Our initial evaluation of Social Pillar implementation at the EESC – Some progress made, but a lot remains to be done
On 28 March, Social Platform spoke at a public hearing organised by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) on “The European Pillar of Social Rights – Evaluation of the initial implementation and recommendations for the future”. This hearing brought together decision- and policy-makers, representatives of international organisations, social partners, civil society representatives, researchers and other experts. It aimed at assessing the measures taken since the Pillar’s proclamation in November 2017, identifying gaps and proposing new measures.
Social Platform was invited to provide reflections from civil society on the implementation of the Pillar to date, sharing the panel with speakers from the European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN), the European Social Observatory (OSE), the Confederation of Danish Employers, the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) and the Brussels Office of the Confederation of the Swedish Entreprises.
In her presentation, Social Platform Policy & Advocacy Officer Katja Reuter highlighted progress made as well as existing limitations in the area of legislation and the European Semester process from the perspective of civil society organisations active in the social field.
Several legislative acts have been proposed and have progressed in negotiations, but are falling short of expectations. Indeed, they might create only little or no better social convergence in countries which already have reached or exceeded these minimum social standards. Therefore, more and more ambitious legislative developments are needed to address existing fragmentation and gaps in social rights and to avoid the emergence of new inequalities and discrimination. She also pointed out the need to reform the Social Scoreboard, which monitors the implementation of the Pillar by tracking trends and performances across EU countries. Indeed, adding more indicators and disaggregating data by characteristics other than sex would better reveal complex barriers and reform need for improving the living conditions of specific vulnerable target groups.
With regards to the mainstreaming of Pillar principles in the European Semester process, she highlighted that they are not being used consistently as a guiding framework for this process. This should be improved upon. In addition, she pointed out that the social dimension of the European Semester process remains insufficient: economic priorities still prevail and there is a strong focus on employment issues that limits recommendations in the area of social policies. She called to focus more strongly on the adequacy, coverage and accessibility of our social protection systems as well as the quality, accessibility, affordability and availability of services, as opposed to their efficiency and cost-effectiveness. At the same time, she reminded that it is vital for policy-makers to grasp the overall positive momentum of an increasingly social Semester process and translate it into reforms at national level. However, this involves improving current levels of CSR implementation, especially in several social policy areas.
Finally, she emphasised that civil society involvement and consultation in all aspects of Pillar implementation at EU and national level has mostly been ad-hoc. However, civil society organisations have a positive role to play in providing EU institutions with important information about the challenges on the ground. It is therefore crucial that the partnership with civil society is improved to become a more open, transparent and regular dialogue, as stipulated in article 11 of the Treaty on the European Union.
In February 2018, Social Platform’s Steering Group adopted a position paper entitled “Building Social Europe. A comprehensive implementation plan for an effective European Pillar of Social Rights”, detailing four main key messages:
- Introduce EU legislation to establish minimum social standards, and develop policy instruments to further the impact of the Pillar in Member States
- Effectively mainstream the principles of the Social Pillar in the European Semester, rebalancing social and economic priorities
- Invest in people, both at EU and national level
- Promote the meaningful involvement of civil society in the implementation of the Social Pillar, at EU and national level