Schmit: ‘Real problem’ that ‘too few’ social rights exist in EU

European Commissioner for An Economy that Works for People Valdis Dombrovskis (R) speaks with European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights Nicolas Schmit (C) during the opening ceremony of an EU summit at the Alfandega do Porto Congress Center in Porto, Portugal, 07 May 2021. [EPA-EFE/LUIS VIEIRA / POOL]

European Commissioner for Employment and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit, underlined on Friday (7 May) that it is a real problem that “too few” social rights exist, calling for a collective duty of the EU to provide concrete answers to citizens.

Speaking at a session on the implementation of the European Social Pillar at the Porto Social Summit, Schmit said “the Social Summit and the European Pillar of Social Rights and its Action Plan give us concrete answers” to the needs of EU citizens and, therefore, “it is important that the social and economic dimensions are seen as two sides of the same coin”.

Given that “many [citizens] see that there are too few social rights,” which is “a real problem”, Schmit argued that the EU “must not leave social rights and social protection behind”.

This is “a call that should lead us all to act”, as it is a “collective duty of a Union that defends equality and solidarity”, he stressed.

According to him, the European Social Pillar action plan, which should be approved this afternoon by the institutional and political leaders of the EU area, is an “imperative” and a “necessity” to make the European economy greener and more digital.

However, he noted, this “will entail major changes” and “the impact will not be felt equally across Europe”, so “collective bargaining must be an essential element” in the post-pandemic recovery.

Schmit pointed out, in this sense, that the “response to the challenges” caused by the COVID-19 pandemic “passes through the action plan” which is also the EU’s “path to success”.

Therefore, “if we do not invest today in our communities, in our schools, in our training centres and in our employment services, we will not succeed”, he stressed.

The Commissioner stressed the need to “turn the 20 principles” of the European Pillar of Social Rights into “real policies that are felt by citizens”, so member states “cannot just push ahead with targets and [then] sit back”.

“The great promise is really prosperity for all. We cannot just wait for the institutions or just member states to act individually because we are all responsible for this project,” he said.

The Social Summit takes place today in Porto with the presence of 24 of the 27 EU heads of state and government, meeting to define Europe’s social agenda for the next decade.

Defined by the Portuguese presidency as the high point of the semester, the Social Summit has at the heart of the agenda the action plan of the European Pillar of Social Rights, presented by the European Commission in March.

The pillar foresees three major goals for 2030: to have at least 78% of the population employed, 60% of workers receiving training annually and to remove 15 million people, five million of whom are children, from the risk of poverty and social exclusion.

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