ESN review of the European Semester 2014

This article is also available in français, español, italiano, deutsch, polski

The European Social Network (ESN) publishes the report Connecting Europe with local communities which brings views from local public social services on the European Semester 2014 and identifies public social policy priorities for the 2015 cycle.

The report is based on a review of the National Reform Programmes (NRPs) and the European Commission’s Country Specific Recommendations (CSRs) for 2014 conducted by the members of ESN’s Reference Group on the European Semester. The Reference Group was launched in June this year and brings together directors and senior professionals working in public social services from 16 ESN member organisations in 15 EU countries.

Local perspectives

The report is the result of the answers to a questionnaire and the discussions that took place in a meeting in September between the members of the Reference Group. Key issues addressed were: the differences in data collection across Member States, tackling inequality and social exclusion, the quality of public social services provision and the importance of local authorities’ involvement to ensure the implementation of the Country Specific Recommendations. ESN also requested group members from the 15 countries to identify a priority they believed the European Commission should issue a recommendation on in the context of the European Semester 2015. The report, which you can read here, includes a cross-country analysis and 15 country profiles with the 2015 recommendations listed at the top of each country profile.

Investing in human capital

Overall, the priority in the 2014 CSRs is labour market considerations with the aim of creating jobs, but there is a lack of balance between tackling unemployment and addressing the broader social consequences of the crisis. When social services are mentioned, they are mostly looked at in relation to employment, whilst disability and mental health are invisible, despite their social costs and impact on labour market participation. However, ESN members felt that employment is not the only improvement that should be made in people’s lives and social public services should be supported in their efforts to enhance people’s wellbeing – be it to help people with disabilities or mental health issues to live independently, making sure older people live in dignity and receive adequate care or supporting the better provision of childcare services. This type of investment in human’s capital is key to enhance the effectiveness of social policies.

Why the role of local public social services matters?

The input from a professional and local angle of those working in public social services is vital to inform national and European policy-makers because it brings valuable first-hand knowledge of the key social challenges affecting people at local level. However, despite the Annual Growth Survey 2014 recommendations to involve national parliaments and sub-national authorities in the European Semester, there is still a lack of involvement of regional and local government.

The European Semester Reference Group

In the context of the Europe 2020 Strategy and the increasing need for a coordinated approach between economic and social policies at European level to secure smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, ESN’s Reference Group on the European Semester aims to:

  • make social issues and the challenges faced by local public social services more visible
  • assess the extent to which social policy considerations and measures to reduce poverty and promote social inclusion have been addressed, notably through social services provision, in the European Semester
  • identify public social policy priorities for next year’s European Semester cycle.

Over the next years, ESN’s Reference Group will continue to analyse the NRPs and CSRs on a yearly basis and develop recommendations for sustainable and efficient public social services.