EUROCITIES welcomes the European Pillar of Social Rights and demands for cities to be involved

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Today, the European Commission adopted its proposal on the European Pillar of Social Rights. The Pillar aims to update the European social model in light of changing economic and labour markets. It sets out 20 key principles and rights to support fair and well-functioning labour markets and welfare systems. They concern equal opportunities and access to the labour market, fair working conditions, and social protection and inclusion.

The pillar is set to become the guiding tool for EU social policy-making and determine legislative and non-legislative initiatives the EU takes, including the future of EU funding. As such, it is expected to have a direct impact on city administrations. It is primarily conceived for the euro area but applicable to all EU member states wishing to be part of it. Local authorities are specifically mentioned among the actors responsible for delivering on the Pillar and as a partner the Commission will work closely with to make sure that future EU funding is targeted to where it is needed the most.

Laia Ortiz, deputy mayor of Barcelona and chair of the EUROCITIES Social Affairs Forum, said: “More Europeans are living in poverty now than before the crisis and new forms of inequality are emerging every week. We need a new agenda for the European Union that puts people first. The European Pillar of Social Rights has the potential to achieve this by placing social rights at the centre of all EU policies. However, only by meaningfully including cities will it deliver where past initiatives have failed. Cities are the closest level of government to EU citizens and we have the know-how to work with people and deliver at the local level. Cities want to work together with the EU institutions and with national governments to make social rights a reality for every citizen. Europe doesn’t make sense without cities’ active participation.”

The Pillar is accompanied by some concrete legislative proposals such as the work-life balance of parents and carers, the information of workers, access to social protection and working time. 

Today, the Commission also released a social scoreboard to monitor progress in the implementation of the Pillar. The social scoreboard consists of indicators in 12 areas, including early childhood care, inequality, living conditions and poverty, and the impact of public policies on reducing poverty. This social scoreboard will track trends and performances in social policies across EU countries and feed into the European Semester. 

In November, the Commission will host an EU Social Summit for Fair Jobs and Growth in Gothenburg, which will gather EU heads of state or government in an effort to get their approval of the Pillar. Ahead of the EU summit, EUROCITIES will hold a meeting of its Social Affairs Forum to discuss the role of cities in the European Pillar of Social Rights and to send a strong message of commitment from cities to work together with EU institutions and national governments to make this pillar a reality on the ground.

Together with the proposal on the Pillar, the Commission also released a reflection paper on the social dimension of Europe by 2025, as a direct follow-up to the Commission’s White Paper on the future of the EU presented in March. The paper states “it is undisputed that the centre of gravity for action in the social field should and will always remain with national and local authorities and their social partners.”

EUROCITIES welcomes a stronger social Europe and is ready to lead the way by good practice. Andreas Schönström, vice-chair of the Social Affairs Forum and deputy mayor of Malmö, said: “Cities can do more and want to do more to improve the life conditions of citizens and their access to social rights. EU and national governments should make it possible for cities to do more and contribute to the shaping of a more social Europe. Imagine what Europe could be if the cities were allowed to do more.”

Relevant documents: 

Main image: © European Union , 2017   /  Source: EC - Audiovisual Service   /   Photo: Mauro Bottaro

EUROCITIES staff contact

Bianca Faragau-Tavares