Aiming for an updated European Pillar of Social Rights

16 April 2024

Today, Ricardo Rio, Mayor of Braga, is representing Eurocities at the high-level conference on the European Pillar of Social Rights hosted by the Belgian Presidency in La Hulpe (Belgium).

The presence of Rio underscores the crucial importance of the Pillar and our continued commitment to fostering inclusive urban communities across Europe.

“It’s remarkable how cities often step up to fulfill roles that fall under the purview of national governments,” said Rio at the conference. “Braga, for example, took pioneering steps by becoming the first city in Portugal to undertake the dental care costs for vulnerable children, an aspect previously overlooked by the national health system.”

Braga’s efforts extend beyond dental care. The city also complements the national health system by shouldering the financial burden of providing vaccines for babies.

Cities have been at the forefront of making the Pillar a living framework for social rights and inclusion in urban areas. It is now time to update the Pillar with concrete initiatives that mirror the social challenges European cities are facing.

In the Eurocities Social Manifesto, we advocate for a stronger way of monitoring the implementation of the Pillar, as well as a legislative boost and dedicated funding.

“I really believe Social funding and investment are essential to bringing the principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights to life locally,” said Rio at the conference. “By investing in quality public services, we can shield our citizens from the cost of living and the housing crises that many European cities currently face.”

Investing in social matters is essential to stop the housing crisis, eradicate homelessness, and boost responsible social procurement.

Other demands of our statement are:

  • Stop the housing crisis in cities by setting up a dedicated EU housing fund as part of the next multiannual budget starting in 2027 and broadening the definition of social housing in current state aid rules.
  • Establishing a new Council Recommendation laying down a concrete commitment to eliminate homelessness by 2030 together with cities.
  • Encourage socially responsive procurement — revise the 2014 public procurement directives for greater social conditionality.
  • Promote social investment in cities for high economic returns. As Rio pointed out, “It is crucial to recognize the positive economic returns of social investments, particularly in Early Childhood Education and Care policies. These investments not only benefit our children’s development but also have significant economic impacts, boosting female employment and reducing social disparities.”
  • Establish direct or earmarked EU funding for cities to tackle relevant social challenges in urban areas. “We believe national governments must prioritize adequate funding for social services,” Rio added. “It is essential that resources are allocated where they are most needed to support our children and families in accessing essential services.”

“Furthermore, we must advocate for EU funding mechanisms that move beyond short-term pilots and towards sustainable, long-term projects. By investing in initiatives that can be maintained over time, we can ensure the continuity of support for our communities, rather than relying on temporary fixes that fail to address underlying issues.”

Read our demands for the new European Social Agenda here.

This is part of Eurocities EU elections 2024 campaign. Read our manifesto here.


Marta Buces Eurocities Writer
Paolo Ciambellini Social Affairs Forum Coordinator