GOTHENBURG, Sweden – Leaders of the 28 European Union member states and representatives from the three community institutions on Friday signed the European Pillar of Social Rights, a text that enshrines social rights at the heart of the bloc.
The declaration, signed at an EU Social Summit in the Swedish coastal city of Gothenburg, sets out 20 principles for citizens’ rights in three chapters: equal opportunities and access to the labor market, fair working conditions and social protection and inclusion.
“This is a joint responsibility and it starts at national, regional and local level, with a key role for social partners and civil society,” said European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, adding that “Europeans deserve nothing less” than for commitments to be turned into actions.
He said social rights had always been the heart of the EU and he was glad the Pillar was agreed on and cemented within six months of its proposal.
The text is focused on employment and social protection, covering policies related to housing, education and social services, among other things.
It contains regulations to guarantee the protection of workers, the under-qualified, the unemployed, people with low incomes, children from disadvantaged backgrounds, disabled people and those in long-term care and homeless people.
The Gothenburg social summit was pushed forward by Sweden’s social-democratic Prime Minister, Stefan Lofven, and the EU’s leaders, and was hailed as a starting line for reinforcing the bloc’s social responsibility with the aim of approving concrete measures.
“The proclamation of the Pillar at the Gothenburg Social Summit comes at a key moment to anchor a strong social dimension in the future of the European Union,” said Juncker, adding that “the timing was chosen very deliberately, making Europe’s social dimension the first milestone on our road to Sibiu.”
The Commission chief was referring to a summit scheduled to be held in the Romanian city of Sibiu on March 30, 2019, a day after the United Kingdom officially leaves the bloc, to discuss the state of the EU and its future.