Dear Social Affairs Attaché,
On behalf of Eurodiaconia, a network of over 45 Christian-based social service and healthcare providers operating in 32 countries across Europe, I am contacting you ahead of the EPSCO Council meeting on 3rd March 2017 concerning the European Semester. Based on our members’ involvement with the European Semester and on the social situation in Europe, we would like to draw your attention to some concerns and proposals reflecting our members’ common experience and values.
Eurodiaconia highly welcomes the 2017 AGS’s strong emphasis on social objectives and investment as a step forward in comparison to previous years. We also strongly welcome the Commission’s continuous effort towards a more social approach of the European Semester, as demonstrated by the 2017 European Semester Communication on Country Reports (COM(2017) 90 final).
Therefore, we would like to share with you some recommendations to further stimulate inclusive growth in the framework of the European Semester.
- An integrated, life cycle-approach to social protection systems:
Eurodiaconia welcomes the strong focus on social protection systems of the AGS and the Communication on Country Reports on reforming the social protection systems. We call on the ministers to build on this determination and promote an integrated, life cycle-approach to social protection at national level to prevent persons from falling through the gaps of national welfare systems. Furthermore, the financing of social services should be enhanced to improve the access to, adequacy and quality of social services provided by not-for-profit organisations, in particular through an effective implementation of the different provisions contained in the new public procurement legislation and available to unlock its full social potential.
- Adequate Minimum Income (AMI) schemes to end poverty and social exclusion:
Eurodiaconia strongly welcomes the AGS 2017’s reference to ‘’adequate minimum income benefits [that] should be ensured for those who lack sufficient resources for a decent standard of living’’ and regrets this has not been pursued in the communication on country reports. Our network urges Ministers to pursue the AGS 2017’s call for adequate income support and recommends that the European Commission facilitates effective implementation through guidelines for Member States on common objectives and minimum standards, taking into account national differences in GDP and existing social protection systems.
- Quality employment as a requirement of social cohesion:
Eurodiaconia welcomes the AGS 2017’s claim that labour market integration should build on quality jobs. The Communication on Country Reports, however, did not build on the AGS in calling for quality jobs, raising concerns that this leaves too much space for a ‘’growth at all cost approach’’ based on low-quality employment and in-work poverty. Yet, the ‘’positive labour market trends’’ highlighted by the Communication on Country Reports, will only bring a positive social impact if they are based on quality employment. We therefore call on the Ministers to ensure that the issue of quality employment becomes a common concern for Member States and is adequately addressed in the next steps of the European Semester process.
- Providing Members States with adequate support for social investment:
Eurodiaconia welcomes that the AGS acknowledges the importance of investing in social infrastructure and that the Communication on Country Reports builds on this, by recognizing social investment as “prerequisite for a successful and lasting recovery”. Social investment should indeed be seen as opportunity to increase social cohesion and improve employment prospects, while receiving economic and social returns over time. Eurodiaconia calls on the Ministers to make social investment a priority and make full use of the European Fund for Strategic Investments also in the field of social investment. Ministers should also urge the European Commission to facilitate social investment by considering specific areas of public social expenditure with a high economic return for exemption from the corrective and preventive arm of the Stability and Growth Pact and the Fiscal Compact.
- On stakeholder involvement:
Eurodiaconia deeply regrets that no concrete recommendations on stakeholder dialogue have been issued by the Commission. Given the fact that even our largest member organisations are not being meaningfully consulted on the contents of National Reform Programmes at national level, our network calls on the Ministers to take measures to increase stakeholder dialogue. This will allow to strengthen the synergy between EU processes and local needs, as well as the democratic legitimacy of the European Semester.
We thank you for the interest in our work and for the attention you will be giving to this letter, and in doing so, for the consideration you are giving to our members’ work and experience. We hope that you will give the issues highlighted in this letter careful consideration in the ongoing process of the European Semester. I remain at your disposal for any further information on Eurodiaconia’s positions.