While the creation of the European Pillar of Social Rights is a positive step towards a more social Europe, social and employment policies at national, regional and local level need to be supported with sound EU cohesion funding for all EU regions, President of the European Committee of the Regions Karl-Heinz Lambertz said ahead of the Social Summit for Fair Growth and Jobs in Gothenburg.
The European Pillar of Social Rights is built on 20 principles with the aim of ensuring equal opportunities and access to the labour market, fair working conditions and social protection and inclusion for its citizens. It is expected to be adopted by EU leaders and Heads of State and Government in Gothenburg on Friday. President Karl-Heinz Lambertz will represent the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) – the EU's assembly of local and regional leaders – at the Summit, which also gathers social partners and other key players for a discussion on how to promote fair jobs and growth in Europe's future.
To make the European Pillar of Social Rights truly effective across Europe, President Lambertz called for an Action Plan involving all levels of government. He voiced concern, however, over possible cuts after 2020 to the EU cohesion policy funds, that is, the part of the EU budget for regional investment, following Brexit and potential changes to the EU's priorities. This would have devastating effects for the EU's social, economic and territorial cohesion.
"The success of Europe lies in ensuring that every citizen in every region, city and town benefits from our Union. We cannot carry on with a tunnel vision over economic success, ignoring social failure. The EU's cohesion policy is just the right instrument for addressing both social and economic challenges by helping to tackle regional disparities, promote social integration and create a fairer and more prosperous Europe. Between 2014-2020 EU cohesion policy will have created 420 000 new jobs, lifted 7.4 million people out of unemployment and supported 8.9 million more people get qualifications. Long-term social investment must be a priority for Europe, which is why we launched the #CohesionAlliance with five major European associations of regions and cities, demanding a strong cohesion policy after 2020 for all EU regions", President Lambertz said.
President Lambertz also highlighted the importance of tackling in-work poverty and social dumping, welcoming the agreement reached by EU employment ministers on the revision of the Posting of Workers directive. This is expected to bring down the maximum time of posting from 24 to 12 months, as the European Committee of the Regions had requested in its relevant report and enshrine the principle of equal pay for equal work at the same place. "The free movement of services must go hand-in-hand with the protection of workers. We need to strike a balance between the economic and social dimension of the European Union", he said.
The CoR adopted its formal position on the Pillar of Social Rights last month. Rapporteur Mauro D'Attis said: "We welcome the decision of the leaders of the EU Member States to address economic and social insecurity as a matter of priority. However, we must not forget that there are significant social inequalities throughout our Union, which exist both within and between the Member States. We cannot afford to disregard the responsibility and powers of local and regional authorities in this area."
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