I hope you have all enjoyed a summer break that has given you energy and motivation for the coming months. We will need it. Recent data shows us that the high level of social exclusion and poverty remains a scandal that Europe is yet to effectively address. In the coming week President Juncker will make his highly anticipated State of the Union speech to the European Parliament which will be followed by a meeting of 27 of the 28 Member States of the EU in Bratislava. There they will have an informal summit on Europe and its challenges.
This week I was thinking what would we say as Eurodiaconia if we were making that State of the Union speech? What would we want to be on the agenda in Bratislava? I think we would want to see a clear commitment by Member States to reducing poverty and social exclusion in a targeted way, with an introduction of an adequate minimum income, access to quality social services and reduction of barriers to the labour market. We would like to see a better balance between social and economic policies that puts human dignity and worth at the centre of all policies – human wellbeing comes first and then the economy is organised to achieve that goal. We would want to see actions to end the discrimination that many people face in accessing their social rights – Roma, migrants and refugees, people experiencing poverty. We would want to see a commitment by leaders to ensuring and leading hospitable societies, where everyone is valued and where all are welcome. We would want to see actions to end racism and xenophobia that is starting to be normalised in many parts of Europe and so damages any hope of social cohesion.
Sadly, I am not sure that this will be the content. For all the talk of a Social Triple A and smart sustainable and inclusive growth, the European Union and its leaders still seem to see social policies as secondary to economic policies. Yet the recent and continuing developments both politically and structurally in Europe should highlight the need to re-engage people in the European Union and have a union that works for all. That is the message that needs to come from leaders across our continent – and be backed up with actions.
At Eurodiaconia we will be continuing to contribute to the debate with our work on the European Pillar of Social Rights, Social Services and specific policy areas such as Roma inclusion, inclusion of migrants and older people. This autumn we will have several events where our members will be sharing what works in terms of improving social wellbeing and how this can be translated into structural changes and policies in other parts of Europe. We will be working with partners to build strong alliances for social change and supporting our members in their work at national level.
It is a big task, but after the holidays we are ready for the challenge – why don’t you join us in meeting it?
Have a good weekend,