Klaus Heeger at the European Economic and Social Committee: “Seize the Pillar of Social Rights and hold governments accountable”

At a conference on the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights in the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) last week, CESI Secretary General Klaus Heeger called on civil society organisations and trade unions to seize the new European Pillar of Social Rights and hold national governments accountable whenever they fail in delivering on a more social Europe.

Klaus Heeger at the European Economic and Social Committee: “Seize the Pillar of Social Rights and hold governments accountable”

In his intervention he said: “Many aims put forward as part of the Pillar can only be realised through action by Member State governments. Trade unions and civil society groups need to analyse the objectives of the Pillar, map them against the reality in their Member State and the problems their affiliates face, and then approach their governments and hold them accountable. It is vital that national governments understand that they need to take ownership of the Pillar. In this way, the Pillar can be instrumental in highlighting to governments the need for more social progress and equality.

Klaus Heeger added: “Article 9 of the TFEU clearly names the promotion of a high level of employment, the guarantee of adequate social protection, the fight against social exclusion, and a high level of education, training and protection of human health as social objectives in Europe. In the Pillar, the European Commission has laid out also what it expects from Member States in this regard. If Member States fail to deliver, it is now clear that they are acting against the spirit and the objectives of the EU. It is the role of trade unions and the civil society to uncover any shortcomings by national governments.”

He concluded: “Of course, this does not mean that the EU institutions are off the hook: They need to sign a joint proclamation to endorse the Pillar at the highest political level and give weight to it. The European Parliament and the Council of Ministers need to move forward swiftly with Pillar-related legislation proposed by the European Commission, most notably in the area of work-life balance. In turn, the European Commission must follow-up on its agenda on decent work and social protection for all during the next months and use the European Semester to keep pressure high on national governments to pursue the objectives of the Pillar. EU institutions, national governments, and civil society and trade unions – Everyone has a responsible role to play to make Europe more social.”

Next to Klaus Heeger, expert speakers included MEP Maria Joao Rodrigues, Gabriele Bischoff (Chair EESC Workers’ Group), Ragnar Horn (European Commission), Tom Bevers and Alexis Rinckenbach (Chair and Vice-Chair of the Council of Ministers’ advisory Employment Committee/EMCO and Social Protection Committee/SPC). The event was hosted by Eurodiaconia.

Picture: Klaus Heeger speaks on the Pillar of Social Rights © CESI 2017