Member states must make social policies the driver of European economic governance

At the EU Spring Council meeting of March 14 and 15, European heads of state and government will discuss and endorse the Annual Growth Survey(AGS) for 2013, as part of the yearly cycle of policy coordination called the European Semester. At the same time, they will continue to develop the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU).

The rise of poverty and unemployment makes it clear that financial and economic governance cannot exist without a strong social pillar. The EMU should address social convergence on the basis of the highest existing social standards. On February 28 at the EPSCO Council meeting, the ministers for employment and social affairs pointed out that “Preventing a lasting legacy of structural unemployment and poverty presents a major policy challenge and is essential to attain the Europe 2020 employment and poverty/social exclusion targets”. 26 million people are unemployed and 120 million are experiencing poverty or social exclusion – nearly one-fourth of the EU population – and the AGS 2013 does not provide solutions to tackle the preoccupying social challenges.

Therefore, we call on the country leaders to change the focus of the European Semester and to promote the coordination of macro-economic policies with the aim of supporting social policies, as the number one priority of the AGS 2013.

We call on them to make social policies the driver of the economic governance by taking the following key actions:

Protect social budgets when developing policies to tackle macro-economic imbalances. Increase social investments, particularly in the light of the Commission’s social investment package. Develop a true and integrated anti-poverty and social inclusion strategy at EU and national level. Endorse the EPSCO recommendation on establishing a Youth Guarantee. Mainstream social targets in all other policies. Invest in the creation of, access to and progression in quality and sustainable employment. Remove barriers to employment and social inclusion through the adoption of the Article 19 Equal Treatment Directive. Ensure a wide inclusive and democratic process to decide upon economic and social priorities.

Changing the focus of the European Semester is needed to prevent people from living in a segregated world and from fearing unemployment and extreme poverty.

You can read our full letter here.