The European Union urgently needs to be more social. In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, people in the EU are dealing with one crisis after another, crises that are putting at risk their access to housing, their purchasing power, their energy supply and that are leaving people unable to provide food for their families. An increasing number of families and individuals are facing energy poverty and social exclusion, while inequalities are increasing rapidly. We need to respond to this acute social crisis, and we must prepare a just transition to a climate-neutral economy. Achieving a more social Europe is a formidable challenge that should be central in all the Union’s actions.
Governments have been slow or unwilling to respond to the social crisis, and no ambitious plan has been put forward. Saving the banks during the 2008 ﬁnancial collapse and the coordinated economic response to the COVID-19 pandemic show that the European Union is able to mobilize resources in times of crisis. The Greens/EFA Group calls for an ambitious EU crisis response with massive social investment, and for concrete solutions such as a minimum income set above the poverty line and a ban on energy disconnections.
According to the latest Eurobarometer, the top two concerns of EU citizens are the rising cost of living and poverty and social exclusion. Two years ago, at the ﬁrst Porto Summit, all EU leaders agreed that it was time to deliver on a strong social Europe. Since then, few concrete measures have been taken to meet this objective by 2030. The Porto Social Forum, which takes place on May 26-27, should answer these pressing matters. However, by largely focusing on skills, it misses the opportunity to address the top concerns EU citizens have and fails at oﬀering quick and actionable solutions for a just transition.
The Greens/EFA Group believes that the Porto Social Forum is the place to put forward ambitious ideas and develop social policies that will help people live a life in dignity. It is also a unique opportunity for EU leaders to commit to the full implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights, such as banning unpaid internships, protecting workers from surveillance black-box algorithms, access to housing and assistance for the homeless, and minimum income.
One of the most important tools member countries should implement is the setting of their minimum income to above the poverty line to ensure a decent life and eradicate poverty. The Greens/EFA have long called for binding legislation on this matter and believe that this is one of the most important steps in making the EU more socially just.
Social crises can be averted only if the social transition is addressed together with the green one, and tackling economic inequalities is a precondition for eﬀective climate action. Thus, the focus of the Porto Social Forum should be on quality jobs and ﬁghting poverty as key elements to ensure a just transition. For example, the U.S. Inﬂation Reduction Act 2022 includes several legislative proposals addressing climate change and the greening of the economy that introduce social conditionalities as prerequisites for companies to receive support from the government. The EU cannot fall behind on social rights.
The problems facing our societies stem from the current socio- economic system that exploits natural resources and people alike. We want an economy that puts people and the planet before proﬁt.
Polluters and the wealthiest in our societies need to pay their fair share. The most vulnerable cannot suﬀer because our system is designed to the advantage of corporations: according to ECB data, proﬁts have contributed greatly to the increase in prices. Nowhere is this more evident than in the energy market: skyrocketing prices have come with enormous proﬁts for companies but increasing energy poverty and disconnections for people.
The transition can only happen if people feel supported: those in employment; and those who are neglected by the current system and who are out of work. Companies should implement mandatory just transition plans, designed together with their employees and with the involvement of social partners. Trade unions have an important role to play in accompanying workers through the labor market transition to ensure they are in the driving seat.
In order to create a more social and a greener Europe, the European Union and its institutions must look at how to mainstream social and environmental measures. In this respect, a deep review of EU ﬁscal rules and the economic governance framework should ensure that member countries can make the required social investments.
The Porto Social Forum should not waste the chance to discuss these measures and the urgent need for a new social contract. If the EU wants to maintain the support of its people, it needs to ensure a more equal society where people and the planet alike are put ahead of proﬁt.