A new European Commission is being formed following the European Parliament elections in May 2019 and the confirmation of the new Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen. On the 10th September 2019 Ursula von der Leyen revealed the names of the Commissioner-designates who will oversee the different policy areas of the Commission.
The mandates of the Commissioners-designate offer a preview of upcoming policy developments and priorities. Whilst a number of initiatives could support social services, such as a European Child Guarantee, social policy is not a headline priority for any of the Commissioners-designate.
The scattering of the social policy portfolio
Three of the Commissioners-designate have portfolios relevant for social services.
Valdis Dombrovskis will be Executive Vice-President-designate for ‘An Economy that Works for People’. He will oversee the implementation of certain social policy initiatives, such as an action plan for the European Pillar of Social Rights (ESPR) and the integration of the UN Sustainable Development Goals in the financial and economic policy cycle between the European Commission and the Member States known as the European Semester.
Helena Dalli, Commissioner-designate for Equality, is tasked with implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability, the Work-Life Balance Directive, and addressing gender-based violence and support for victims.
Nicolas Schmit, Commissioner-designate for Jobs, will be directly responsible for developing an action plan to implement the ESPR. He is also tasked with managing the European Social Fund+, strengthening social protection systems through the European Semester, reinforcing the Youth Guarantee and developing a new Child Guarantee. During his hearing at the European Parliament, Schmit emphasised that investments in social services will be important in the fight against poverty and social exclusion.
While Schmit’s recognition is positive, the title of his mandate ‘Jobs’ implies that social policy will be approached first and foremost from employment, neglecting the importance of wider social policy measures, such as care provided by social services. At ESN we believe that activation based only on employment is not enough for the social inclusion of people furthest from the labour market. Our Inclusive Activation Toolkit has our members views on it.
Opportunities for stronger social policy
Social policy not being a specific mandate for a Commissioner implies that it may not be a priority area for the new European Commission.
“We are pleased that social inclusion was highlighted as a priority by Commissioner-designate Nicolas Schmit at the European Parliament. There are several promising proposals such as the Child Guarantee (promoting better outcomes for children) and a growing focus on social issues in the European Semester. We look forward to working with the respective commissioners to fight poverty and promote social inclusion across Europe,” says Alfonso Lara Montero, ESN’s Chief Executive.