Ahead of the vote on 21 November, a coalition of civil society organisations writes to MEPs to ask for an ambitious Social Dimension of the EMU.
The European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) welcomes the Communication on the Social Dimension of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) released on 2 October - a potential watershed moment in economic governance and in better screening the social determinants of health. If implemented properly, this would empower citizens to measure the impact of the Europe 2020 strategy based on their needs and priorities, while allowing policy makers to monitor social impact of reforms and economic convergence within the EMU.
At the European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion, President of the European Council announced that Heads of State will discuss the social dimension of the EMU"with the view of agreeing on the best way to use it concretely in coordinating our economic, social and employment policies."
On the 21 November, the Parliament Plenary in Strasbourg will vote on a Motion for Resolution on the Social Dimension of the EMU. EPHA, joined the AGE Platform, EAPN, FEANTSA, Eurodiaconia, Social Platform to ask for genuine civil dialogue in economic governance processes in the EU and for social and economic indicators to be put on equal footing.
This sends a strong a political message to Heads of State and Government in December. This is urgently needed. With one out of four people in the EU at risk of poverty or social exclusion and 11% unemployment, It is clear that the current approach has not delivered on the Europe 2020 poverty and employment targets. This resolution will convey that a much stronger commitment is required from the EU and Member States to achieve the social objectives of the EU.
There will be no real social dimension of the EMU achieved without social considerations having the same consideration of economic ones.
EPHA expects the resulting European Commission Social Scoreboard to enhance the social commitments of the European Semester and boost cooperation between Finance Ministries and Ministries of Health and Social Affairs Ministers so the Commission’s country-specific recommendations are better fit for purpose.
The Scoreboard indicators will be incorporated in the annual Joint Employment Report published each autumn. The Commission is extending the number of extra indicators Alert Mechanism Report (AMR) to better reflect the social implications of macroeconomic imbalances.
In the last AMR, the Commission’s outlined five headline indicators:
It is EPHA’s view that The European Commission has missed a new opportunity to address one of the fundamental flaws of the Europe 2020 growth Strategy - that growth alone does not guarantee less inequalities. This communication fails to highlight the drastic changes needed to ‘rethink’ the way health and social policy are impacted by economics: a health impact assessment of reforms; consultation mechanisms with civil society and citizens; investment tools for human capital; and binding employment and social standards were not proposed.
A coordination mechanism between the European Commission and Member States would bring an added European dimension to employment and social policy, deepening solidarity at the EU level. If it does not happen, it would raise questions about whether the current EU policy tools in the field of health are fit for purpose, and if a new health competence is needed.
One of Communication’s proposals is a stronger coordination of employment and social policies within the European Semester (a yearly cycle of economic policy coordination). This is already done through the Joint Assessment Framework, the Employment Performance Monitor and the Social Protection Performance Monitor to compare and rank performance among Member States so that they can identify social challenges faced on their progress towards the Europe 2020 objectives.
Other tools will include policy guidance developed on the basis of best performance and taking the form of detailed guidelines or Council recommendations. Potential areas for action are the quality of active labour market policies, reforms tackling labour market segmentation, and the development of human capital. In the area of public employment services, the replica tion of good practice will be promoted through a Public Employment Services (PES) Network.
The bail is now in the court of the European Parliament and the European Council to ensure that the social dimension of the EMU is embedded in a comprehensive “Investing in Health” agenda rooted both in the Lisbon Treaty article 9 and the revision of the Macroeconomic Imbalance Procedure (MIP).
A proposal for a scoreboard should be ready to be analysed in time for the 2014 European semester (so in mid-November 2013). The Commission will discuss the proposal with the relevant technical groups in the Council to determine the choice of indicators. The European Parliament will also be informed and consulted on the proposed scoreboard. The EMPL Committee will draft a resolution before the December Council.
The social scoreboard is a victory for civil society, as there was much resistance and speculation that it would not go through. However, more needs to done. The European Social Platform, a coalition of social NGOs, said the indicators put forward by the European Commission represented “a minimum requirement to begin to balance the social dimension of the EMU and its economic and financial dimension.”
However, it said the mechanism will remain toothless unless EU countries agree to power transfers that will allow the European Commission to sanction countries in social policy matters, like is currently the case with excessive budget deficits. “We hope that when the Council discusses the Social Scoreboard it will call on the Commission to develop a system that triggers preventative and corrective actions once the social indicators reach a certain value,” said Heather Roy, President of Social Platform.
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