The Social Summit, held on May 7 and 8, was
supposed to be the highlight of the Portuguese EU council presidency and a
return to everyday life after months of pandemic. The Summit focused on three
- work and employment
- skills and innovation
- welfare state and social security.
The first day was devoted to two plenary
sessions on the European Pillar of Social Rights, including interventions by
social partners as well as three parallel workshops on work and employment,
skills and innovation and the welfare state and social security.
The EU institutions, the European social
partners and representatives of civil society subsequently agreed on a
declaration to commit to implementing the European Pillar of Social Rights.
Member States were called upon to take measures to strengthen national social
security systems, promote social cohesion, combat any kind of discrimination in
employment and ensure equal opportunities.
Grumbling even before the summit started
11 countries (Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark,
Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, the Netherlands and
Sweden) had published in a joint paper before the summit stating that
implementing the European Pillar of Social Rights was primarily up to the
member states. Whereas these countries welcome EU-level targets, the principles
of subsidiarity and proportionality should be respected and they called for the
monitoring of implementation targets to take current national situations into
Much is to be achieved by 2030
The signatories called on the EC to endorse
the three main 2030 targets set out in the action plan:
- achieving an employment rate of at least 78%
- ensuring that at least 60% of Europeans participate in training
reducing the number of people living in poverty
or social exclusion by at least 15 million.
Consent from the heads of state or government
For the heads of state and government, the
second day of the Summit marked the first in-person meeting since December last
year. They supported the Porto Declaration, the EC's action plan involving
the European Pillar of Social Rights and, in particular, the objectives set for
the EU for 2030 and their implementation through the European semester. Whether
this is just a promise remains to be seen. Europe is to gradually become more
social if the key decision-makers have their way.
The Porto declaration
The published declaration broadly
summarises the action plan of the European Pillar of Social Rights and
highlights key objectives such as improvements in employment relations in the
labour market, the reduction of the gender pension gap and the inclusion of
people with disabilities and older people. The commitment of all heads of state
and government to make Europe more socially responsible for its people was made
You can find the declaration here.