„This is a landmark moment for Europe. Our Union has always been a social project at heart. It is more than just a single market, more than money, more than the euro. It is about our values and the way we want to live.” European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker.
In the wake of the Brexit, the rest of the EU has deepened its commitment to social rights with the European Pillar of Social Rights agreement signed in Gothenberg, Sweden on November 17th.
Painful issues such as the Brexit and the Syrian refugee crisis have presented the EU with an existential challenge; can a simple economic union work in contemporary times to create unity, prevent war and spread social justice? The answer, at least during the severe financial and economic crises between 2007-2013, was ‘no, not really’. The UK voted to leave the union, and the strains caused by the influx of Syrian and other economic migrants triggered a swing to the extreme right in many EU countries.
But the EU has taken responsibility and is doing the hard work to get back on track even without the UK. In reinforcing its identity as a force for human rights and social rights, it is growing up. Given that the EU was first formed to prevent terrible conflicts like World War II from ever happening again, it’s a good thing that it keeps evolving and maturing. If we were to talk about the possibility of a ‘supra-world’ country, it could be the EU in the long-term future; an economic and political bloc that has its highest values as peace, social justice and productivity.
Social rights as defined by the EU are:
▶ Equal opportunities and access to the labour market
▶ Education, training and lifelong learning
▶ Gender equality
▶ Equal opportunities
▶ Active support to employment
▶ Fair working conditions
▶ Secure and adaptable employment
▶ Fair Wages
▶ Information about employment conditions and protection in case of dismissals
▶ Social dialogue and involvement of workers
▶ Work-life balance
▶ Healthy, safe and well-adapted work environment and data protection
▶ Social protection and inclusion
▶ Childcare and support to children
▶ Social protection
▶ Unemployment benefits
▶ Minimum income
▶ Old age income and pensions
▶ Inclusion of people with disabilities
▶ Long-term care
▶ Housing and assistance for the homeless
▶ Access to essential services
Provided this commitment is sustained, it’s an effective way to counterbalance excessive swings to extreme positions like fascism and populism.
After all, it’s our tax money they are spending. If it’s spent wisely and people have good lives and freedom, extremists remain on the fringe and their power is negligible.