Much ado about the Social Summit?

by Graça Enes (Faculty of Law of the University of Porto and CIJE)

The Porto Social Summit was the high point of the Portuguese Presidency, a two-day event (May 7-8th) intended to achieve a strong commitment from Member States, European institutions, social partners, and civil society towards the implementation of the Action Plan for the European Pillar of Social Rights[1]. Several side events occurred along the weeks before the Summit, in Portugal and elsewhere[2], anticipating the debate.

In the days before, important members of the Portuguese Government made public statements stressing the ambition of the event. Ana Paula Zacarias, the Secretary of State for European Affairs, stated that the Porto Social Summit could “move principles to action”.

On May 7th, the Summit webpage announced: “Porto Social Summit starts today, defining EU policies for the next decade”. The stakes were high.

During the afternoon of the first day, a High-Level Conference was held for an extended debate, involving members of the Commission, the President of the European Parliament, the President of the European Council, Heads of Government, and social partners. In addition to the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights, issue that was addressed by the Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmitt, the discussion focused around three major subjects: work and employment; skills and innovation; welfare state and social protection. The participation in the debate went beyond the European Union, with the presence of the Director-General of the International Labour Organization and the Secretary-General of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The works of the conference were live streamed, and everyone could follow the debates taking place at the Alfândega building. At the opening session, António Costa declared: “We are here today to renew the European social contract, making a commitment, each one at their own level, to develop innovative and inclusive responses”. At the end of the day, Ursula von der Leyen stated: “The Porto Social Summit is our joint commitment to build a social Europe that is fit for our day and age and that works for everyone”. The tangible outcome of this debate was the “Porto Social Commitment”[3], an encompassing compromise of the EU institutions, Member States and European social partners that was being prepared for weeks and was solemnly presented by the three Presidents on the evening of May 7th.

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Editorial of May 2021

Alessandra Silveira, Joana Covelo de Abreu, Pedro Madeira Froufe (Editors) and Tiago Sérgio Cabral (Managing Editor)

Conference on the future of Europe and the defence of European values

On March 10th, 2021, following a long negotiation, the Presidents of the European Parliament, the Council of the EU and the European Commission signed the “Joint Declaration” on the “Conference on the Future of Europe”, holding its joint presidency.[1] The Conference will be officially launched on May 9th, 2021 in an inaugural session in Strasburg and it will be extended until the Spring of 2022. It aims at creating a new public forum for an open, inclusive, transparent and structured debate with Europeans around the issues that matter to them and affect their everyday lives. A new Special Eurobarometer, published one day before the signing of the Joint Declaration, focuses on the Conference and measures attitudes towards it and some of the key themes to be covered.[2]

Three-quarters of Europeans consider that the Conference will have a positive impact on democracy within the EU: 76% agree that it represents significant progress for democracy within the EU, with a clear majority supporting this view in every EU Member State. The very vast majority of Europeans (92%) across all Member States demand that citizens’ voices are “taken more into account in decisions relating to the future of Europe”. While voting in EU elections is clearly regarded (by 55% of respondents) as the most effective way of ensuring voices are heard by decision-makers at EU level, there is very strong support for EU citizens having a greater say in decisions relating to the future of Europe. 45% of Europeans declare themselves “rather in favour of the EU but not in the way it has been realised so far”. Six in ten Europeans agree that the Coronavirus crisis had made them reflect on the future of the EU while 39% disagree with this.

Continue reading “Editorial of May 2021”