EU leaders face demands to implement European Pillar of Social Rights when they meet in Porto for a ‘social summit’

At the two day meeting they will be asked to commit to quantitative targets in three areas: employment, skills and poverty.
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By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

07 May 2021

EU leaders will face demands on Friday to implement the European Pillar of Social Rights when they meet in Porto for a ‘social summit’.

At the two day meeting they will be asked to commit to quantitative targets in three areas: employment, skills and poverty.

The aim is to raise the employment rate to 78 per cent, from 73 per cent before the COVID-19 pandemic; ensure that 60 per cent of adults engage in some kind of training every year and reduce by 15 million, the number of people at risk of poverty and social exclusion.

A so-called ‘pillar of social rights’ was agreed at a previous social summit which was held in Gothenburg four years ago.

The summit has been jointly organised by Portugal, which holds the rotating EU Council presidency and the European commission.

Participants include the President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli who will give a speech at the Alfândega do Porto Congress Centre later on Friday to discuss ways to implement the European Pillar of Social Rights.

“We invite the European Council to endorse the Social Pillar Action Plan targets and call on Member States to be ambitious when they define ways to achieve them" European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit

On Saturday Sassoli will open the informal meeting of EU heads of state and government. Other participants include the president of the European Council Charles Michel and the Prime Minister of Portugal António Costa.

European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit, in a pre-summit video message, said, “We invite the European Council to endorse the Social Pillar Action Plan targets and call on Member States to be ambitious when they define ways to achieve them. Civil society actors together with social partners should play an important role.”

Also speaking on the eve of the get together, S&D Group leader in the European Parliament, Iratxe García said she wants the Porto summit to be a “turning point for Europe.”

The Spanish MEP said, “People must be put first, beyond GDP figures, because economic growth only matters if it improves people’s daily lives. There is nowhere better than Portugal to show that a crisis can be solved with solidarity.

“After years of austerity, the Covid-19 pandemic unveiled the truth: only strong social policies can contribute to facing the crisis. We need a strong social net to take millions of Europeans out of poverty and to ensure decent salaries for the so-called working poor.”

“It is just unacceptable that one out of four children in the EU are at risk of social exclusion. And, we must provide support for those self-employed workers whose small businesses have been hit by the essential Covid-19 restrictions.”

"The summit is a chance to build the foundations of a post-COVID recovery that provides opportunities for all EU citizens. The world of work is changing, accelerated by the pandemic, and we must adapt our policies to ensure no EU citizen is left behind" European Parliament Renew Europe Group leader Dacian Cioloş

“I hope that national leaders will listen to the call of the Porto summit and give a new impulse to social rights.”

The European Parliament’s Renew Europe Group leader Dacian Cioloş, who will attend the Porto meeting, said, "The summit is a chance to build the foundations of a post-COVID recovery that provides opportunities for all EU citizens.

“The world of work is changing, accelerated by the pandemic, and we must adapt our policies to ensure no EU citizen is left behind.

“According to several international studies, 85 percent of the jobs of 2030 do not yet exist. We need to invest in skills and human capital, including "lifelong learning" programmes. In our view, the EU has a key role to play in helping to identify the major labour market changes on a continental scale. This is the message I wanted to bring to the summit."

Vasco Alves Cordeiro, a vice-president of the European Committee of the Regions, added, “We want a fairer and sustainable EU to emerge from the Covid-19 crisis. However, previous crises have shown that this will not happen on its own.”

Further comment comes from Piotr Sadowski, president of the Brussels-based NGO Social Platform, who said, “In Porto, we will be agreeing and adopting a Social Summit Declaration, which will be a crucial communication from the event.

“However, we cannot allow that after Porto, Member States hide behind the Declaration and do not deliver on the targets of the European Pillar of Social Rights and its Action Plan.”

“The time is now for the EU and member states to take bold and decisive action, demonstrating to people across Europe that they are fully committed to building a more resilient, socially just, and inclusive Europe that they want.”

“The involvement of civil society organisations, with crucial expertise and knowledge of lived realities of people, including those in the most vulnerable situations, as key stakeholders, is vital to ensure the full and ambitious implementation of the Social Pillar and its Action Plan.”

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