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Event in Lisbon, Portugal on Economy and Social Justice

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Event in Lisbon, Portugal on Economy and Social Justice


Parliament for the Future of Europe

Evora, Lisbon – 27 May 2023

The Parliament for the Future of Europe is our take on the Conference for the Future of Europe. Our aim is to bring together a diverse group of people from marginalized and underrepresented groups to the center of the debate. With our six partners we will bring participants from across Europe to discuss and scrutinize the proposals of the historic Conference on the Future of Europe and reshape them to be more inclusive and meet the needs of vulnerable communities. Evora, Portugal the Portuguese Women’s Platform hosted the event on Economy and Social Justice on Saturday, 27 May. The Conference for the Future of Europe proposal on economy and social justice starting on page 53 served as the basis of the discussion. 

Photos of the event can be found here

Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or CERV. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.

The new proposals are as follows: 

Proposal: Sustainable development and innovation

Objective: We propose that the EU supports the shift to a sustainable and resilient growth model, considering the green and digital transitions with a strong social dimension in the European Semester, and empowering citizens, trade unions and businesses. The conventional macroeconomic indicators and the GDP could be complemented with new indicators in order to address the new European priorities such as the European Green Deal or the European Pillar of Social Rights and to better reflect the ecological and digital transitions and the wellbeing of people. This objective could be achieved by:

1. Promoting greener production processes by companies, with a focus on supporting small scale, local and organic farming, as well as supporting companies to identify the best solutions and providing positive and negative incentives, and by increasing local production and consumption;

2. Working towards a more sustainable and circular economy by addressing the issue of planned obsolescence and ensuring the right of repair, as well as improving quality standards on production to reduce obsolescence and waste;

3. Reviewing the EU's economic governance and the European Semester to ensure that the green and digital transitions, social justice and social progress go hand-in-hand with economic competitiveness, without ignoring the economic and fiscal nature of the European Semester. In addition, there is a need to better involve social partners and the local and regional authorities in the implementation of the European Semester in order to improve its application and accountability;

4. Tackling the use of single use plastic packaging/containers by prohibiting trash trade, as well as shortening the supply chain of fresh produce to reduce reliance on plastic products;

5. Expanding the European technology and research into new materials and technology as well as the innovation of existing materials with the view of ensuring Europe's independence from foreign technology. Ensuring that research efforts are not duplicated within the internal European market;

6. Addressing the sustainability, affordability and accessibility of energy, considering energy poverty, by increasing the internal energy generation capacity using sustainable energy solutions as an alternative to the reliance on non-EU states;

7. Raising awareness among both companies and citizens how to behave in a more sustainable manner, and guarantee just transition, based on social dialogue and quality jobs. Promoting a zero-waste lifestyle;

8. Imposing EU labour and environmental standards to EU companies operating outside the EU, and on foreign companies trading in the EU.


Proposal: Enhancing EU’s competitiveness and further deepening the Single Market

Objective: We propose strengthening the competitiveness and resilience of the European Union’s economy, single market, industry and addressing strategic dependencies. We need to promote an entrepreneurial culture in the EU, where innovative businesses of all sizes, and in particular Micro-, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs), as well as start-ups are encouraged and can thrive in order to contribute to more resilient and cohesive societies. There is a need for a strong functioning market economy in order to facilitate the vision of a more social Europe. This objective could be achieved by:

1. Developing a clear vision for the European economy and playing to Europe's strengths, quality and diversity while taking into account of economic and other differences between Member States, and promoting cooperation and competition between businesses;

2. Consolidating what has been done in terms of the single currency and the interconnection of payment systems and telecommunications and adding any necessary oversight;

3. Ensuring the support of local and regional cultural producing peculiarities and respecting production traditions;

4. Enhancing upward social and economic convergence in the Single Market, by completing existing initiatives, such as the Banking Union and the Capital Markets Union and implementing a forward-looking reform of our Economic and Monetary Union. Investing in economic education especially for the most vulnerable in society;

5. Promoting policies for a resilient industrial base and innovation in key enabling technologies, and a forward-looking climate policy coupled with industrial competitiveness and a strong social dimension, based on structured dialogues with trade unions and other social actors;

6. Giving special attention in all new initiatives to SMEs, ensuring they are strong and competitive in the face of large corporations. The “Think Small First” principle must be respected in all EU’s legislative proposals and a SME test should be reinforced in the Commission's impact assessment in accordance with clear principles while fully respecting social and environmental standards and consumer rights;

7. Limiting the barriers for SMEs. Ensuring the participation of SMEs in funding applications, tenders and networks with as little administrative effort as possible and offering sufficient support in doing so. Access to finance for SMEs with high-risk innovation projects should be further developed by entities such as the European Innovation Council and the European Investment Bank. Reducing, where non-essential, bureaucracy in obtaining permits and certifications;

