A European Pillar of Social Rights: First Reactions

15-09-2016

Key findings Based on earlier criticism of EMU policies, calls for complementing the European Semester exercise by a monitoring of social indicators, a ‘Social Triple A’ for Europe, were increasingly raised with the financial and economic crisis. Commission President Juncker made the issue into a central point of his policy agenda. In September 2015 he announced a ‘Pillar of Social Rights’, which should start with the euro area countries but remain open to others. The Commission proposal is organised along no less than 20 policy areas for each of which principles that should become common to participating states are set out. In this context, the precise meaning of “rights” (individual entitlements vs. principles) remains to be clarified, as does the issue of EU vs. Member State competency. The proposal is currently the subject of a wide-ranging stakeholder consultation, lasting until the end of 2016. Among the key initial reaction are an ILO report and an assessment by ETUI. While the ILO welcomes the initiative, making specific suggestions for improving social standards and fostering upward convergence, the ETUI analysis is more sceptical, flagging up the subordination of the social acquis to economic growth as the main goal and proposing to recast the whole text with a stronger emphasis on rights, including several new ones.

Key findings Based on earlier criticism of EMU policies, calls for complementing the European Semester exercise by a monitoring of social indicators, a ‘Social Triple A’ for Europe, were increasingly raised with the financial and economic crisis. Commission President Juncker made the issue into a central point of his policy agenda. In September 2015 he announced a ‘Pillar of Social Rights’, which should start with the euro area countries but remain open to others. The Commission proposal is organised along no less than 20 policy areas for each of which principles that should become common to participating states are set out. In this context, the precise meaning of “rights” (individual entitlements vs. principles) remains to be clarified, as does the issue of EU vs. Member State competency. The proposal is currently the subject of a wide-ranging stakeholder consultation, lasting until the end of 2016. Among the key initial reaction are an ILO report and an assessment by ETUI. While the ILO welcomes the initiative, making specific suggestions for improving social standards and fostering upward convergence, the ETUI analysis is more sceptical, flagging up the subordination of the social acquis to economic growth as the main goal and proposing to recast the whole text with a stronger emphasis on rights, including several new ones.