Social Platform sends an open letter to the European institutions calling to reinforce the social dimension of Next Generation EU and the revised 2021-2027 EU Budget

Ursula Von der Leyen, President of the European Commission
Charles Michel, President of the European Council
David Sassoli, President of the European Parliament
Andrej Plenković, CroatianPresidency of the Council of the EU
Angela Merkel, upcoming German Presidency of the Council of the EU

Vera Jourova, EC Vice-President on Values and Transparency
Nicolas Schmit, Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights
Elisa Ferreira, Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms
Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for Budget and Administration

Open letter to the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council-Call to reinforce the social dimension of Next Generation EU and the revised 2021-2027 EU Budget

Dear Honorary Presidents,

We are facing unprecedented health, economic, employment and social crises caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The European Commissionstated that the EUwill face a large increase in unemployment, hardship and inequality in the years to come, worse than what occurred in 2008.

Social Platform, the largest network of civil society organisations in the EU advocating for a social Europe, acknowledges all the efforts sought by the three institutions in ensuring a rapid response to the pandemic. For what concerns the Commission’s proposals for a 2021-2027 revised EU budget and a recovery plan, we strongly endorse the European Parliament’s recommendation that this plan must not affect the EU’s long-term priorities nor result in a smaller EU budget.

We welcome the proposal for a Next Generation EU to strengthen healthcare systems, to protect the economy, businesses and workers in the aftermath of the pandemic, as well as strategic and forward-looking investmentsto drive and support the digital and green transitions. However, the social dimension should be strongly embedded, to make sure that these transitions do not exclude anyone, in particular the most vulnerable. Thus, we regret to see that, despite the announcements, the legislative proposals do not underpinthe commitment to invest in mitigating the social consequences of the current crisis.Here, we would like to express three main concerns:

1.The Commission’s proposals for the 2021-2027 EU Budget and for Next Generation EU do not foresee sufficient measures and funding to tackle the current social crisis and to build inclusive societies

In the whole package, measures are mainly employment related and it is a fact that employment alone cannottackle social exclusion and poverty. While the European Social Fund Plus is the only instrument that takes a broader approach to social problems throughout Europe and implements the European Pillar of Social Rights, we therefore have majorconcerns about the 3,5 billion € cuts foreseen and about the fact that the  earmarking for social inclusion and child poverty does not add resources. While we welcome the additional resources by REACT-EU, those resources are needed to tackle current problems related to theCOVID-19 pandemic and do not finance long-term strategic measures to avoid social inclusion and poverty in the aftermath of the crises. Moreover, within the amount that will be available, topped by REACT-EU, we call for measures to be put in place tomakesure that the flexibility given to Member States to deal with anti-crisis measures does not leadto further disinvestment in social inclusion and fighting poverty.

2.The essential role that civil society plays in the response to social challenges, as a major employer and watchdog, is not recognised and supported enough

In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the essential function of the social sector of civil society in responding to recovery measures, including access to essential quality services and living in dignity, ensuring the protection of peoples’ rights, and acting as a watchdog when it comes to anti-discrimination, protection of the environment and respect of the rule of law, must be ensured. The above-mentioned cuts and the 20%reduction of the Rights and Values programme will put extreme pressure on the social sector and on civil society organisations whosemissions are to protect and promotethe rights and values enshrined in the EU Treaties and in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

3.The processes envisaged to adopt the new measures do not strike the right balance between ensuring a rapid response and enabling democratic and accountable decision-making

The quick adoption of measures to disburse additional resources for 2020-2022 is necessary. However, this should not hinder the role of theEuropean Parliament, the only elected institution, and of the Council of the EU, to decide on post-2020 measures, and to have a say on the legislative texts. Moreover, in the absence of agreed legislative texts and given the limits of the current implementation of the partnership principle, we question the legitimacy and accountability of Member States’ decisions concerning their funding priorities in the programming of European Structural and Investment Funds.

If the three institutions cannot renegotiate the figures and address the shortcomings that we have identified, the already worrying levels of poverty, including child and family poverty, social exclusion, homelessness, over-indebtedness, material deprivation, long-term unemployment, unemployment of persons with disabilities, youth unemployment, people being placed in segregated institutional care, among others, will inevitably increase. This will lead to further divisions in society, increased inequalities, and a disharmonious Union, that we all want to avoid.

In a spirit of collaboration to define a well-balanced approach to respond to the economic and social crisis ahead of us, we would like to engage in a constructive dialogue to discuss possible solutions jointly.

Piotr Sadowski
Presdient of Social Platform