8. Creating a better framework for investments in research and innovation aimed at a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly business model. Focusing on technology and innovation as drivers of sustainable growth;

9. Supporting SMEs working in strategic scientific sectors, including space, robotics and AI;

10. Investing in sustainable tourism such as domestic tourism and in the creation of more train connections, promoting small destinations in Europe;

11. Addressing the security of supply and environmental impact by diversifying input sources/raw materials and increasing the manufacture of key goods in Europe, such as health, food, energy, defense, transport, and digital infrastructure;

12. Offer opportunities and training for digitalisation of European businesses. Promoting digital cohesion to contribute to economic, social and territorial cohesion as defined in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union;

13. Strengthening cross-border cooperation, in particular in the energy sector, in order to enhance cohesion and resilience within and beyond regions, by fostering the European Cross Border Mechanism and similar tools;

14. Enhancing and promoting the possibilities for cross-border training in order to upskill the European workforce and increase competitiveness, while at the same time boosting citizens' economic literacy. Promoting exchanges between workers in Europe through a European Job Centre. Encouraging young people to study science subjects;

15. Combating counterfeiting, green-washing, and unfair competition, while lowering tax on local and ethically produced products;

16. Consolidating and protecting the Single Market should be considered across policy while prioritizing social security and social justice; measures and initiatives at EU and national level should not be detrimental to the Single Market nor to social justice and should contribute to the free flow of people, goods, services, and capital;

17. New EU policy initiatives should undergo a “competitiveness check” to analyse their impact on companies and their business environment (cost of doing business, capacity to innovate, international competitiveness, level playing eld, etc) as well as a “social impact check” by consulting various social groups. Such check shall be in accordance with the Paris Agreement, the Sustainable Development Goals, including gender equality, and shall not undermine the protection of human, social and workers' rights nor environmental and consumer protection standards. To this effect, we also propose the establishment of a European Advisory Competitiveness Body which should monitor how the competitiveness check and social impact check is performed and in particular assess the cumulative impact of legislation, as well as put forward proposals to improve the right framework conditions for competitiveness of EU companies. Such a body should include organised civil society and the social partners in its governance.


Proposal: Inclusive labour markets

Objective: We propose to improve the functioning of labour markets so that they ensure fairer working conditions and promote gender equality, employment, including that of young people and vulnerable groups. The EU, Member States and social partners need to work to end in-work poverty, address the rights of platform workers, ban un-paid internships and ensure fair labour mobility in the EU. We must promote social dialogue and collective bargaining. We need to ensure the full implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights, including its relevant headline targets for 2030, at EU, national, regional and local level in the areas of “equal opportunities and access to the labour market” and “fair working conditions”, while respecting competences and the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality and to include a Social Progress Protocol in the Treaties. While doing so, there should be a respect of national traditions and the autonomy of social partners and a cooperation with civil society. This objective could be achieved by:

1. Ensuring that statutory minimum wages guarantee that each worker can earn a decent and similar quality of living across all Member States, assuming clear criteria (e.g. living costs , inflation, above the poverty line, the average and median wage at national level) to be taken into account when setting minimum wages level should be set up, and taking in consideration cultural contexts like family structures, age of retirement, etc. It should also take into consideration part-time workers, platform workers and seasonal workers and the impact of their particular realities;

2. Taking stock and more strongly enforcing the implementation of the Working Time Directive (Directive 2003/88/EC) and other relevant legislation that ensures healthy work life balance while looking at new national policies in this domain;

3. Introducing or reinforcing existing legislation that regulates so-called 'smart working' and incentivising companies to promote it, namely through taxation. The EU should ensure the right to disconnect, do more to address the digital divide at the workplace and assess the implications of remote work on health, particularly mental health, working time and companies performance. Assure companies’ responsibilities on remote workplaces (assure minimal investments). There is a need to guarantee fair digitalisation based on human rights, improved working conditions and collective bargaining;

4. Having integrated employment policies at an EU level where active labour market policies remain central and increasingly coordinated while Member States focus on continuing their reform efforts to create favourable conditions for quality job creation;

5. Taking steps to ensure that social rights are fully protected and safeguarded in case of conflict with economic freedoms including via the introduction of a social progress protocol in the Treaties;

6. Ensuring gender equality, in line with 2020- 2025 EU Gender Equality Strategy. The EU should continue measuring the gender equality through a gender equality index (i.e. attitudes, salary gap, employment, leadership, etc.), monitor the strategy yearly and be transparent with the achievements; and encourage the sharing of expertise and best practices and set up a possible direct citizen-feedback mechanism (e.g. an Ombudsperson). There is a need to address gender pay gap and introduce quotas in senior positions as well as to go beyond quotas. The EU must assure sensitive women driven policies, addressing education, barriers to participation, the reintegration of women in the workface after childbearing, as well as maternal leaves. There should be more support for women entrepreneurs in the business environment and women in STEM;

7. Promoting youth employment, for example through financial assistance for companies, but also by giving employers and workers additional support and support to young entrepreneurs and young self-employed professionals for example through educational tools and courses. More emphasis should be put in an EU-Companies collaboration to regulate opportunities and assure jobs, for example with taxes incentives. Assistance to entrepreneurs should be assured and addressed each social sector’s specificities.

