This week, Eurodiaconia has hosted its 3rd annual breakfast debate on the Social Pillar here in Brussels, Belgium. The meeting brought together different stakeholders from member organisations, civil society and European institutions to deepen the Pillar’s potential to strengthen social protection across Europe.

The European Pillar of Social Rights is an attempt to take comprehensive European action against poverty, social exclusion and unemployment (Europe2020, Social Investment Package). It represents a key response to the aftermath of the financial crisis and as an update of the European social model in the light of a changing labour market. The strategy aims to stimulate the reduction of poverty and social exclusion through adequate social protection, and to support labour market access and well-functioning welfare systems.

At the breakfast meeting, the high level speakers were asked to present insights and knowledge from local, national and European perspective, as well as to outline central challenges and key gaps in current social protection systems. We have been delighted to host Alan Larsson, Special Advisor for the Pillar to president Juncker, Maria Joao Rodrigues MEP, and 2 of our members from Diakonie Deutschland (Germany) and the Church of Finland.

During this debate a question from the audience caught in particular my attention. A representative from a member organisation asked: “What is the pillar providing to someone whose life is on the margins?” The following answers showed the gap between European policy on social inclusion and civil society. As leading federation of social and health care organisations founded in the Christian faith, Eurodiaconia is committed to filling that gap, giving voice to its members’ perspective to build a fairer and more inclusive Europe.

Today more than ever, the crucial role of diaconal organisations across Europe needs to be recognised by governments, which rely on them for their expertise and their long tradition of helping people in need. Our members develop concrete and vital responses to the major social challenges faced by our continent. Through our network we influence policies impacting poverty and social exclusion, advocating for empowerment of the most vulnerable and excluded.

We must continue to invest into our network and to raise awareness about our actions. Europe needs civil society’s voice and civil society needs a stronger Europe to build a society of solidarity and equality.

Have a good weekend,