On 7 May, the Social Summit organised by the Portuguese Presidency should be a milestone to reinvigorate the project of a fairer Europe. SGI Europe, EU social partner representing employers of services of general interest (SGI) and of public services, will present its vision and contribution to making Social Europe a reality.
Three years and a half after the Summit in Gothenburg, EU leaders and social partners will meet at the highest level in Porto to further address the implementation of the 20 principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR). For SGI Europe, one of the EU cross-industry social partners, this event is of particular importance.
Representing sectors at the frontline during the pandemic such as healthcare, education, housing, public transport or waste management, SGI Europe members have played an instrumental role over the past year. They are also key in pushing for a more social Europe.
A New Paradigm for SGIs
It is now time for Europe to build back better from the COVID-19 crisis, relying on a new paradigm on sustainability, growth and innovation. In line with the philosophy put forward by the NextGenerationEU and, particularly, the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), addressing the multifaceted transition – green, digital, ageing – together with its consequences, must be at the heart of our actions.
The three targets proposed in the European Pillar of Social Rights Action plan on employment, vocational training and poverty reduction should be the beacons for the EU social ambitions. We must embrace a new paradigm where productive investments in “essential” services and social protection are seen as levers of an inclusive recovery.
The EPSR already includes various principles on social protection and inclusion, such as key services from childcare to long-term care, housing and the wider realm of essential services.
With regard to the EPSR, we call for looking even further and including measures to ensure the quality of other essential services such as public transport, energy and education via the social scoreboard and the European Semester.
We need to be able to detect and correct paths when quality, accessibility and affordability of essential services are no longer seen as a priority for national policy making.
Building up on the COVID-19 crisis and its consequences across the continent and developing the social dimension of the EU project calls for all actors to work together responsibly. Social partners, with the representativeness and their hands-on knowledge of the reality of the labour market, have a central role to play.
SGI Europe strongly believes that future initiatives stemming from the European Pillar of Social Rights should foster this new paradigm and become a structural component of our European social model.
Reviewing the EU economic governance
A broader reflection on the EU economic governance and the growth model should be conducted. The Stability and Growth Pact needs to be made more relevant to the challenges of our time, and distinguish good debt for education, research and infrastructure from bad debt financing current expenditure.
Going one step further, we also question the current criteria used to measure growth. Social and political sustainability, with indicators pointing to the quality of our societies’ social fabric, should be accounted for as strategic elements when attempting to build back better.
The gross domestic product (GDP) indicator can no longer be the exclusive compass when charting the future of our economies. EU Social Partners have already started to reflect on the possibility to look “Beyond GDP”, and better take stock of the environmental and social aspects underpinning our economic model.
The post-pandemic recovery should contribute to foster cohesion and lay a solid and lasting growth path for the future. SGI Europe therefore wishes to continue this joint work with the support and commitment of the EU institutions and member states.
The pandemic has provided a unique window of opportunity to reflect on our future socio-economic model. This will however not last forever. Now it is the time to show leadership, vision, and ambitions.