„Time to create a Europe for all and with all!” – Social Platform hosts virtual event on ensuring the EU’ social recovery through the European Semester process

On 7 July 2020, Social Platform organised a virtual European Parliament event entitled “Good governance in the times of COVID-19: launching the EU’s social recovery through the European Semester process”. The event was co-hosted with Vice-President and Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Klára Dobrev, S&D, rapporteur of the draft report on the employment and social policies of the euro area 2020.

The event was the second in a series of Social Platform European Parliament events focused on different aspects of the European Pillar of Social Rights (Social Pillar). Its objective was to debate the role of the European Semester process in supporting the EU’s social recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and to discuss necessary reforms of the Semester process to ensure that it reaches its full potential in this regard.

The meeting was opened by Social Platform President Piotr Sadowski and Klára Dobrev MEP. Ms Dobrev highlighted that the crisis already led to a significant change of views among decision-makers at EU level with regards to the ambition of the upcoming EU budget and underlined that this is the time to shape the future of a more social Europe. Mr Sadowski confirmed that this is a crucial moment with important institutional decisions to be made and highlighted the importance of involving civil society organisations in developing the right reforms that can help Europe recover from this crisis.

As part of a panel of European civil society organisations (CSOs) active in the social field, Heather Roy, Social Platform board member, presented key Social Platform’s key messages on European Semester reform. She underlined the importance of the Semester reform in the difficult context of this crisis but highlighted several issues with and limitations of the process that need to be addressed to ensure that the process is well equipped to contribute to Europe’s recovery. She elaborated on the following key asks:

In a next step, representatives from Social Platform’s member organisations AGE Platform Europe, the European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN), Eurocarers, Eurodiaconia, the European Network of Social Integration Enterprises (ENSIE), the European Roma Grassroots Organisations (ERGO) Network and SOLIDAR took the floor to present their key messages.

The speaking points presented during the civil society panel are available here.

In a second panel discussion, several institutional speakers reacted to the presentations of the civil society organisations and gave their own views on the topic.

Klára Dobrev, MEP, pointed out three objectives with regards to the European Semester process. She highlighted that the social dimension of the Semester process needs to be further strengthened, as despite 10 years of consecutive GDP growth in the last ten years ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic, inequalities and poverty have increased. Secondly, she highlighted the importance of increasing the political ownership of all stakeholders in the Semester process. Finally, she stated that the implementation of reform recommendations must be significantly improved to address existing inequalities and poverty across Europe, which, if they remain unaddressed, risk the future of the EU.

Dennis Radtke, MEP, EPP, Shadow rapporteur for Ms Dobrev’s report pointed out that the economic consequences of this crisis are worse than the ones of the economic and financial crisis of the 2000’ and 2010’s. He underlined that Europe must avoid repeating the same mistakes as after the last crisis, when austerity measures led to massive social problems and a rise of populism across Europe.

Filip Tanay, Team Leader – Employment and Social aspects of the European Semester, DG Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion from the European Commission explained how the Spring package of the 2020 cycle aimed at addressing the new challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. He highlighted that lot can be achieved through the Semester but that we need to improve it and make sure that reforms are developed and implemented with all stakeholders, including civil society organisations. He finally underlined that we share the objective of creating a Europe for all and with all and need to continue discussing on how to achieve this objective.

Jan Farzan, German member of the Social Protection Committee, agreed with previous speakers about the need to ensure that the Social Pillar is the compass for action within the Semester process. He also mentioned several priorities of the German Council Presidency and voiced the Presidency’s support to the demand of ensuring the involvement of civil society organisations in the Semester process. Finally, he agreed with statements made by the representatives of various civil society organisations about the need for a post-2020 strategy that includes all foreseen initiatives and strategies at EU level.

Following the panel debate, institutional speakers answered several questions from participants, including about the ongoing update of the employment guidelines. Klára Dobrev MEP highlighted the need for strengthening the EU’s decision-making capacity in the social field and Filip Tanay from the European Commission detailed difficulties in recommending the right reforms due to the time it takes to collect European social statistics and highlighted the need to improve data collection.

Social Platform President Piotr Sadowski closed the event, underlining Social Platform’s continued dedication to advocating for social justice and civil dialogue in Europe.