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On 1 July, Spain will take over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Against the background of the continuing war in Ukraine and the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, nurturing the EU’s social agenda and making further progress on consolidating the European Pillar of Social Rights will be part  of the Presidency’s work programme over the next 6 months, with the following key priorities:

European Disability Card: Ensuring Equal Rights for All

The establishment of a European Disability Card, currently being trialled in 8 EU countries, is a key milestone for the Spanish Presidency’s social agenda. The European Commission proposal for the card, supported by ESN through the EU Disability Platform, of which we are a member, to ensure mutual recognition of a disabled person’s status and access to some benefits, mainly in culture, leisure, sport and transport, will be published in the autumn. A High-Level Meeting on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will take place on 16 November In Palma, complimenting the establishment of a One-stop shop “AccessibleEU,” at its start by the European Commission, which aims to bring together cutting edge experience, knowledge and practical skills on disability issues for a range of actors including policymakers, legislators, and the representatives of accessibility beneficiaries.  

Shifting Towards Community-Based and Person-Centred Care in Europe

Building on the transformation already underway in the Spanish care system, a High-Level Meeting in Madrid on the right to care, as well as a seminar specifically focused on the role of social services in promoting community care organised by the European Social Network in collaboration with the Presidency in Barcelona will provide a platform to advance and discuss these critical reforms. However, a focus on tackling the issues related to supporting the social services workforce seems to be missing from the Presidency programme. ESN aims to put this on the agenda at our European Parliament round table in November, as well as identifying practical solutions through our participation in the joint project, ‘Strengthening the Skills of Social Workers in Crisis.’

Advancing the European Child Guarantee

Two years ago, EU national governments adopted a recommendation on the European Child Guarantee – a flagship policy designed to ensure that every child in Europe at risk of poverty or social exclusion has access to the most basic of rights like healthcare and education., which aimed to ensure that every child in Europe at risk of poverty or social exclusion has access to the most basic of rights like healthcare and education. The Spanish Presidency in October will host a meeting to explore in Madrid to explore turning the recommendation into a directive, to bolster its implementation across the EU.

The European Pillar of Social Rights and Active Labour Market Policies

Supporting people from vulnerable communities into employment was a focus for the EU Czech Presidency last year, which saw the agreement by EU national governments on a Council Recommendation on adequate minimum income in the EU.  The EU Spanish Presidency is revisiting this theme, with a conference on the European Pillar of Social Rights and new active employment policies, as well as an event on active labour market policies and competencies, both taking place in October in Barcelona. How activating and enabling social services play a vital role in lifting the most vulnerable people out of poverty and social exclusion has been a continuing focus for ESN, and our recent report outlines some of the different active employment support services already being put into practice by our members.

With a focus on the European Pillar of Social Rights, Spain aims to address key issues to advance Europe’s social agenda, and it is hoped their ambitions are not derailed by the upcoming national elections. With European Parliament elections and the formation of a new European Commission looming on the horizon, the EU Spanish Presidency is almost the last opportunity to finalise many pieces of legislation which aim to foster inclusion, equality, and social progress across the EU – and ESN members are ready to support the Presidency’s programme with their expertise and practical experience.