Since 1 July, Finland assumes for six months the rotating presidency of the European Union. Among the main axis of the Finnish Presidency are the acceleration of the energy transition, the fight against global warming and the strengthening of the EU’s social dimension. The Minister of Social Affairs in the Finnish centre-left government, Aino-Kaisa Pekonen, intends to put at the centre of the debates of the 27 the concept of « economy of well-being« . Pleading for a « paradigm shift« , Helsinki intends to defend a better consideration of social and environmental issues in decision-making at the level of the European institutions.
The well-being economy: towards a sustainable and inclusive growth
Interviewed at the end of August by the news website Euractiv, Aino-Kaisa Pekonen, Minister of Social Affairs, presented the priorities of her government in the framework of the Finnish Presidency of the European Union. Stressing « the interdependence between economic growth and the well-being of citizens« , Mrs Pekonen calls for a better understanding of the « social sustainability » of the European economic and environmental policies. Also arguing for a stronger fight against gender-based discrimination, the minister argues that greater equality in pay would lead to « a 10% growth in the EU’s GDP per capita by 2050« , according to an OECD report.
The development of the digital economy could be an opportunity to conciliate sustainable growth and greater social inclusion by allowing « workers to engage in other tasks that no longer require physical effort » or the elderly « to improve their overall standard of living in terms of care and support« .
Acknowledging that « the [European] legislative agenda for the social sector is very light at the moment« , Mrs Pekonen hopes the new EU bodies will commit to taking better account of social issues. She calls for an « effective implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights« , an ambitious but non-binding text adopted in Gothenburg in November 2017 by EU labour ministers.
The Von Der Leyen Commission: an opportunity to strengthen the social and environmental dimension of the European project?
In her address to the European Parliament on 16 July, the new President of the European Commission, Urusula Von der Leyen, expressed support for strengthening the EU’s social dimension. The new head of the Commission has argued in particular for « the establishment of a European minimum wage » or an « unemployment reinsurance » system at EU level. It remains to be seen whether these announcements will be followed by the work program of the new Commission in October. Meanwhile, Finland intends to use its presidency to steer the EU towards its ambitious concept, « the economy well-being« .
Regarding these subjects, IPSE is organizing its 46th European Meeting on the European Foundation of Social Rights, hosted by the European Economic and Social Committee in Brussels. With the participation of many experts (parliamentarians, social partners, universities), this meeting will be an opportunity to discuss the update of social Europe.