The European Commission wants to encourage fair and well-functioning labour markets and social systems through the ‘principles and rights’ proposed in the European Pillar of Social Rights. The aim of an interinstitutional proclamation is to emphasise political endorsement of the project. By the end of the year at the latest, Brussels wants to have a signed document from the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission as a strong signal for a social Europe.
But discussions are moving slowly. The European Commission is in talks with the Member States and other stakeholders; however, it it has made it clear that it does not want to make any technical changes to its proposal. The main priority is to have the interinstitutional proclamation signed by the end of the year. Any changes to the text of the proposal could jeopardise this goal. The Estonian presidency, which runs until the end of the year, also wants to avoid any changes to the proposed principles. Instead, it is working towards the proclamation being successfully adopted.
Initial talks in Council
On 15 June 2017, the first informal talks on the European Pillar of Social Rights took place between the members of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council. The ministers agreed to adopt the interinstitutional proclamation by the end of the year. There was also consensus that it is important to improve working and social conditions but that the process should take into consideration different national circumstances. The pillar can only have a real effect if there is active involvement at Member State level.
The ministers also emphasised that the proclamation should be viewed as a political commitment but without being legally binding. In addition, the pillar should apply to all Member States, including those outside the Eurogroup. The proclamation should not modify or even extend the competences conferred to the European Union by the Treaties, rather the implementation of the pillar should be done in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity. The upward convergence towards better living and working conditions must take into account socioeconomic conditions and differences at national level. Furthermore, the role and independence of the Social Partners in terms of social standards at national and European level must be respected.
The Social Scoreboard
The Commission has established a Social Scoreboard to monitor social progress in the future. The results of the scoreboard will also feed into the European Semester and policy guidelines.
The scoreboard is divided into three dimensions: ‘Equal opportunities and access to the labour market’, ‘Dynamic labour markets and fair working conditions’ and ‘Public support/Social protection and inclusion’. A total of twelve different social areas have been included. Important areas for social security include ‘Labour Force Structure’ and ‘Healthcare’. Each area has indicators which can be used to measure social progress.
However, further discussion is needed with regard to the scoreboard and the proposed indicators. In particular, the relationship with existing monitoring instruments appears to be unclear, namely the Employment Performance Monitor and the Social Protection Performance Monitor. Therefore, further discussions with the Commission could be necessary, particularly regarding the inclusion of the scoreboard in the next Joint Employment Report, its relationship with the Council’s existing monitoring instruments, and its technical implementation. This could result in changes being made to the proposed headline indicators and secondary indicators.
What is the European Parliament doing?
A decision from the European Parliament regarding clarification of the interinstitutional proclamation proposed by the Commission in April and the nomination of a representative for the interinstitutional process is expected in September.
As part of the consultation on 19 January 2017, the European Parliament expressed its opinion on the proposal for a European Pillar of Social Rights and adopted a corresponding resolution (DSV reported).
Background and outlook
The Commission presented its proposal for the pillar in two different legal formats with identical content. The first is a non-binding recommendation from the Commission (Article 288 TFEU) and the second is a proposal for a joint interinstitutional proclamation. This must now be discussed with the European Parliament and the Council.
It is planned that the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council will reach an agreement on the proclamation for the pillar at its meeting on 23 October 2017 in order to meet the deadline for all three European Institutions to sign the document before the end of the year.