What role for cities in social Europe plans?

17 December 2020

Europe is becoming more social. At least, that is a hope of the upcoming Portuguese presidency of the Council of the EU. Next May, Porto will host the EU Social Summit, and the work is already being done.

Earlier today, the European Parliament adopted a report on a strong social Europe for just transitions, which proposes a Social Progress Pact that would include economic, social and environmental wellbeing priorities with mandatory 2030 targets and indicators for social sustainability.

“Only if we invest in human capital and ensure sufficient protection for every worker, we can make sure that no one is left behind”, say the report’s rapporteurs Dennis Radtke MEP and Agnes Jongerius MEP, who want to ensure just green and digital transitions.

What’s in it for cities?

As cities have been on the front lines of managing the social impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, they will also be crucial for ensuring that no one is left behind in the recovery efforts in the coming months, and even years. To this end, Eurocities argued in its input to the Social Europe debate that social investment is key to a fair and inclusive recovery.

The good news is that many of these points were taken on board, and many of the proposals have a clear urban dimension. In fact, the European Parliament’s report calls for a strong social investment in the EU’s recovery package; ensuring EU financial support for social innovation at local level. This is an essential way to make public services more easily accessible, including through capacity-building and the scaling up of innovative local initiatives for e-inclusion and data literacy to tackle the digital divide in access to public services.

What’s more, the report also includes a request to dedicate a proportion of the Recovery and Resilience Facility to the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights principles that is equivalent to the investments in environmental and digital priorities.

Over the past year, Eurocities has collected 63 city pledges to the European Pillar of Social Rights through our campaign ‘Inclusive Cities for All’ totalling over €14.5 billion in social investment measures in cities. This shows a strong capacity at local level to fight poverty and social exclusion.

Indeed, the European Parliament report further acknowledges the role of local governments as key partners to involve in elaborating the territorial Just Transition Plans. Moreover, specifically on fighting child poverty, MEPs calls for ensuring that the EU Child Guarantee takes into account the specific challenges faced by different groups of children in need at local level.

However, given the essential role of cities, the European Parliament must still do more to engage cities as key partners in the governance of EU social policies, including with a recognised role at the EU Social Summit next year.

Read more on Eurocities’ Social Europe position here.