A programme for social and economic justice.

AH – 09/2023

On 1 July, the Spanish government took over its now fifth Council Presidency of the European Union (EU). In this context, the the "Europe Closer" programme with its four main priorities was presented. Due to the Spanish snap elections, the debate in the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs of the European Parliament of the European Parliament could only take place on 7 September.

The Spanish government was represented by José Luis Escrivá, Minister of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration, and Yolada Diaz, Second Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Labour and Social Economy. They presented the programme of their country. Overall, the Spanish Council Presidency aims at an inclusive as well as sustainable Europe. The aim is to promote purchasing power and eliminate inequalities in the social sphere. The right to decent work and the promotion of medium-term growth potential are sought.

European policy priorities

The Spanish Council Presidency sets four priorities:

  1. Re-industrialisation of the European Union and modernisation of the economy
  2. Further implementation of the green transition
  3. Promoting social and economic justice 
  4. Strengthening European unity

What does that mean in detail?

A few examples will show what this specifically means. Workers - also from third countries - should enjoy a high level of social protection. The focus should be on strengthening the rights of people in precarious work situations. For example, they are to be given co-determination rights with regard to their workplace as well as further information rights.

With regard to the further development of occupational health and safety, issues such as stress and anxiety disorders are to be addressed, among others. But there are also new occupational risks, such as the heat caused by climate change.

In addition, questions on the compulsory insurance of self-employed persons, on activities on digital platforms as well as on the promotion of women's and youth work are on the agenda. Open questions on the subject of cross-border commuters are to be clarified in stages.

The promotion of economic justice is to be achieved by strengthening national control and fraud systems. Here, the demand for guidelines for combating abuse on the labour market (also with regard to bogus self-employment) and tax evasion is understandable. Intra-European work should reach a higher quality in order to make the labour market attractive for international skilled workers and to retain existing skilled staff.

Social investment – what is it?

At the Informal Council in Madrid on 14 July, the Social Affairs Ministers discussed the Spanish-Belgian proposal on social investment for the first time and agreed on the further development of the issue in a joint working group. The background to the proposal is that expenditure for social investments should no longer be taken into account within the framework of the European deficit procedure. For this to be feasible, the European Commission and the relevant committees of the Member States need to work on the definition and operationalisation of social investment. The working group intends to present results for an analytical framework by November.