With the announcement of the creation of a European Pillar of Social Rights, three years ago, the European Union raised high expectations. Some were afraid that the European Pillar of Social Rights would not be able to live up to these expectations. The Social Pillar illustrates an overwhelming ambition to reaffirm the social dimension of Europe but within the existing rules of the game, the existing competences and especially the rules of subsidiarity which confer the major responsibilities for social and fiscal policy to the national level. This initiative creates overwhelming expectations, but they probably need to be implemented at national level. This leaves overwhelming responsibility at national level and its political stakeholders. The European Pillar of Social Rights is a reminder, if not a wakeup call, of those national competences. But at the same time, recent European initiatives have extended these national responsibilities with European legislation. There is no contradiction between responsibilities at national level and European ambition. Full commitment at the European and national level might be the sixth option for the future development of Europe.
During the EZA educational year 2017/2018, HIVA presented a draft version of this paper to an audience at nine seminars held within the framework of the EZA educational and training programme. It provides a good example of thought and perhaps also of change in thought that can be observed in social debate over the last twelve months. Initially, there was great scepticism about the added value of the Social Pillar on the one hand and the potential to deliver what it promises on the other. There was even doubt whether the European institutions would be able to conclude this process successfully. At the end of the year, those sceptics had to admit that the process of introducing the Social Pillar was completed even ahead of schedule, complemented by other and new initiatives. There is an increasing awareness that it is not the end point but a renewed starting point.
The brochure has been published in German, English and Spanish. Its authors are Jozef Pacolet, Liesbeth Op de Beeck and Frederic De Wispelaere.