EU credibility as a people’s union rests on the social pillar

Buffeted by the pandemic and by populism, the EU needs the European Pillar of Social Rights to become a solid anchor of security for all.
By Liina Carr – Next week, the European Commission is set to unveil its Action Plan for putting the European Pillar of Social Rights into practice. The European Trade Union Confederation is pressing hard for an ambitious plan, which provides the means to achieve and monitor tangible social progress.

The EPSR was adopted by member states in 2017 but—partly due to the social and economic damage inflicted by the pandemic—European citizens might be forgiven for wondering what difference it has made to their lives. It was the former commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, who announced the initiative in his 2015 State of the Union address. The text was finally proclaimed by European Union leaders at the Social Summit in Gothenburg.

The ETUC played a major role in developing its 20 principles, which we see as crucial to strengthening the EU’s social dimension—ensuring that the welfare of workers and their families is not subordinated to the economic interests of the single market.

Despite its legalistic language, the pillar however lacks legal force: the principles do not give direct rights to any individual. It has been described as an agenda, ‘a compass for a renewed process of upward convergence towards better working and living conditions in Europe’.

The ETUC sees it as a guiding strategic framework, enabling the commission to bring forward legislation and other initiatives to strengthen social wellbeing. But at a time when the EU is under intense scrutiny for its handling of the Covid-19 crisis, implementing the pillar in a way that touches people’s lives is a question of credibility for European institutions and member-state governments in the eyes of their citizens. There is no time to waste. more>

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