Reinforcing Social Europe

Give your views about refining the European Pillar of Social Rights

Article written by Mark Abdilla – Executive, MEUSAC
Published in The Malta Independent – 09.09.2020

Europe’s social policy has consistently prioritised the principles of equality, social protection and justice for workers. In 2017, the publication of the European Pillar of Social Rights further prioritised the EU’s social dimension, and further increased the importance of ensuring that no one is left behind as the European economy continues to develop.

The Pillar seeks to ensure that the transitions of climate-neutrality, digitalisation, and demographic change are socially fair and just. However, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and its effects on the European economy, the Pillar must also take into account the dimension of economic recovery and seek to ensure fair treatment among citizens who lost their employment as a result of the pandemic.

The Pillar establishes 20 principles, structured around three categories highlighting the most important issues which need to be addressed in the European economy. These are: equal access to the labour market, just working conditions, and social protection and inclusion. As such, these take into account the importance of education, equal job opportunities, a decent standard of living, as well as a healthy work-life balance.

The Von der Leyen Commission has further prioritised these policy areas, through initiatives such as the EU Gender Equality Strategy, the European Skills Agenda, further investment in the EU Solidarity Corps, and Next Generation EU. These have continued to build on further social policy initiatives taken throughout the years by the EU and will continue to be complemented by the Pillar.

The primary challenge, when it comes to ensuring that such ambitious principles are properly implemented within European legislation, is to harmonise the social dimension into existing and future legislative actions.  As such, it would necessitate that social policy becomes part and parcel of decisions taken in other policy areas, such as in economic policy as well as environmental policy.

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has further enhanced this importance, with health and social policies having become intertwined in ensuring that the virus does not spread while safeguarding both the economies of Member States and the livelihoods of European citizens.  This also means that the Pillar envisaged in 2017 requires reinforcement in order to account for new realities and to remain relevant.

To support these objectives, as well as to update the scope of the Pillar, a public consultation is open until 30 November 2020, whereby citizens, social partners, civil society, government entities, and the private sector are being invited to present their views on how to best implement the Pillar. Contributions may take the form of initiatives and policy proposals at EU, national and regional levels, as well as pledges for entities to undertake specific initiatives aimed at strengthening their social dimensions. The idea is for everyone to be able to directly contribute their views and expectations on the best way forward for the delivery of a truly Social Europe. Ultimately, strong social policy is important in ensuring a better quality of life for citizens and a fairer economy across the board. This highlights the importance of participating in social dialogue exercises to influence decision-makers.

The consultation exercise is being held online through the European Commission website. MEUSAC, as the government agency responsible for social dialogue on European affairs in Malta, is available to provide interested parties with further information and guidance on how to participate. You may contact MEUSAC by email on info.meusac@gov.mt or by phone on 2200 3300.

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