On the 27th April EUD participated at the Annual Convention for Inclusive Growth (ACIG or the Convention). This year the Convention brought together civil society organisations and policymakers to discuss how to achieve truly inclusive growth and how to strengthen social dimension in the EU. During different workshops, side events and plenary debate participants analysed how to implement principles and rights enshrined in the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR, Social Pillar or the Pillar) on national as well as EU levels. Implementation of the Pillar would develop long-term solutions to fight poverty, increase employment and strengthen social cohesion and inclusion for all, including people with disabilities.
The Convention was opened by Marianne Thyssen, the Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility (DG EMPL). The Commissioner highlighted that the Pillar is the most ambitious social initiative in Europe and it is time to implement it. If implemented, principles of the Pillar can make a real impact on people’s lives. The Commissioner mentioned that the European Commission has already taken important initiatives, that aim at implementing principles of the Pillar, such as work-life balance directive proposal, proposal for transparent and predictable work conditions directive, proposal for a Council Recommendation on access to social protection, Youth Guarantee, the European Accessibility Act and others. Biser Petkov, Bulgaria’s Minister of Labour and Social Policy, emphasised that one of the priorities of Bulgarian presidency will be to develop these instruments to strengthen the social dimension in the EU.
During the Convention, EUD representatives participated in various workshops. The first workshop focused on how can EU funding support the implementation of the Social Pillar. The EPSR will constitute the reference for the design of the post-2020 EU financial programming period. It was highlighted that all four funding instruments managed by DG EMPL, European Social Fund (ESF), Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD), European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) and Employment and Social Innovation programme (EaSI), will have a major role in delivering the Pillar and the social and employment priorities endorsed in the context of the European Semester. It was emphasised that without reliable monitoring and adequate funding, results of implementation of the Pillar will not be sufficient. One of the priorities of the new multiannual financial framework should be to overcome the social inequalities in the EU. Investment in people and human capital should be a top priority starting from early childhood development.
During the workshop which aimed at answering how can the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) ensure an inclusive implementation of the Pillar, the participants discussed how to maximise synergies with the SDGs and the Pillar and how to make sure that no one is left behind during the process of implementation. The objectives, targets and indicators of the SDGs should be used while implementing the Social Pillar. Moreover, during the workshop participants discussed how to align the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities with the SDGs and the Pillar in order to ensure disability inclusive outcomes.
During the third workshop participants discussed the European Pillar of Social Rights in the context of multilateral economic policy coordination. It was highlighted that the EPSR will be implemented through the European Semester. Participants with the first-hand experience of the social issues at stake, and representatives of European and national institutions responsible for designing and implementing policy responses had an opportunity to have a dialogue.
Closing remarks of ACIG concluded that implementation of the Pillar is a necessary step for the EU, if it aims at strengthening its social dimension. Through presentations, workshops and interactive sessions, the Convention was an excellent opportunity for the EUD to exchange ideas and best practices with representatives from the European Commission and other stakeholders on how to turn the principles of the Pillar into a reality.