On 15 September, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, delivered her speech to Members of the European Parliament in which she re-affirmed the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR) and set out new measures for equity and fairness.

Amongst the measures announced are a new European Care Strategy which aims to support carers and those receiving care, and an initiative called ALMA, a new Erasmus-style placement scheme which aims to support young people to have access to decent employment and gain skills by providing short-term work experience in other EU member states. We will also see this initiative come to life during the announced 2022 European Year of Youth.

Additionally, the European Commission is proposing a new initiative targeting profits hidden behind shell entities, and a new global agreement on a minimum rate of corporate taxation.

We welcome the re-affirmation of the EPSR as well as the introduction of new measures to create a fairer social Europe. Particularly, the proposal of a European Care Strategy is good news, as we have been advocating for a Care Guarantee that assures quality, affordable and accessible care for everyone when it is needed. However, a stronger focus on social issues would have been desirable. At Eurodiaconia, we believe more social policies and protection are needed to ensure that our collective COVID-19 recovery leaves no one behind and prioritises the protection of our vital social services – accessed by some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.

Indeed, the social impact of the pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities and vulnerabilities and requires coordinated political and institutional commitments that are ambitious and consistent with the EPSR and the Sustainable Development Goals. Where the European Green Deal has been presented as the Commission’s flagship growth strategy, it lacks a socially balanced approach. We need a Green and Social Deal to ensure that a ‘just transition’ protects people in the most vulnerable situations from the negative impacts of this process. This requires green, social and economic policies working in unison.

Finally, in order to support those in need through sustainable, socially inclusive and rights-based initiatives that leave no one behind, we must focus on a democratic Europe that listens to the voices of all people, including those who are underrepresented in the decision-making process.

Eurodiaconia will keep advocating for an inclusive and fair recovery that puts the fight against poverty and social exclusion at the centre of all policies. To know more about it, you can read our latest Public Statement.

To read the State of the Union speech, please visit the European Commission’s webpage.