This week European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker gave his ‘State of the European Union’ address to the European Parliament. For someone who has made much of wanting to ensure that Europe can have a Social Triple A rating I was hugely disappointed that his programme for the next year does not seem to put poverty and social exclusion as a priority. Instead, we heard more about how to structure the European Union to streamline leadership and power. Those proposals may not be bad ideas in themselves but I can’t help feel the focus is on structures rather than what those structures can achieve.
Leadership and power should be used for the common good, to ensure that no one lives in indignity or poverty, that no one faces discrimination because of their identities, that no one is denied access to essential social and health care services because of economic decisions. I heard none of this in the state of the union address. Instead, it seems that social rights only concern those in employment and only where they impact on competition between industries and companies and the goals of the Europe 2020 strategy seem to have been forgotten. Where is the social leadership in Europe? Where is power used to achieve social goals and support the common good? If it is not from our political leaders then the NGO sector needs to step in and be more vocal about what can and should be done to ensure a Social Triple A. We need to take the leadership of a Social Europe and build partnerships with those who share those goals.
This week across the Eurodiaconia network I have seen where our members are taking up the challenge of social leadership – working to ensure the inclusion of young people, fighting for the rights of migrants and refugees, caring for people with dementia and fighting populism and extremism through social inclusion. Leadership and power should not be concentrated in structures but used to transform the societies in which we live where every ordinary person can achieve their extraordinary potential. Achieving that will be the true measure of the State of the European Union.
Have a good weekend