Last July, Social Platform, the EU network of social and non-for profit organisations, sent a letter to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in the preparation of her speech on the State of the European Union in September. The letter calls for including the “social soul” of Europe in the State of the EU speech. As a member of Social Platform, AGE contributed to and supports the letter.
The State of the European Union speech in front of the European Parliament is an annual exercise of the President of the European Commission. Usually, this speech announces the Commission’s priorities and work programme for the coming year, and routinely includes personal initiatives of the President, sometimes with surprises. In his State of the EU speech in 2015, Jean-Claude Juncker announced the drafting of a European Pillar of Social Rights. In 2021, Ursula von der Leyen announced the European Care Strategy, which will be published in the beginning of September, after a year of consultations.
In its open letter, Social Platform notes that last years’ speech was woven around the notion of the “soul off Europe”, yet it contained little mention of social rights. In the context of soaring cost of living, energy poverty and the invasion of Ukraine, Europeans show that the soul of Europe lies in shared values, solidarity and social cohesion.
To fill that gap and address most pressing social issues, Social Platform calls on the Commission President to make the fight against poverty and social exclusion, gender equality and equality more broadly a cornerstone of this years’ speech. Social Platform makes the following proposals:
- Strong Social Safety nets through the European Pillar of Social Rights, namely a Framework Directive on Adequate Minimum Income
- A Union of equality, including the unblocking of the horizontal Equal Treatment Directive, but also going beyond the stalled discussions by improving monitoring and reinforcement of existing equality strategies.
- Supporting solidarity with Ukraine
- Increased investments into social services and the development of an EU Social Service Strategy
- An EU Civil Society Strategy, drawing the lessons of the underperformance of the Conference on the Future of Europe
While the letter is signed by the Director of Social Platform, AGE has been fully included in the discussions leading to the priorities outlined in the letter and shares its calls.