Social Platform calls on EU Member States to improve civil dialogue in the 2021 European Semester cycle

On 10 December 2020, Social Platform disseminated an open letter to EU Member States’ ministries responsible for the 2021 European Semester process calling on them to improve civil dialogue in this cycle, with a focus on involving civil society organisations (CSOs) in the development of their national Recovery & Resilience Plans (RRPs).

In this letter, we highlight our concerns regarding the lack of involvement of CSOs in the design and adoption of the RRPs and underline the importance of Member States developing their RRPs in close consultation with civil society organisations.

Indeed, CSOs are key interlocutors at EU and national levels in the European Semester process. They bring together local, regional, and national members working with and representing the interests of people, including those who are traditionally underrepresented in decision-making. They also represent local social services organisations who support on a day-to-day basis millions of people in their day-to-day lives. Their involvement helps ensure that policy and legislative reforms recommended and implemented in the context of the European Semester process to ensure Europe’s social recovery from the crisis correspond to the situation on the ground, for example with regards to concrete living and working conditions of people across Europe.

In the letter, we point out that national civil society organisations, supported by their European umbrella organisations that constitute Social Platform’s membership, are currently striving to engage with your national ministries on the preparation of the plans. However, in some countries, negotiations are ongoing behind closed doors, with no opportunities for these actors to input into the draft RRP. Indeed, CSOs face significant difficulties to give input during the elaboration phase due to a variety of factors, including unclear responsibilities within ministries, the reduced importance of Employment and Social Affairs Ministries (as the “established” interlocutors for these national social CSOs), short deadlines and a lack of structured and transparent procedures for their meaningful involvement in this year’s changed cycle.

We therefore call in the letter on EU Member States to do their utmost to engage in constructive dialogue with CSOs, in addition to the social partners, in the design and preparation of the plans. We also ask them to facilitate their involvement by publishing their draft RRP ahead of its approval, enabling stakeholders to provide input on the draft plans.

Finally, we emphasise that a strong social dimension of the European Semester process and a concrete space to enable the participation and consultation of CSOs is crucial to guarantee democratic and accountable decision-making that corresponds to the situation on the ground. If both are ensured, the European Semester process can help to ensure Europe’s social recovery from the crisis, making Europe a more prosperous, resilient, and socially just continent.