On 26 April, after an extensive public consultation, the European Commission published the long-awaited proposal on the European Pillar of Social Rights. The Proposal was part of a social package, which also includes a proposal on work-life balance and a reflection paper on the future of social Europe. It includes 20 principles, such as the right to education and equal opportunities, intended to guide the EU and Member States’ social policy.
ENIL welcomes the progress made in fields relating to social rights of disabled people. Although the main focus of the new proposal remains on social protection, disability policy is taken into account in other parts of the Social Pillar. This includes the right to inclusive education, independent living and access to community-based services. We regret, however, that the proposed Social Pillar has fallen short of ENIL’s recommendation to mainstream disability.
The proposed Pillar is to take the form of a European Commission Recommendation to the Council and the Parliament, to be jointly adopted by all EU institutions. This means that the principles listed in the Pillar will not be directly enforceable or create new obligations for the Member States. An effective European Pillar of Social Rights would go beyond listing principles which are already accepted by the Member States and entrenched in existing EU policy and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. While recognising that the EU competences on social policy are limited, it could still set more ambitious goals for the Member States. For example, the Pillar could encourage national investments in Personal Assistance services and stimulate the debate on the European recognition of disability and the portability of social rights in the EU beyond employment.
A follow-up mechanism to measure progress towards the principles set out in the Pillar is also lacking. While the Commission proposed an updated score board for social policy in the EU Semester, this scoreboard should be accompanied with a chapter on progress towards the Social Pillar principals in both the European and national European semester documents. This would ensure there are annual progress reports and allow for comparison and follow-up between countries. If no follow-up mechanism is included, there is a serious risk that both the EU and the Member States will fail to implement the Social Pillar principles.
While ENIL welcomes the Commission Proposal as a positive step, there is considerable room for improvement before its planned adoption in November 2017. ENIL looks forward to working with the EU institutions and the Member States to adopt strong legislation to ensure we move from a recommendation to a concrete European Pillar of Social Rights.
European Network on Independent Living – ENIL