The European Commission has now officially launched its European Pillar of Social Rights. A draft proposal had been presented in March 2016, serving as a foundation for a public consultation which lasted until the end of 2016. The final version of the Pillar aims to take into account the recommendations of local and national governments, social partners and civil society. It has retained the original structure of the draft proposal, with three chapters dedicated respectively to ‘equal opportunities and access to the labour market’, ‘fair working conditions’ and ‘social protection and inclusion’. A joint declaration on the Pillar by the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council is scheduled to be published at the end of the year.

The overall number of principles has remained the same (20), although some important changes have been made; for example, ‘Integrated benefits and services’ has been removed as a separate principle, whilst the original principle on ‘access to housing’ now includes specific provisions on assistance for the homeless and protection against forced eviction.

The proposal on a Pillar of Social Rights is a key element of a more comprehensive ‘social package’, which includes a newly launched ‘Social Scoreboard’ to monitor the state or play and progress made regarding key social indicators across Member States. The Scoreboard is designed to be a key mechanism for ensuring effective implementation of the Pillar.

Furthermore, the Commission has also published a reflection paper on the social dimension of Europe. The reflection paper is part of a broader process aimed at charting a new direction for Europe, and follows on the White Paper on the future of Europe, released in early March. Similar to the White Paper, it does not recommend any specific course, but rather identifies and analyses a number of possible options (which would either greatly reduce, or enhance the social dimension of Europe).

An analysis of both the European Pillar of Social Rights and the reflection paper will be published in the next edition of Eurodiaconia’s European Semester Quarterly (late June). Members are warmly encouraged to address the contents of the Pillar and the reflection paper in their dialogues with national governments, and to contact the Eurodiaconia secretariat with any questions, comments and proposals they might have.