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Jean-Claude Juncker delivers his State of the European Union speech

Jean-Claude Juncker delivers his State of the European Union speech

Delivering his annual speech on the State of the European Union, Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker kick-started the dialogue with the European Parliament and Council to prepare the Commission Work Programme for the following year.

President Juncker delivered the state of the European Union address before Members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday 13 September 2017. He presented his priorities for the year ahead as well as his vision for the evolution of the European Union by 2025. The aim of the speech was to deliver a roadmap for a more united, stronger and more democratic Union. 

The European Pillar of Social Rights in the State of the European Union speech

Since Mr Juncker presented the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPRS) in his State of the Union speech on 9 September 2015, a lot of hope has been invested in the initiative to improve social rights in Europe. In this year’s speech, President Juncker stated that “If we want to avoid social fragmentation and social dumping in Europe, then Member States should agree on the EPSR as soon as possible and by the latest at the Gothenburg Summit in November”.

Moreover, President Juncker pointed out the necessity to “agree on a European Social Standards Union in which we have a common understanding of what is socially fair in our single market” even if national social systems remain diverse for a long time.

Recently the European Commission has further enhanced the attention given to policy coordination on social issues in the European Semester. Indeed, the EPSR is accompanied by a ‘social scoreboard’ to monitor the implementation of the Pillar by tracking trends and performance across EU countries in 12 areas. It will also feed into the European Semester of economic policy coordination.

ESN’s perspective on the European Pillar of Social Rights

In the context of the consultation process the European Social Network (ESN) published a position paper highlighting suggestions for a revised set of principles. A key message was that the EPRS should not only include employment rights but also social rights that apply to people of all ages and to everyone, regardless of whether they are in employment or not.

Moreover, ESN pointed out the desirability for the EPRS specifying how the issues highlighted under each of the 20 principles should be addressed and by whom, especially given the fact that they are often dealt with by different government departments at various levels in the Member States. In terms of improving convergence between Member States, a key idea put forward by ESN was that it is essential to have a combination of social investment and social protection measures within the principles of the EPSR. 

Conclusion

During his State of the Union speech, Jean-Claude Juncker reiterated the importance of adopting the EPRS by joint proclamation of the Member states, the European Commission and the European Parliament at the Gothenburg Summit in November 2017. ESN strongly supports the necessity of adopting a Pillar, which recognises local authorities’ duty of care to individuals across the life-cycle, and that social rights should apply to all people, not just those in employment. The Pillar could be very useful in promoting greater consistency between policy measures across Member states as well as in establishing long-term objectives regarding social standards.

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Leyre Merchán Paúles