On 17 November during the Social Summit for fair jobs and growth in Gothenburg, Sweden, leaders of the EU Parliament, Commission, Council and Members States proclaimed the European Pillar of Social Rights. In proclaiming this pillar of social rights, Europe’s institutions have evidenced their wish to place social issues as the heart of the European agenda.

Twenty principles and a scoreboard. 20 key principles, structured around three categories, namely, equal opportunities and access to the labor market, fair working conditions, and social protection and inclusion combine to build the social pillar that aims to guide European and national policies so they move forward together towards social objectives. The pillar primarily addresses the Eurozone Member States so that currently sub-optimal social convergence can gain effective momentum. The social pillar is not a binding instrument although the EU Commission does link it with recent legislative measures such as on parental leave and upcoming legislation on workers minimum rights. Monitoring will come about via a dashboard that can assess changes in the Member States’ ‘social performance’.

Social elements within economic governance. The twenty principles are also a way to rectify an ongoing policy bias in recent years towards public deficit reduction that has, on occasions, led to reforms, which have not taken social cohesion effects sufficiently into account. To correct this they have to be included in the European Semester, the EU’s cycle of economic and fiscal policy coordination and part of the European Union’s economic governance framework, which significantly influences the Member States’ social models. The EU Commission underlines that analyses and recommendations from every reform delivered to the Member States will increasingly focus on social considerations and report on social indicators.