The new European Commission announces its first social initiatives


photo by Jacek Dylag on Unsplash

Reflecting the priorities announced by Ursula von der Leyen as a President candidate, the European Commission adopted two policy papers in December 2019 and January 2020, setting out its intentions on a number of social issues. The documents include proposals for a reinforced social Europe, greening and climate initiatives and the overall work programme of the European Commission for 2020. Environmental sustainability will be mainstreamed into all the proposed initiatives.

‘A Strong Social Europe for Just Transitions’

The main social initiatives to come over the next five years are set out in the communication ‘A strong social Europe for just transitions’. The paper presents the European Green Deal as a necessary growth strategy for the future, all while acknowledging that becoming climate-neutral by 2050 requires considerable efforts. It further emphasises digitalisation and ageing as main trends to take into account. It puts the European Pillar of Social Rights at the centre of the EU’s social ambition, and announces the adoption of an action plan by 2021.
Concerning older persons, the main announced initiatives are as follows:

  • Adoption of a report on the impact of demographic change in March 2020 and a Green Paper on Ageing at the end of 2020. These reports will look at the adequacy of social protection systems and active ageing policies as well as long-term care policies
  • Reference to the needs of people at risk and poverty and social exclusion, currently one in five Europeans, but no specific initiative is announced in this communication. However, the Commission Work Programme 2020 mentions an ‘Action Plan on Integration and Inclusion’ without further details.
  • Update of the Skills agenda for Europe to further encourage member state to provide skills validation and life-long learning
  • Reinforcement of the Erasmus+ programme, which also finances exchanges of adult learning staff
  • Adoption of the Digital Education Action Plan to promote digital skills of young people and adults
  • Creation of a ‘Just Transition Mechanism’ to help workers who have lost jobs as a result of the green transition and promote the skills needed to this transition. It will also support a European unemployment re-insurance scheme
  • Allocation of 40 billion Euro to social infrastructure projects and social investments as part of the InvestEU investment fund
  • Strengthening the commitment of the EU towards inclusion and equality, including on the grounds of age. The publication of a European Gender Equality Strategy is also scheduled by 7 March 2020, which will focus on pay transparency, improved childcare and long-term care services and violence against women
  • Adoption of a European Disability Strategy in 2021, looking also at how to adapt workplaces and to create opportunities for persons with disabilities
  • The creation of a European framework for minimum wages (consultations with social partners are underway on this)
  • Organisation of a ‘platform work summit’ to discuss solutions with regard to the employment status, working conditions and access to social protection and collective representation of platform workers
  • Update of the EU’s health and safety at work framework to include risks linked to robotization and connectivity
  • Looking at affordable healthcare for the vulnerable, promoting healthy lifestyles and preventive measures and integrated models of health and social care; publishing a plan against cancer

Other initiatives announced for 2020

Furthermore, the Commission work programme for 2020 announces other initiatives:

  • Support for building renovation as part of the green deal – an area where AGE will try to ensure that housing of older and vulnerable people is not excluded
  • A Strategy for sustainable and smart Mobility, aimed at making the transport sector ‘greener’. An opportunity to implement accessibility standards
  • A European Data Strategy and a White Paper on artificial intelligence – the European Commission wants to encourage the industry sector to tackle old problems with new solutions thanks to these technologies. AGE insists that these should come with ethical standards
  • A review of the economic governance framework, such as the European Semester and the Stability and Growth Pact to look at what worked and what didn’t
  • Continue the Action Plan on the Capital Markets Union to ensure equal access to investments
  • A Pharmaceutical Strategy for Europe based on quality and safety of medicines
  • The Conference on the Future of Europe: currently, discussions about the thematic scope and the organisation of the conference are underway between the EU Parliament, Council and Commission
  • A Strategy for the Implementation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights
  • A Roma Strategy and an LGBTQI strategy for inclusion and equality
  • An EU Strategy for Victims’ rights
  • A new Consumer Agenda with a focus on cross-border and online transactions

While the number and ambition of all these initiatives will be a challenge for a civil society organisation such as AGE, we will monitor these and encourage AGE members to get engaged with relevant initiatives.

Read also: December Special Briefing about the Commission’s composition and priorities

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