Brussels, Belgium. As Europe takes more and more concrete steps to make the Green Deal become a reality, over 1,200 participants and 75 speakers came together to discuss the social dimension of the green transition at the inaugural European Employment and Social Rights Forum.
Across two days, President Ursula von der Leyen , European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights Commissioner Nicolas Schmit, former Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, the Belgian and Greek governments, policymakers from the European Parliament, the Czech Presidency, as well as academics, citizens and companies came together to discuss how to manage a fair, inclusive and sustainable green transition for all.
The European approach to social rights
The forum was an opportunity to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the European Pillar of Social Rights and its 20 principles, which are grouped around three key topics: equal opportunities; fair working conditions; and social protection and inclusion.
In her opening speech, President Ursula von der Leyen showed optimism in the face of economic recession and a difficult winter ahead, highlighting that the right policies, as inspired by the European Pillar of Social Rights, can help Europeans overcome the crisis.
Since the introduction of the Pillar of Social Rights under former president Jean-Claude Juncker, the Commission has put forward more than 130 measures to implement the pillar across the EU and deliver a social Europe that is fair, inclusive and full of opportunities. Among the most significant initiatives are the Directive for adequate minimum wages in the EU, the Pact for Skills which provides workers with quality training and lifelong learning through public-private partnerships, and the European Gender Equality Strategy supporting women’s participation in the labor market.
A social contract to achieve green growth
Many speakers underlined that commitments to social rights are and should be complementary to the green transition. Participants agreed that social aspects should be more deeply integrated in environmental, fiscal and economic policies. An “intergenerational approach is necessary for ensuring that young people are part of upcoming EU policies,” according to Romanian MEP and chair of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs in the European Parliament Dragoș Pîslaru.
Speakers at the event also agreed that jobs must be as much about quality as quantity. The chair of the European Commission’s High-Level Group on the future of social protection and of the welfare state in the EU, Anna Diamantoupoulou, underlined that the labor market is undergoing significant changes, and a new charter for social and labor rights will be essential for Europe to keep up.
The keynote speech from renowned economist Mariana Mazzucato stressed that achieving social goals will take true commitment and investment — on all levels. She highlighted the need for different sectors to work together in order to ensure the green transition is fair.
The need for more energy-efficient buildings was a clear example. Buildings account for 30 percent of the EU’s energy consumption, and many Europeans face soaring energy costs and deteriorating living conditions this winter.
Skills needed for the green transition
As next year has been designated as the European Year of Skills, Commissioner Schmit underlined the importance of lifelong learning and Europe’s role in facilitating it. It is essential for workers and their employers to gain new skills in order to meet the demands of the green transition.
Young people have an important role to play in the green transition, according to European Commission’s Director-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion Joost Korte: “It is not a coincidence that we move from the European Year of Youth to the Year of Skills. The skills of the future generations and in future sectors are essential to anything we want to do to successfully