8. Promoting employment of disadvantaged groups, in particular among people with disabilities, who must be allowed and incentivised to participate in all spheres of civic and public life;

9. Promoting employment and social mobility and, therefore, to have a full chance of self-realisation and self-determination. There could be a long-term strategy to ensure everyone in our societies has the right skills to find a job and bring their talents to fruition, in particular the young generation. Companies must introduce procedures on how to integrate disable people and create certification and adequate frameworks. It is important to invest in people’s skills adapted to the changing labour market needs and promoting life-long learning through among others exchange programme at all stages of life and ensure the right to lifelong learning and the right to training. To this end, there is a need to strengthen the cooperation between businesses, trade unions and vocational, education and training providers.


Proposal: Stronger and more inclusive social policies

Objective: We propose to reduce inequalities, fight social exclusion, and tackle poverty. We need to put in place a comprehensive anti-poverty strategy that could include, among other, a reinforced Child Guarantee and Youth Guarantee, the introduction of minimum wages, a common EU framework for minimum income schemes and decent social housing. We need to ensure the full implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights, including its relevant headline targets for 2030, at EU, national, regional and local level in the area of “social protection and inclusion” with due regard for respective competences and the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality and to include a Social Progress Protocol in the Treaties. This objective could be achieved by:

1. Reinforcing the competences of the EU in social policies and proposing legislation to promote social policies and ensure equality of rights, including public health and education, women’s rights, access to housing, migration policies and LGBT+ rights, harmonised for the entire EU, which take into consideration agreed regulations and the minimum requirements throughout the territory. The EU could support and complement the policies of Members State by among others proposing a common framework for minimum incomes to ensure that nobody is left behind; These actions should be carried in the framework of the full implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights and its Action Plan;

2. Commitment to broaden and support the national welfare rights (public health, public education, labour policies). Use of the European Social Charter as a standard for social rights;        

3. Promoting research and providing appropriate and well-distributed research funding in social matters and health in the EU, following priority lines that are considered to be of public interest and agreed on by the member countries, and providing the appropriate funding. This could be achieved in part by reinforcing collaboration across fields of expertise, across countries, centres of studies (universities, etc.);

4. Granting free access to medical services to all persons across the EU in case these services are not available in the national context;

5. Ensuring that the EU, together with social partners and national governments, supports targeted access to decent social housing for citizens, according to their specific needs financial effort should be shared among private funders, landlords, housing beneficiaries, Member State governments at central and local levels, and the European Union. Creating a minimum standards for the housing conditions (heating system, isolation conditions, access for people with disabilities, anti-discrimination policies, etc).

6. Guarantee access to safe and legal abortion across the EU.

7. Guarantee access to free menstrual (prioritizing re-usable products) and contraception products across the EU.

8. Ensuring that the EU together with social partners and governments at central and local levels provide easy access to social programs and actively share information about the relevant social policies.


Proposal: Demographic transition

Objective: We propose to address the challenges arising from the demographic transition, as a critical ingredient of Europe’s overall resilience, in particular low birth rates and a steadily ageing population, by ensuring support to people throughout the lifecycle. This should involve comprehensive action aimed at all generations, from children and young people, to families, to the working-age population, to older persons who are still prepared to work as well as those in retirement or need of care. This objective could be achieved by:

1. Ensuring quality, affordable and accessible childcare across the EU, so that mothers, fathers, and guardians can confidently reconcile their work and family life. Where appropriate this could include childcare facilities at or near the workplace. If not possible, companies should not force mothers nor guardians to do night shifts. Overnight care options should be available across the EU, in particular to children of migrant women and women living in poverty. Additionally, this could be flanked by supportive measures such as reduced VAT rates on facilities needed for children and dependent people (older people, people with disabilities, etc.9. It is essential to prevent poverty and social exclusion of children; Reinforcing the Child Guarantee, guaranteeing access of children in need to services such as education and care, healthcare, nutrition and housing, could be an instrument to achieve this.

2. Introducing specific support and protection of work for young people, positive incentives for employees as well as defending the right to equal pay for the same work or work of equal value and the right of payment to all interns across Europe, ensuring complementary measures for smaller organisations, such as NGOs and smaller companies. Such measures towards the working-age population should include access to knowledge for mothers, fathers, and guardians about their return to work and their parental rights. Reinforcing the Youth Guarantee should be an instrument to improve the access of young people under the age of 30 to good quality offers of employment, continued education, apprenticeships or traineeships, and work-life balance.

