Unequal Europe: Recommendations for a More Caring EU

Written by | Thursday, May 21st, 2015

High-Level Group on “Social Union” (Friends of Europe)

The EU social policy is often eclipsed by many other problems of the Union, e.g. the uncertain future of the Eurozone, the political crisis, or the decreasing trust of the citizens in European institutions. Moreover, these ‘other’ problems rather belong to the national level. However, the time has come to realize that the mitigation of social differences among Member States could contribute to economic growth, greater competitiveness, and expansion of solidarity among the citizens. But what concrete steps may the EU, led by the European Commission, take without violating the powers of Member States?

The first step is the identification of social challenges. Most prominent among these are demographic changes and immigration. Secondly, the creation of a common concept on how to tackle these challenges is needed. If the social policy is presented as relevant as macroeconomic objectives, the common future vision could force the Member States to individually assess the supply and demand situation of social programs and services, and consequently set the streamlining of respective social systems in motion.

The European Commission should promote the role of its social partners such as the European Trade Union Confederation. With their help, it is desirable to expand and intensify initiatives like Youth Guarantee, which helps to reduce unemployment among recent graduates. It is thus crucial to put a greater emphasis on the support of social investments, especially in the area of equal opportunities for education. The growing protectionism can be restrained by the improvement and financing of foreign workers’ integration into the society. The free movement of workers within the EU is the right of every citizen, who should be guaranteed minimal social standards. Going hand in hand with social security should be the general protection of minimum income across Europe, functioning on the basis of an open coordination and therefore dependent on economic development of individual states.

The ideal result should then be a commitment of the Commission and the European Parliament to fulfill the basic social goals of the EU. These institutions should play the role of intermediaries by helping the Member States to learn from each other and by providing technical support to alternative social policy interventions and social experiments.

(The study can be downloaded here)

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