17 June 2020
Open letter to the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council
To the President of the European Commission, Ms. Ursula Von der Leyen
To the President of the European Council, Mr. Charles Michel
To the German Presidency of the EU, Ms. Angela Merkel
To the President of the European Parliament, Mr. David Sassoli
To the Heads of Government in membership of the European Council
Cc: Mr. Nicolas Schmit, Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights
Dear Presidents, Dear Prime Ministers,
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the entire European continent, leaving no one untouched. People have been forced to adapt their lives as they face a new reality. Whilst much action has already been taken to strengthen health care provision and protect the economy, there remain significant gaps in the actions taken by the European Union and Member States. If these gaps are not addressed quickly, then we will face severe economic and social consequences that may have a greater negative impact than those following the 2008 financial and economic crisis. The proposed Recovery Plan and the revised Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) must be focused on ensuring that no person is left behind and that the social impact of this crisis is minimized.
Eurodiaconia, a network of 52 churches and Christian organisations that provide social and healthcare services and advocate for social justice, welcomes that the proposed Recovery Plan and the adapted MFF recognise the core issues which have arisen both socially and economically as a result of the pandemic. However, we are concerned that the proposed measures and safeguards are not enough to tackle the social crisis. Ensuring the well-being of people across Europe must be recognised as a firm priority as you come to the adoption of the proposals. There must not be any reduced funding for programmes focused on cohesion and well-being such as the European Social Fund+ (ESF+). Additionally, the scope of the priorities of the Recovery Plan must include social services, not only health care services, as the pandemic has clearly demonstrated that social services are essential to our social fabric.
We welcome the proposal to earmark 5% of ESF+ funds for the alleviation of child poverty and the suggested earmarking of 10% of ESF+ funds for supporting young people. However, we are concerned that many other vulnerable groups are being neglected. The ESF+ is crucial for implementing social inclusion measures, and we must ensure that there is an overall commitment to addressing all forms of poverty and social exclusion. We, therefore, call on the Council to commit to earmarking of 25% of structural funds for this purpose and to make the fight against poverty a long-term priority for the European Union.
While some efforts have been made to engage social services in discussions regarding their funding needs in the current situation, we call for increased participation of social services at a European and national level when defining national priorities and criteria for structural funds. Consulting relevant stakeholders is of fundamental importance in this process, and social services need to be included to ensure targeted support for the most vulnerable.
Finally, we urge the European Council to move towards a quick adoption of both the Recovery Plan and the new Multiannual Financial Framework. Across Europe, the needs for social services and robust social policy are urgent and it is imperative to ensure continuity of services between the budgetary periods. We must not see services and actions that seek to ensure the inclusion of the most vulnerable in our society suspended or cancelled due to a lack of decision-making at the European level.
With over 30,000 service centres, approximately 800,000 staff, and over a million volunteers around Europe, the members of Eurodiaconia are at the forefront in confronting the social challenges of today, including the COVID-19 pandemic. Every day our members witness and respond to the social, economic, health, emotional and spiritual needs faced by people across the continent. Eurodiaconia has a unique view of the challenges on the ground and the emerging needs and trends and how the European Union must focus its response. As such, we hope you will provide the support our members require in order for them to continue helping those most in need across Europe.
We look forward to a positive outcome of your deliberations for the people of Europe and wish you well in your discussions.