This opinion was a referreal received by the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union on the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR) from the local and regional perspective. The Portuguese Presedency has included the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights as a priority objective in its programme, and for the Porto Social Summit. It is important that there be a commitment at the highest political level to promote a strong social Europe and people's well-being during the current decade;
To support the European Commission's EPSR Action Plan, which presents the necessary long-term policies and concrete instruments that will be the basis for more sustainable economic and social systems for the future in all the European Union Member States;
To stress that the Action Plan recognises the importance of local and regional authorities in implementing, developing and adding value to the initiatives. Local and regional authorities will play a key role in strengthening the vitality of the regions and achieving the quantitative headline targets for employment, skills and social protection for 2030, on condition that sufficient funding is made available for implementing the Action Plan;
To point out that the implementation plan will underpin and promote the efforts of local and regional authorities to implement employment and social policies. It is important to look beyond the current crisis and undertake social investment to reinforce the social dimension, also to ensure the smooth operation of the internal market;
notes that clear, coordinated and ambitious implementation of the EPSR will enhance the European Union's commitment to the UN's 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as well as socially fair implementation of the European Green Deal;
To note that the subsidiarity and proportionality principles will determine the level at which the EU and the Member States deploy the proposed policy instruments and legislative measures when it comes to implementing the EPSR;
To urge the Member States, social partners and civil society organisations taking part in the Porto Social Summit to jointly commit to accelerating implementation of the EPSR in the areas falling within their remit, making people the priority. Most of the tools for implementing the principles of the Pillar are in the hands of Member States, regional and local governments, as well as the social partners and civil society. Success will depend on the commitment of different levels of government and stakeholders and joint responsibility supported by the European institutions. Regions and municipalities are willing to play their part in building a strong and resilient social Europe which will guarantee that the green and digital transitions are fair and which will facilitate recovery from the COVID-19 crisis both economically and socially. There is clear public support for this, with nine out of ten European citizens seeing a social Europe as important;
observes that Europe is seeing the biggest health, social and economic crisis of a generation, a crisis that is putting European solidarity to the test. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on employment, poverty levels and people's psychological well-being will continue to be felt for a long time and will require social and health investment by all levels of government, effective policy mixes and economic resources. Investments and measures to be implemented under the Recovery and Resilience Facility must have a strong social dimension to reinforce social security systems, fund good-quality jobs, improve and secure public services, reduce poverty and promote gender equality. The focus should be on protecting above all the most vulnerable, such as people at risk of poverty and social exclusion, single-parent families and single mothers struggling to achieve a work-life balance, persons with disabilities, migrants, victims of gender-based violence etc., and on making the recovery inclusive and socially fair. The fundamental commitment to the economic freedom of public authorities to provide, commission and finance services of general economic interest is of major importance in this respect;
to hightlight that the CoR sees the Porto Social Summit as an important opportunity to agree on common goals where people's well-being and equality are put at the heart of policy, and social issues are made an enduring priority in the European Union;t
The impact of the CoR on the preparation of the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan and on the Social Summit in Porto over the past 2 years can be summarised as follows:
• With regard to the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan the following impact was achieved:
o the Action Plan clearly underlines that its implementation is a collective endeavour of all levels of government by clearly referring to regional and local authorities. Furthermore, the Action Plan is very much in line with the views and proposals expressed by the CoR;
o more than 20 references are made to the local and regional level when implementing key parts of the EPSR supporting entrepreneurship, industrial ecosystems, supporting the Skills Agenda as well as combatting stereotypes or supporting the social economy;
o the Staff Working Document accompanying the Action Plan makes several references to the CoR opinion on a Strong Social Europe for Just Transitions (COR 2020/02167). The paper also included an appreciation of the monitoring work of the CoR with regard to the EPSR;
o the implementation of the EPSR was also included as a key part of the "areas of enhanced cooperation between the CoR and DG EMPL" .
• The Porto Social Summit was a pivotal moment for social rights in Europe as for the first time, social partners and civil society called on the EU Heads of State or Government to endorse the Action Plan and its headline targets and to set ambitious national targets that can adequately contribute to the achievement of the European targets. The CoR achieved the following impact:
o For the first time, the CoR was invited to attend the High-level Conference, taking part with the CoR 1st Vice-President and the SEDEC Chair in the workshop on social and employment policies.
o The Porto Social Commitment , which was signed by the Presidents of the EU Institutions and the Social Partners, directly refers to the CoR and contains an important reference to "reinforce territorial and social cohesion, with the involvement of the European, national, regional and local levels of government, namely focusing in sectors, groups and territories with deep and long-lasting structural weaknesses and undergoing rapid and major transformations, and support the reinforcement of essential services and infrastructures in this endeavour".
o The Porto Summit Declaration , while not referring directly to the local and regional level, included a commitment to "a collective, inclusive, timely, and cohesive recovery", which "will strengthen Europe's competitiveness, resilience, social dimension".
All in all, these impacts clearly show a significant progress the CoR has made in engaging in the social agenda of the EU and in being recognised as a strong voice of the local and regional level in this process.
THE EUROPEAN COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS
- supports the three headline targets for employment, skills and social protection presented in the Action Plan to be achieved by the end of the decade in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Local and regional authorities will play a key role in strengthening the vitality of the regions and achieving the quantitative headline targets for 2030, on condition that sufficient funding is made available for implementing the Action Plan;
- regrets that the Action Plan does not consider a debate on a permanent European unemployment insurance scheme;
- calls for measures to be taken to ensure that schemes promoting youth employment do not favour precarious forms of employment;
- stresses the importance of ensuring effective implementation of the EU's Gender Equality Strategy, with particular focus on the inclusion of vulnerable women. Gender equality, as well as the recognition of gender diversity, must be mainstreamed across the Pillar's implementation;
- stresses the importance of effective implementation of the European Child Guarantee;
- stresses the need to address the needs of a growing ageing population by safeguarding their right to quality social care, day care and long-term care;
- notes that municipalities and cities play an important role in urban planning and providing public-cooperative, sustainable and affordable housing. There must be greater provision of decent housing for all citizens. The Committee regrets in this regard that the Action Plan sets no quantitative target for the fight against homelessness;
- calls for the establishment, within the context of sustainable finance, of a "social taxonomy" as an enabling tool to increase investments in social infrastructure.