This week, as we celebrate its first year anniversary, Euclid zooms into the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR); a set of initiatives that has raised as much expectation as scepticism from civil society organisations and social enterprises across Europe.
The social dimension of the European construction has been deemed neglected for decades by numerous academics and commentators; the major obstacles being the EU’s lack of legal prerogative in the area and the major disparities between member States (on State welfare provisions, social protection, labour laws, etc.)
So, a year after its launch, what are results? And, what does the EPSR mean for Euclid and its members?
A reinvigorating push towards a European Social Policy ineluctably contained within the frame of a ‘soft law’
During Gothenburg’s ‘Social Summit’ a year ago, and after a decade of austerity following the crisis, the EU officially launched the ‘European Pillar of Social Rights’ (EPSR). The idea? Make the social dimension of the EU stronger. Concretely, the EPSR consists in 20 principles structured into 3 categories: Equal opportunities and access to the labour market, Fair working condition, Social protection and inclusion. Those principles are, in reality, a set of recommendations to the Member States on areas such as gender equality, social dialogue, work-life balance, childcare, inclusion of people with disabilities onto the labour market, etc.
While the EPSR seems ambitious and gives a clear direction, it hits the everlasting obstacle when it comes to building a ‘Social Europe’: the lack of legal bind for Member States to implement it. If the EU has legislative prerogative in a few areas covered by the EPSR and took some concrete actions on some already (e.g. work-life balance with the introduction of a paternity leave and the strengthening of the parental leave directive), we’re mainly confronted here to fields where it’s up to national governments to act (e.g. gender equality, education, labour laws, housing, assistance for the homeless, wages, etc.)
So, without legal bind and no formal funding stream linked to it, how can we, social enterprises support and civil society organisations, make the most of the Social Pillar?
Euclid Network is best placed to use the Pillar to influence the future European budget and its allocation to our sector
Euclid Network wants to see the EPSR as major influence to pervade all of EU’s future law and produce more concrete and binding social-focused legislation. We also wish for the systematisation of the use of social standards in EU governance starting with its budget (through ‘the European Semester’ process) and therefore in the design of future European funding streams and financial instruments. “Effective implementation of the Social Pillar also means that social measures must be properly financed in the EU’s future budget for 2021-2027.” (EESC, 16.11.18 Press release)
DG Employment’s funding instruments, such as the EaSI programme that Euclid Network benefits from, are key to delivering the EPSR. Euclid Network advocates for social entrepreneurship and social finance development to be considered as priorities of the next EU budget (we tell you more about that here) with clear incentives and more funding.
Advocacy through European benchmarking? A way for Euclid’s members to use the EPSR for more social impact
If no compulsory implementation of the recommendations has been imposed to the Member States, the EPSR has the potential to be used as an advocacy tool by social-impact focused organisations.
Civil society and social enterprise have indeed a key role to play in securing and monitoring the Pillar’s implementation in national laws. And, for that, why not use the EPSR’s ‘social scoreboard’? This tool has been designed to evaluate the Member States’ performance vis-à-vis some dimensions of the Pillar (the grading ranges from “critical situations” to “best performers”) and could be envisaged as a benchmarking tool to push for real convergence amongst countries through, for example, more active and long-term social investment strategies, active labour market policies, reformed welfare provisions. (We’ve worked on that before, have a look!)
A year after its launch, it is still hard to assess whether the EPSR initiative has more to it than previous unfortunate attempts to make the EU ‘more social’. For now, Euclid choses to add it to its toolbox to push for more active social and labour policies and more European support for the social enterprise sector.
What’s the European Semester?
EU facts & figures
- 12 millions new jobs created since 2014
- 2017 employment rates in the EU: 78% for men – 66.5% for women
- In the second quarter of 2018, 239 million persons were employed in the EU
- In 2017, 5 million people exited from poverty or social exclusion
- Youth unemployment is now below 15%.
- As of November 2018, the Juncker Plan is set to trigger almost €360 billion in investments
“Euclid Network wants to see the EPSR as major influence to pervade all of EU’s future law and produce more concrete and binding social-focused legislation”.
If you would like to find out more about the European Pillar of Social Rights, please contact Euclid Network.