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“Europe as a Task: Rethink, Rebuild, Repower,” is the motto of the Czech Presidency of the Council of the European Union, which began on 1 July. For the next 6 months, the Czech Presidency will focus on finding joint European responses on the war in Ukraine, which among others has triggered a humanitarian crisis and soaring energy prices. But what advancements in social policy can we expect? Will the presidency also help to rethink, rebuild and repower social services, which are supporting a growing number of people suffering from the current health, economic and social crisis?

Improving labour market outcomes of persons with disabilities

In expectation of the upcoming European Commission Disability Employment Package, the presidency will organise a conference on 20-21 September to discuss Labour Market Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities. As highlighted by the European Social Network (ESN) in its 2018 Inclusive Activation Tool Kit, public social services play a key role in supporting people with disabilities to achieve their employment aspirations and should be involved in these discussions .

European standards for minimum income support

During the Czech Presidency, probably by autumn, the European Commission will launch its proposal on Council Recommendations for setting standards on minimum income in Europe. Negotiations on this file will be started (but probably not finalised) by the Czech Presidency. To contribute to those discussions, ESN will organise a Seminar on Partnerships for Social Inclusion - Integrating Minimum Income and Social Services on 26-27 September. ESN has already published its position highlighting its thoughts on integrated minimum income and how they can be harnessed by social services to ensure effective social inclusion.

Implementing the Child Guarantee

On 7-8 July, the presidency organised a high-level conference on Child Support in order to support the implementation of the European Child Guarantee launched in June 2021. Whereas key themes such as the implementation of national child guarantee action plans, involvement of children in decision making processes and the role of regions were discussed, the involvement of public social services could have been more prominent. ESN has been highlighting the importance of investments in family support and the quality of alternative care, as crucial to promoting children’s wellbeing but our members have underscored that this focus has been particularly absent so far when it comes to the implementation of the child guarantee.

Promoting quality in care

A key social policy file of the presidency will be the upcoming EU Care Strategy, which the Commission has  announced will be launched  on 7 September. Part of this strategy will be a proposal for a Council Recommendation on Long-Term Care, which the Czech Presidency aims to finalise during its mandate. ESN welcomes this ambitious time plan and urges the Commission and EU Member States to take its recent recommendations for a comprehensive care strategy into account. Since 2016 when the Commission launched its proposal for the European Pillar of Social Rights, we have been highlighting the need for the Commission to acknowledge the duty of care of public authorities with responsibility for social services. Related to this, ESN has regularly insisted on the promotion by the Commission of a care guarantee as a common link between its policy initiatives on vulnerable children, youth and adults.

A presidency taking Europe as a task – also in its social dimension 

Looking at the social policy files and related presidency events, one can clearly state that the Czech Presidency takes on the task of advancing Europe – as well in its social dimension. ESN is looking forward to work in close cooperation with the Presidency to make its activities as impactful as possible and ensure “Rethinking, Rebuilding and Repowering” also applies to social services.

The programme of the Czech presidency can be downloaded here.