The Social Pillar and European Semester as tools for delivering social Europe - a reflection with civil society
On the 17th April EUD attended the seminar "The Social Pillar and European Semester as tools for delivering social Europe – a reflection with civil society" in Brussels. The Seminar was organised by the European Centre of Expertise (ECE) in the field of Labour Law, Employment and Labour Market Policies on behalf of the Directorate General (DG) for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion of the European Commission, Unit A.1 (Employment and Social Aspects of European Semester). The aim of this seminar was to bring representatives of civil society and the European Commission together to discuss the European Pillar of Social Rights (the Pillar) in the context of multilateral economic policy coordination within the European Semester. The seminar examined recent reforms in supporting social inclusion in the context of the European Semester, focusing on three thematic areas: social inclusion, safety net and poverty prevention in changing societies; efficient employment services for a recovering economy; and securing equal opportunities through labour-market relevant education.
The seminar was opened by Barbara Kaufmann, Director for Employment and Social Governance at the Directorate General of Employment Social Affairs and Inclusion (DG EMPL). While discussing what has already been done to incorporate the Pillar in the European Semester, Bart Vanhercke, from the European Social Observatory, highlighted that during the period of 2011-2014, social topics addressed during EU Semester process (poverty; pensions; social inclusion; level of education etc.) were increasing and in Country Specific Recommendations (CSRs) are mostly linked to employability. It was highlighted that European Pillar of Social Rights is important step in socializing EU Semester, however it needs to be better integrated in the EU Semester process. The social dimension of the European Semester should be further enriched by mainstreaming the priorities of the European Pillar of Social Rights. The Country Reports can make use of the data gathered via the Social Scoreboard to keep track of employment and social performances. Areas of particular concerns in some Member States include: persistent gender employment gap, high labour market segmentation and the risk of in-work poverty, the low impact of social transfers on poverty reduction.
Jeroen Jutte, Head of Unit "Employment and social aspects of European Semester" at the Directorate General (DG) for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion of the European Commission emphasized that the European Pillar of Social Rights aims at well-functioning labour markets, effective welfare systems and increasing economic and social resilience while EU Semester monitors and analyses fiscal, economic and social developments. In order to strengthen the monitoring of implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights in the European Semester the priorities of the European Pillar of Social Rights should be reflected in the analysis of measures taken and progress made at national level. Moreover, screening employment and social performances on the basis of the new Social Scoreboard should take place, thus supporting the broader process of upward convergence.
The objective of the seminar was to stimulate a positive debate on the issue through an interactive and open discussion between civil society organisations with first-hand experience of the social issues at stake, and representatives of European Commission responsible for designing and implementing policy responses. It was concluded that the European Semester analysis and recommendations will further reflect and promote principles set out in the Pillar. This will not only feed into the European Semester of economic policy coordination, but also serve to assess progress towards the implementation of the Pillar.