The EU institutions’ new leaderships are being presented with a highly unusual report. It sets out the strengths and weaknesses of social policies that have been fundamental to the European Union, and recommends actions to reaffirm Europe’s social principles while at the same time addressing competitiveness issues.
Austerity and the economic crisis have seen ‘Social Europe’ pushed steadily down the EU’s policy agenda. Friends of Europe therefore convened last year 25 well-known figures spanning a wide range of political opinion under the chairmanship of former Belgian deputy premier and social affairs minister Frank Vandenbroucke to analyse the facts and propose solutions.
The report’s co-signatories call on Jean-Claude Juncker and his fellow commissioners to take a broader approach to social investment that is essential to avoiding longer-term burdens on economic growth. Their report urges greater investment in the caring of Europe’s deprived and under-privileged, and the education and training that can ensure equality of opportunity.
Against a background of unacceptably high unemployment in so many EU countries, particularly of young people, the report’s key message is that human investment must be equal to physical investment.