Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR)
European section of United Cities and Local Governments

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Local and regional governments as employers

Social rights - 19.03.2021

New EU plan for social rights paves way for collaboration with towns and regions
The European Union is set to step up its efforts to promote citizens’ social rights across the continent. Indeed, the EU Commission released an action plan earlier this month to implement the European Pillar of Social Rights, which sets standards on labour and social issues.

Crucially, the Pillar’s principles and targets are joint commitment for civil society and all levels of government, including municipalities, counties and regions. Indeed, ensuring decent social conditions for all is a common responsibility for all society.

We are pleased to report that the new Action Plan has many provisions sensitive to local and regional governments’ needs and recommendations on how to promote social rights. In particular, the Plan includes three priorities previously highlighted by CEMR: education and training to develop new skills, measures reacting to demographic trends and social exclusion, and boosting women’s participation in the labour market.

A flexible approach that engages local government

The EU Commission recognises the key role of local and regional governments in delivering the Pillar of Social Rights. In line with this responsibility, we call on the Commission to ensure appropriate representation of local and regional governments in the High-Level Expert Group to study the future of the welfare state.

Crucially, the package includes a number of non-legisiative initiatives that respect the competences of national social partners and allow for tayloring measures to the different conditions in each EU country. The Commission is right to avoid a one-size-fits-all approach given Europe’s diverse social conditions and systems.

These include strengthening EU-level social dialogue and the social dimension of the European Semester – the annual cycle for policymakers to better coordinate member states’ economic policies.  In particular, there will be a revised Social Scoreboard tracking the fulfillment of social rights, a set of metrics in which local and regional governments are central.

Specific measures for housing and employment

The Commission is also planning an Affordable Housing Initiative to pilot the renovation of 100 districts across Europe. This programme is a welcome step and indeed we should go further in this direction.

The EU executive is also providing guidance for Effective Active Support to Employment post-COVID (EASE), recommendations to help national governments use the NextGen EU recovery fund to boost employment.

Overall, the Action Plan outlines a flexible and appropriate agenda for promoting social rights in Europe. Local and regional governments remain at the forefront to support entrepreneurship and contribute to creating an enabling environment for gender equality, digitalisation, sustainability and the resilience of local businesses.

Towns, regions and their representative associations look forward to further collaborating with the EU institutions and national governments in the context of the European Semester to implement this plan of action and further strengthen social rights across Europe.
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