Five years ago, we dedicated the first edition of our magazine ed* to the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR); an initiative launched by former European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker. The “Pillar”, as it has since been shortened, was intended to help strengthen the social dimension in Europe.
By emphasising social aspects, the European Commission also wanted to react to the crisis of European integration at that time. This is because of the increasing euroscepticism of the citizens of the European Union (EU). By the end of 2015, only 37 per cent of people across the EU still had a positive image of the EU, while the percentage of those with a negative image had risen to 23 per cent. Prior to 2015, no EU Member State had ever seriously considered leaving the Union either – the Brexit referendum was held in 2016. It was the time when the Member States positioned themselves obstinately against each other – and this in two core areas at the same time: In the euro rescue policy, the North stood against the South of Europe in terms of economic policy; in asylum policy, the West stood against the East in terms of social policy. At the same time, questions about the rule of law in the new Member States came to the fore. The consequences of the economic and financial crisis were still being felt in large parts of the EU, in the form of high unemployment rates, especially among young adults, and a lower standard of living than before the crisis. Europe needed a new vision. For itself and for the citizens.
This is the birth of the EPSR, which was proclaimed by the then 28 Member States on 17 November 2017. With its 20 principles, it was hailed as a guiding light for a strong social Europe. From the right to equal opportunities and access to the labour market, fair working conditions and social protection and inclusion, the “Pillar” was intended to initiate comprehensive reforms of the labour markets and social systems in the Member States. Sociopolitical challenges with which people in Europe are equally confronted should be analysed, evaluated and tackled on a European-wide basis. This has been worked on intensively in recent years within the framework of numerous initiatives.
The “Pillar” is now five years old. This fifth anniversary is an occasion to look at how successful the concept has been so far. What could be achieved, what not? It is also an appropriate time to look more closely at a possible further development of the EPSR.
We hope you find it an interesting read!
Yours sincerely Ilka Wölﬂe