3. Promoting the right to free movement of education within the Union, among others, through mutual recognition of degrees, grades, skills and qualifications, regardless of age.

4. Improving legislation and implementation thereof to ensure support of families across all Member States, for instance with regard to parental leave as well as childbirth and childcare allowances. Housing plays a crucial role in supporting families and should be accessible to everyone across the EU.

5. Taking action to guarantee that all people enjoy equal rights in all Member States. This should include the right to marriage and adoption, which may not be limited by discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, nationality or ethnicity. [1] Non-consensual among working-group members.

6. Promoting flexible retirement ages by taking account of the specific situation of older persons. When determining the retirement age, there should be a differentiation depending on the age the person started working, the profession, and thereby factoring in particularly demanding work, both mentally and physically. The care work carried out overwhelmingly by women and girls should be taken into account in the process of defining and attributing pensions, as well as atypical and informal work.

7. Preventing old age poverty by introducing minimum universal pensions. Such minimum levels would need to take account of the living standard, the poverty line and purchase power in the respective Member State.

8. Guaranteeing appropriate social and health care to older persons. In doing so, it is important to address both community-based as well as residential care. Equally, measures need to take account of both care receivers and care givers. The work of caring for the elderly population is carried out overwhelmingly by women and girls, within the family structure, and must, on the contrary, be assumed as a fundamental task of the states.

9. Member States must ensure the sustainable development and the demographic resilience of the regions that are lagging behind in order to make them more vibrant and attractive, including through the cohesion policy.

10. Taking coordinated action at the European level for harmonizing and collecting data disaggregated by factors such as sex and analysing demographic trends, sharing best practices and knowledge and supporting Member States in shaping and implementing adequate policies including by extending the competence of relevant EU bodies to tackle demographic transition.

11. The sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls must be assured across Europe, including the right to legal and safe abortion to all. Women and girls cannot be used as tools for testing demographic targets and Member States must discourage alarmist narratives about the phenomenon that serve as veiled attempts to attack or limit the human rights of women and girls. [2] Non-consensual among working-group members.

12. We recommend that Member States look at migration as an opportunity to address the challenges of demographic transition.


Proposal: Fiscal and tax policy

Objective: We propose that the EU promotes future-oriented investments focused on the green and digital transitions with a strong social and gender dimension, taking also into account the examples of the Next Generation EU and the SURE instrument. The EU needs to take into account the social and economic impact of the war against Ukraine and the link between the EU economic governance with the new geopolitical context and by strengthening its own budget through new own resources. Citizens want to move away taxation from people and SMEs and target tax evaders, big polluters and by taxing the digital giants while at the same time they want to see the EU supporting Member States' and local authorities' ability to finance themselves and as well as in using EU funds. This objective should be achieved by:

1. Heavy regulations should be created in order to fight tax evasion and ban fiscal havens within EU and further restrict the business and deals with tax havens outside the EU. Decisions on tax matters might better be taken by qualified majority in the Council of the EU. The EU should promote and encourage member states to adopt fiscal policies that take into consideration the digital and green transition as well as social and gender sensitive fiscal policies;

2. Promoting cooperation between EU Member States to ensure that all companies in the EU pay their fair share of taxes; Introducing a common corporate tax base or a minimum effective rate;

3. Ensuring that companies must pay taxes where actual profits are made, which if not done represents tax evasion. Heavy Regulations should be implemented to make sure that it is not allowed to move profits between Member States and Subsidiary Companies;

4. Ensuring that the EU’s fiscal policy holds a strong social and gender dimension, strengthening the competitiveness and fairness of the EU labour market , namely focusing on European Industry, the digital technologies and innovation and transition to green energy so that we prevent job losses in Europe;

5. Consider common borrowing at EU level, with a view to creating more favourable borrowing conditions, while maintaining responsible fiscal policies at Member State level. A common borrowing at EU level should however be subjected to specific predefined criteria justifying its need;

6. Strengthening the oversight of the absorption and use of EU funds, including at local and municipal level, by enhancing the transparency of the funds management. Monitoring of this oversight should be done by the European Prosecutors Office;

7. Ensuring EU wide taxation on polluters, both industries and products, which should revert to social funding programs and policies, including but not limited to immigration, disaster relief and economic crisis;

8. Inclusion of gender sensitive budgeting measures in order to avoid gender neutrality which reinforces sex-based discrimination;

9. The strengthening of the Welfare State and Social Protection Policies should be the focus of an effective and just fiscal policy with the EU, as well as addressing matters such as parental leave and unpaid care work which should be included in the calculation of pensions;

10. The EU should propose fiscal incentives to employers to employ people coming from vulnerable and marginalized groups, also considering labour policies and positive measures targeting sex-based discrimination.

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