The 27 heads of EU national governments will commit to “closely following” progress towards new jobs, skills and poverty reduction targets and will be open to adding new indicators to the GDP to measure national progress, according to the latest draft of the Porto social summit declaration seen by EURACTIV.
In order to put the social compass at the heart of the green and digital recovery, EU leaders will hold the first European Council exclusively dedicated to social affairs in Porto (Portugal) this weekend.
Europe wants to avoid the mistakes from the previous crisis when the social scars were still visible years after the financial collapse of 2008.
The latest version of the final declaration, drafted on Thursday (6 May), said that “more than ever, Europe must be the continent of social cohesion and prosperity.”
“We reaffirm our pledge to work towards a social Europe,” the draft text said.
The summit will bring fresh momentum to the European Pillar of Social Rights, a 20-point strategy to achieve a more social EU launched in November 2017.
For EU officials, this is a critical moment to steer the recovery towards social goals, as the European Commission is in the process of approving the national recovery plans to overcome the biggest recession in EU history.
“We want to be sure that the reforms and investments are there” to progress faster on the social agenda, said an EU official.
The recovery fund, however, did not force member states to achieve social investment targets, as is the case with the Green and Digital agendas.
Among the lofty commitments and general principles, EU leaders stress the importance of “closely following, including at the highest level, the progress achieved towards the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights and the EU headline targets for 2030”.
These headline targets for this decade, proposed by the Commission in March, are: at least 78% of people aged 20 to 64 should be in employment; at least 60% of all adults should participate in training every year; and the number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion should be reduced by at least 15 million.
EU leaders are also expected to welcome an alternative set of social and environmental indicators to supplement GDP to measure welfare.
An EU official who did not want to be named said that Italy and Spain still had some reservations about the draft declaration to be adopted on Saturday.
Spain wanted to add some tweaks in relation to the Sustainable Development Goals. A senior EU diplomat familiar with the matter explained that the support to Madrid’s wish was “quite limited”, arguing that this addition was “nice to have” but not so much a “need to have”.
The 13-point draft declaration states that “a collective, inclusive, timely, and cohesive recovery will strengthen Europe’s competitiveness, resilience, social dimension and role on the global stage.”
EU leaders commit to continue deepening the European Pillar of Social Rights and consider that the Commission’s action plan from last March provides “useful guidance” to this end.
As the recovery evolves, member states say the priority should move from protecting jobs to creating jobs and improving employment quality, with proposals coming to this end at the national and European level.
EU unemployment reinsurance scheme falls off Commission’s radar
An EU reinsurance scheme to support national unemployment benefits was not part of the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan presented on Thursday (4 March), although the European Commission has been supportive of the idea.
EU leaders commit to reducing inequalities, fighting social exclusion and defending “fair wages”. They will step up efforts to fight against discrimination and will “work actively” to close the gender gap in pensions and wages, according to the draft text.
National governments will also “prioritise” action to support young people, “who have been very negatively affected by the COVID-19 crisis”, for example by using the full potential of Erasmus.
The draft declaration also says that changes linked to the digital revolution “will require particular attention with a view to reinforcing workers’ rights, social security systems and occupational health and safety.”
European recovery sidelines the young generation
Despite being the most affected group by the coronavirus-induced crisis, young Europeans feel increasingly left out from plans for post-pandemic recovery. Experts call for targeted measures to support them and ensure a quick implementation of the EU’s Youth Guarantee at the national level.