20 years ago this week the European Union held its last Social Summit. 20 years later I am in Gothenburg, participating in its successor. 20 years is a long time to wait for social justice to be on the top of the agenda in the European Union. In the last 20 years, we have seen greater inequalities in our societies, greater poverty and social exclusion and fiscal measures that have affected the affordability, accessibility and quality of social services as well as the coverage of social protection.

At this Social Summit the European Pillar of Social Rights has been adopted by the European Parliament, the European Commission and the 28 Member States of the EU. It’s adoption comes after nearly two years of hard work and discussion at local, regional, national and European level, and its proclamation today is a success. But this must not be filed away now under ‘job done’. The work is only just beginning to ensure that everyone in Europe can realise their fullest potential and be protected from social risks. The European Pillar of Social Rights must now positively influence fiscal policy, trade policy, home affairs policy and all other policy domains. We cannot have a contradiction between economic and social policies any longer. To do so would betray the expectation of people across Europe that we now have a ‘people first’ European Union.

So we welcome the adoption of the Pillar but we also look in anticipation to its implementation to ensure a social Europe for all people – and we will not wait another 20 years to put ‘social’ back on the agenda.

Have a good weekend