Trade union and civil society representatives launch talks with EU decision-makers on ways towards more public social investment in Europe

On 12 January the European Confederation of Independent Trade Unions (CESI), Social Platform and Eurodiaconia held a joint meeting with stakeholders and decision-makers on ways to achieve higher levels of public social investment in European Union Member States. It emerged that increased budgetary flexibility to promote such investment is a real possibility, especially in the areas of early childhood education and care, primary and secondary education, training and active labour market policies, as well as affordable and social housing. There is strong evidence demonstrating the economic benefit of public social investment in these fields, which are also key for developing human capital. Therefore budgetary flexibility could be permitted in areas producing both an economic and social impact.

The meeting launched a joint initiative by CESI, Social Platform and Eurodiaconia to nourish and structure emerging debates about a feasible and effective roadmap towards more public investments to counter social divergences in Europe.

Klaus Heeger, Secretary General of CESI, said: “Against the backdrop of sluggish public social investments and resulting increased social divergences across Europe, calls to allow Member States more budgetary flexibility under the EU’s macroeconomic governance framework are becoming increasing vocal. So far, however, a clear and politically feasible plan for this is missing.”

Jana Hainsworth, President of Social Platform, noted: “The need to promote investment is very high on the European agenda, but it mainly focuses on infrastructure, energy and transport. So far there has been little scope for the promotion of social investment. The cost of non-investment in people will be significant in the long-term not only from the social perspective, but in economic terms too.”

Opinions were given by Andriana Sukova-Toshevas, Director for investment at the European Commission as well as by the Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Maria João Rodrigues (S&D, Portugal) and the CEO of the European Policy Centre (EPC), Fabian Zuleeg.

Andriana Sukova-Toshevas, Director for investment at the European Commission, stated that the Commission will continue making use of budgetary flexibility to promote investment in Member States with limited fiscal space. She added that there is scope for better targeting of social investment in the frame of the European Semester and the European Structural and Investment Funds.

Maria João Rodrigues MEP emphasised that it is possible to promote fiscal discipline and investment at the same time. The country-specific recommendations of the European Semester should be used to better translate this policy mix.

Fabian Zuleeg, CEO of the European Policy Centre, argued that social investment needs to be clearly defined. It is also important to show that social investment can also be a productive factor.

Heather Roy, Secretary General of Eurodiaconia, said: “Following our launching discussion today, our objective is to continue driving and helping structure the debate on more public social investments in Europe, a topic of clearly vital importance for Europe’s societies. What we need is politically feasible approaches and solutions.”