A High-Level Conference on the European Pillar of Social Rights was held at La Hulpe in Belgium on 15 and 16 April 2024. The final objective of the conference was to adopt an interinstitutional declaration preparing the future social agenda of the 2024-2029 period and reaffirming the role of the European Pillar of Social Rights as a compass for EU social policy. 


The Declaration was signed on 16 April by the European Commission, Prime Minister De Croo on behalf of 25 EU Member States, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee, the majority of European social partners and civil society. 


CECOP welcomes the prioritisation of the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR) as the continued implementation of the EPSR is vital for creating a social and inclusive Union. Moreover, the inclusion of revising the 2021 EPSR Action Plan in 2025 provides the possibility for the further reinforcement of the EPSR and the achievement of the 2030 targets that need to be adapted to the current socio-economic context. 

The Declaration briefly mentions social economy and acknowledges the importance of “developing social economy framework conditions” aligned with the San Sebastian Manifesto and the Liège Roadmap for Social Economy in the EU. We also regret that the implementation of the EPSR is solely conceived trough the social dialogue while not all actors involved and concerned are represented around the table. We call on the Members States and the European Institutions to make sure social economy representatives, including the cooperatives ones, are associated in further discussion about the EPSR.  

Industrial and service cooperatives provide a significant contribution to the implementation of the EPSR principles. They are proven drivers of social cohesion. They are key contributors to providing access to quality employment, education and training, with a specific attention to vulnerable workers. They bring democracy, equality, and equity at the workplace, fight for social rights and adequate social protection for all. Community-based and owned, they provide quality and affordable social services, including care and essential services, guaranteeing dignified life for many. Thus, their inclusion would have further strengthened the overall impact of the Declaration.  


The possibility to evaluate the directive on public procurement is also a welcome addition to the Declaration. Indeed, currently, the public procurement directive is not used to its full potential, as the inclusion of social and environmental considerations are underused. To this end, CECOP is looking forward to having this on the agenda of the 2024-2029 period to ensure that public authorities engage in socially responsible public procurement. 


However, the lack of emphasis on investment instruments is a concern. The Declaration underlines “the need to continue the work for a common understanding of social investment”, and the need to “fully exploit the potential of skills, labour market and social policies for economic growth, productivity and competitiveness.” However, there are no clear proposals for investment instruments, without which the EPSR cannot be fully implemented. 


In fact, with the potential return to restrictive fiscal policy, as highlighted here, it is crucial to provide targeted support to social economy enterprises, including industrial and service cooperatives. Fiscal consolidation and the resulting austerity programmes will lead to cuts in public spending that will negatively affect the implementation of the EPSR, the achievement of the 2030 targets, and ultimately, the creation of a strong social Europe. To this end, it is imperative that the 2024-2029 period strongly combines social and fiscal policies. 


You can find the final Declaration here.