroeconomic policies which is of most concern. The social ‘section’ and country-specific recommendations (CSR) are still too likely to remain a ‘box’, side-lined and undermined by macroeconomic policies. Are people really becoming the heart of EU policy? Or is the European Semester still tackling macroeconomic disparities rather than social imbalances?
Key Messages on the European Semester 2019
- The Semester must become an instrument to improve lives and well-being not just for economic growth.
- Progress has been made in socialising the Semester, but all social rights must be consistently mainstreamed and implemented, beyond the scoreboard.
- All countries should receive a social CSR as the first priority!
- Employment alone won’t reduce poverty: the European Commission should more consistently promote a rights-based effective anti-poverty strategy based on integrated active inclusion.
- While improvements are being made more visibly at EU level, the real test is achieving systematic impact at the national level.
- Engagement of civil society is improving but needs concrete investment to embed meaningful dialogue processes at the national level that enable impact.
- Dialogue with people with direct experience of poverty is essential to signpost what works/doesn’t work, but also to propose viable solutions.