On Friday, 17th November 2017, the EU Social Summit in Gothenburg will solemnly proclaim the European Pillar of Social Rights. However, to ensure that one does not end up just with “hot air”, it is now necessary to fill the Pillar with concrete policy. Hence, AK and the Austrian Trade Union Federation (ÖGB) use their “Social Rights First” campaign to show what the social foundation for Europe’s future should look like!


This is the first EU Social Summit for twenty years and due to the fact that the European Pillar of Social Rights was actually supposed to become the social prestige project of the EU Commission under Jean-Claude Juncker, expectations are accordingly high. A long lead time and extensive public consultations have raised high expectancies. However, the fact that the European heads of state and government are meeting with social partners and civil society in Europe's north and will, together with other EU institutions, solemnly proclaim the Social Pillar does not mean that social coldness will disappear from Europe.


However, from the AK’s point of view, the proclamation will fall far short of expectations. In contrast to its name, the Pillar will explicitly not create any new, binding and enforceable social rights. The proposal only limits itself to already existing rights and to principles, which remain legally non-binding and which apart from that are frequently very generally worded. Hence, the Pillar has to be accompanied by measures, which implement the proclaimed principles and improve the working and living conditions of all people in Europe!


Hence, based on the Social Rights First campaign, AK and ÖGB, together with the European Trade Union Confederation, point out, which contents could be used to fill the Pillar. What is required is a concrete roadmap to implement the proclaimed principles, which also ensures their financing. As long as these are recommended to Member States and EU institutions only on a non-binding basis, any impact of principles with regard to fair working conditions or gender equality will remain questionable in practice. The Social Rights First campaign therefore names concrete proposals on the basis of which rising inequalities, high levels of unemployment, low wages and precarious working conditions can be combated at EU level. However, a reorientation towards a balanced wealth-oriented economic policy is required to achieve this change of course. As a first step, one has to question the restrictive fiscal rules and their impact on Europe’s social dimension to ensure that Member States will be granted more room to manoeuvre for future-oriented investments.


From the AK’s point of view, future EU policy has to be on a stable social foundation. It is therefore the plan to integrate a Social Progress Protocol into the EU Treaties. Only then it can be guaranteed that the EU’s market freedoms and rules of competition no longer take priority over social fundamental rights!


60 years after signing the Treaties of Rome, European cooperation is characterised by many uncertainties and the crisis of confidence of the EU will deepen further if the EU fails to clearly contribute to improve the living and working conditions of all people. Only a reorientation towards a more social Europe will be able to kindle people’s enthusiasm for a common European project!


Further information:

SOCIAL RIGHTS FIRST: A better Europe for working people: a stronger Pillar of Social Rights

Live transmission and recordings of the Social Summit in Gothenburg

AK Position Paper on the European Pillar of Social Rights

Social Europe: We Need a Strong 'Social Pillar’ To Support Working People (Luca Visentini, General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation)

Arbeit & Wirtschaft Blog: Filling the Social Pillar with concrete contents: A better Europe for working people