On October 12th, the European Council adopted conclusions on ’Strengthening Minimum Income Protection to Combat Poverty and Social Exclusion in the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond’1, which were welcomed by Eurodiaconia and its members. We are thankful to the efforts of the German Council Presidency to move this important issue further along and for highlighting the need to invest more in accessibility, adequacy and enabling aspects of minimum income schemes to effectively raise the living and working conditions of millions of people currently experiencing poverty or social exclusion.
However, while Eurodiaconia welcomes the conclusions and the efforts made, we join the strong calls for the implementation of a legally binding EU framework directive.2 The COVID-19 pandemic revealed once again the gaps in social protection coverage for the most vulnerable in our societies, such as platform workers, migrants and refugees, people working in the informal sector, temporary workers and people with precarious work contracts, among others. If we wish to see the full implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights, then there must be action taken in this regard.
Unfortunately, the political conclusions lack the legally binding force to give these principles an enforceable effect. Recognising subsidiarity, the EU can set European minimum standards for national minimum income schemes through a legally binding framework without harmonising them. Regulations that go beyond the minimum standards remain open to Member States.
Heather Roy, Secretary General of Eurodiaconia, states that: “Adequate minimum income meets fundamental principles of fairness. Millions of Europeans have a strong attachment to and expectations of the European Social Model. They want to know if EU leaders will commit to making adequate minimum income schemes a reality in all member states. The time is now to strengthen the commitment to a social Europe, not dilute it.”