What can we expect from the Commission in 2016?

“No time for business as usual” – this is the 2016 motto of the European Commission’s work programme for next year. Beyond the new style – only 13 pages to read – I am more interested in the substance and where there could be hooks to promote a social Europe alongside the Juncker Commission.

The first hook appears in the new initiatives. Out of 23 initiatives, eight can promote a social dimension.

The one I am particularly interested in is the “pillar of social rights” (1) for “greater convergence of employment and social performance over time”. Problematically, very few people know what the social pillar actually consists of. Rumour has it that it will be mainly focused on employment, but “social” goes way beyond employment alone. For Social Platform, the pillar must include social standards such as minimum income, minimum wage, unemployment benefits and access to quality services.

The Commission also wants to promote the mobility of workers (2), but there are still some problems with it such as vulnerable workers’ access to social security in host countries. This is why we are awaiting the labour mobility package which will address the coordination of social security between Member States to make sure that EU citizens don’t lose their rights to social security in the hosting Member State if they lose their job.

There will also be initiatives for work-life balance (3) and for a sustainable European future (4) that addresses the Europe 2020 Strategy’s goal of reducing the number of people experiencing poverty by 20 million by 2020. There will be two initiatives (5 and 6) on migration management and we commit to continuing our work to promote humanitarian support to refugees. The Commission will review its financial framework (7) where were we will advocate for more to be dedicated to social inclusion and will make a proposal for a mandatory transparency register for interest representatives (8). We will look at how to ensure that civil dialogue is enshrined in this agreement for the voices of people in vulnerable situations to reach decision-makers.

Aside from new initiatives, we must not lose sight of policy proposals already on the table. I hope that the Commission will use the fact that it is doing less this year to dedicate more time and resources on securing the adoption of the Equal Treatment Directive to prevent discrimination in access to goods and services such and schools, hospitals and housing. After eight years of stalemate in the European Council, it is time to move on and to put an end to ”politics as usual”.

Let’s engage,

Pierre Baussand, Director