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Equinet Response to the European Commission’s public consultation on the First Preliminary Outline of a European Pillar of Social Rights

January 2nd 2017

Towards a European Pillar of Social Rights

In his 2015 State of the Union President Juncker said: "I will want to develop a European Pillar of Social Rights, which takes account of the changing realities of the world of work and which can serve as a compass for the renewed convergence within the euro area”, "I believe we do well to start with this initiative within the euro area, while allowing other Member States to join in if they wish to do so". On 8 March 2016, the European Commission put forward a first, preliminary outline of what should become the European Pillar of Social Rights. The Pillar will identify a number of essential principles common to euro area Member States, focusing on their needs and challenges in the field of employment and social policies.

Throughout 2016, the Commission has been engaging in a debate with EU authorities, social partners, civil society and citizens on the content and role of the Pillar to move towards a deeper and fairer Economic and Monetary Union. The outcome of this debate should feed into a final text of the European Pillar of Social Rights.

The Pillar should build on, and complement, our EU social "acquis" in order to guide policies in a number of fields essential for well-functioning and fair labour markets and welfare systems. The principles proposed do not replace existing rights, but offer a way to assess and, in the future, approximate for the better the performance of national employment and social policies.

Once established, the Pillar should become the reference framework to screen the employment and social performance of participating Member States, to drive reforms at national level and, more specifically, to serve as a compass for the renewed process of convergence within the euro area.

Read more about the European Commission’s work on the European Pillar of Social Rights

Public consultation on the European Pillar of Social Rights

The consultation process has three main aims:

  1. To make an assessment of the present EU social "acquis": Which existing rights are practiced and remain relevant for today’s and tomorrow’s challenges? Should we consider new ways to deliver on these rights?
  2. To reflect on new trends in work patterns and societies: What has been the impact of new technologies, demographic trends and other factors on our working life and social conditions? Which best practices and lessons from social innovation should be actively encouraged?
  3. To gather views and get feedback on the outline of the European Pillar of Social Rights itself and help Member States outside the euro area to determine whether to opt in: What will be the role, scope and content of the Pillar as part of the social dimension of EMU? What are the euro area’s needs? What are the challenges related to the principles put forward under the Pillar?

Read more about the public consultation

Equinet Response to the European Commission’s public consultation on the First Preliminary Outline of a European Pillar of Social Rights - December 2016

Equinet welcomes the European Commission’s First Preliminary Outline of a European Pillar of Social Rights as an important step in the programme outlined in ‘Completing Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union’ (also known as the Five Presidents’ Report). It is our hope that the proposed Pillar embodies a renewed commitment to the human rights of all persons living in the European Union, of which social and economic rights form an indivisible part. It is our hope that the proposed Pillar will contribute to a holistic European legislative and policy framework recognizing the interdependence of sustainable growth with respect for the rights of individuals.

The importance of ensuring a mutually reinforcing link between economic development and human development has long been recognized in the European Commission’s development cooperation with third countries, following the paradigms set forth in the UNDP’s human development concept (1990), and Equinet looks forward to seeing these principles applied within Europe’s borders as well as outside them.

Equinet bases this response on its recent publication ‘Equality Bodies Contributing to the Protection, Respect and Fulfillment of Economic and Social Rights’, which provides an overview of the work of national equality bodies in Europe in the field of economic and social rights. Both the research findings of equality bodies and their case work on economic and social rights will be used to elucidate ways in which the different policy domains proposed in the First Preliminary Outline of a European Pillar of Social Rights could be strengthened to fully respect and be in compliance with the social and economic rights the European Union and its member states have agreed to be bound by.

  • National equality bodies continue to support monitoring of social and economic rights at member state level, and could fruitfully be strengthened to fulfil this role where that is not yet the case.
  • National equality bodies could be involved in developing suitable and human rights compliant indicators for measuring and monitoring social and economic rights within the framework of the European Semester.

At the outset, Equinet offers the opinions of three of its members for general consideration when designing the next iteration of the proposed Pillar of Social Rights:

  • The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission submitted a report (2015) to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in which the Commission inter alia raised “[t]he need for a state to invest in, develop and promote wider use of Social Impact Assessments as a monitoring tool for the impact of budgetary decision-making on the socio-economic status of people living in poverty in a range of policy areas."
  • The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, in its communication with national government departments, has inter alia urged that “equality considerations, including the need to identify and mitigate any adverse impacts of policy on equality groups are taken into account. The Commission has drawn attention to the obligations to prevent retrogression of rights and to promote ‘progressive realization’ of the relevant rights to the maximum of available resources.”
  • In its investigation of a case where the complainant was adversely impacted by austerity measures in 2013, the Ombudsman of the Republic of Latvia opined that the austerity measures in question “should not have been applied to vulnerable groups and may not affect such areas as health care, education and social security.”

In line with the concerns of its members, Equinet highlights the need for attention to be paid to equality and non-discrimination concerns in all proposed policy domains, and to consider throughout the policy design the need for progressive, and not retrogressive, realization of social and economic rights.

Equinet Response
Equinet Response