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On 8th July 2019, a meeting took place of the Council of the European Union on the “Economy of Wellbeing”, which the Finnish Presidency chose as a key issue of its time in office. This focus shall help to shape Europe’s future and move the people to the centre of policy-making again.

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The issue of how to shape future politics in Europe was the subject of a joint event organised by the Austrian Federal Chamber of Labour (AK EUROPA) and the Austrian Trade Union Federation (ÖGB Europabüro), the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB) and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation on 19.06.2019. Together with Professor Björn Hacker, political and workforce representatives discussed the issue, as to what a European Union might look like, which would not only react to crises, but would actively operate as problem solver.

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By proclaiming the European Pillar of Social Rights over eighteen months ago another attempt had been made to pave the way towards a more social structure of the European Union. Since then, several Directives have been adopted. However, to what extent the Pillar will lead to positive changes, does not least depend on the socio-political measures of the next Commission.

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On 5th June 2019, the European Commission published its country-specific recommendations within the framework of the European Semester. The concrete recommendations for Austria paint a mixed picture: on the one hand, it is recommended to increase the cooperation with the social partners. On the other hand, increasing the statutory pension age has been recommended once again.

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On 29 May 2019, a public hearing on the UN binding treaty on business and human rights took place in the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC). Prior to the next negotiation round at EU level, which will take place in October, experts from academia as well as representatives of the social partners and NGOs had the opportunity to present their views on the treaty.

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On 17th November 2017, the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR) had been proclaimed at the Social Summit in Gothenburg. One-and-a-half years after this proclamation and prior to the coming EU elections it is now possible to take stock. On March 28th 2019, discussions on the implementation and an outlook on the future were held in a public hearing in the European Economic and Social Committee in Brussels.

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In his latest book “Rewriting the Rules of the European Economy”, the winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics Joseph Stiglitz develops new ideas for the economic and social policy of the European Union. In doing so he proposes new rules for institutions and politics in the sectors employment, stability and growth.

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The implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights is a necessary but not a sufficient step towards a fairer Europe. Therefore, AK EUROPA used this year’s report “Benchmarking Working Europe 2019” as an opportunity to discuss during a joint event hosted with the Austrian Trade Union Federation (ÖGB Europabüro), with ETUC, ETUI and political representatives, which steps have to be taken within the EU to put the focus on employees.

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Renting is getting increasingly more expensive and risks becoming a luxury good. More and more people in Europe can hardly afford to rent a place to call their home. However, at the same time, rents are rising faster than earnings, which, for many makes the situation even worse. Therefore, AK EUROPE supports the European Citizens’ Initiative “Housing for All”, which was launched on 27 March 2019.

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Nicol Gruber

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