A long line of high-level figures from the Member States and the European Institutions have devoted themselves with remarkable caution to the essential issues related to further integration of a “social Europe”.
Last year, the EU Commission conducted a public consultation on the introduction of a “European Pillar of Social Rights”. The German Social Insurance took part in the consultation with quite critical comments (find them here). Following the conclusion of the consultation, the EU Commission hosted a follow-up conference in Brussels on 23 January that had an extraordinarily large audience.
Integrating new forms of work into social insurance
The quantitative dimension of the responses received was presented in summarised form. Approximately 18,500 responses were submitted online, with 170 written comments. The event also had numerous workshops. One of these was devoted to the future of social protection and social security. Podium speakers included Dr Wolfgang Schulz-Weidner from the European Representation of the German Social Insurance who had the opportunity to present the results of a comparative study on integrating new forms of work into the social insurance system. The study he referred to was a project of the Pension Insurance Committee of the European Social Insurance Platform. It focused on work as part of electronic, internet-based platforms such as Amazon Mechanical Turk and compulsory or voluntary inclusion in statutory pension insurance.
Is the Pillar the last chance for a social Europe?
In his concluding remarks, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker stated that the Pillar is the last chance for a social Europe. Despite much criticism, he maintained that the Pillar will at first be applied only to the euro area. Neither Juncker nor any other presenters spoke in-depth about the possible content of the Pillar other than to call for an unspecified “minimum income for all”. However, this already exists in nearly all Member States in the form of needs-tested social benefits. The numerous speeches and commentaries demonstrated a tendency towards an adjustment within the framework of the European Semester.
White Paper to deepen the economic and monetary union
Finally, it was announced that the Commission would not bring out the White Paper on deepening the Economic and Monetary Union in March as previously planned, but more likely in the second half of the year. Vice-President Dombrovskis stated that the White Paper will reflect “interaction” with the Pillar of Social Rights. As far as the latter is concerned, Dombrovskis announced there will soon be a roadmap for the implementation of the Pillar. The start of this will be the Commission’s proposal on the Pillar which is expected in March.
A “Social Summit for Fair Jobs and Growth” will take place in Gothenburg on 17 November 2017. Its aim is to bring together key stakeholders, Member States, social partners and “other key players”.