EU summit in Porto committed to social causes | Free press


Porto (dpa) – Boost the economy, find jobs, alleviate poverty: at the social summit in Portugal, representatives of EU countries, unions and employers made a joint commitment to a fair recovery after the Corona crisis and a more social Europe.

In a statement on Friday evening, they committed to specific goals to noticeably improve the social situation by 2030.

The goal is to reach an employment rate of at least 78 percent in the EU by the end of the decade. At least 60 percent of adults should attend upskilling courses annually and the number of people at risk of poverty and social exclusion should be reduced by at least 15 million.

Such a far-reaching agreement between the states and the social partners is unprecedented, Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa said. He spoke of a “historic moment”. Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, stressed that the recovery from the Corona crisis and the digital and green change in the economy are now about creating good, future-proof jobs and the necessary qualifications.

The EUR 750 billion in development aid from the EU would support this, Von der Leyen emphasized. The program is “bigger than the Marshall Plan”, but it must be implemented quickly now. Von der Leyen appealed to all EU countries to ratify the necessary budget decision in May. Then the Commission could start taking out the necessary loans on the financial markets in June.

The EU countries already agreed in 2017 on a so-called pillar of social rights. These are 20 principles for, among other things, equal opportunities at work, fair pay and good working conditions. These social rights must be implemented point by point, said Federal Social Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD), who represented Chancellor Angela Merkel at the start of the meeting in Porto. “Social Europe is more important than ever today.”

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz was “extremely optimistic” that the pandemic would soon be defeated. He sees tourism mainly as a job engine with the help of a European vaccination certificate. The recovery of the internal market and the freedom to travel will give the economy the necessary boost, the ÖVP politician said.

The EU meeting lasts until Saturday. By the way, Porto should also be about the corona pandemic and, among other things, the question of whether vaccine patents should be released to promote global supply. The EU states are divided on this. At a dinner, the heads of state or government also wanted to discuss foreign policy issues, including relations with Russia. A video conference with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also scheduled for Saturday.

Chancellor Merkel did not travel to Germany due to the pandemic and only switched temporarily via video. SPD European politician Katarina Barley criticized this and called on EU countries to do more to promote social cohesion. Left-wing European politician Özlem Demirel complained: “Social policy is only a minor role in the EU, and that needs to change.”

Many EU countries do not want Brussels to interfere with social policy. Concrete social policy EU plans such as requirements for the introduction of local minimum wages in all 27 countries are highly controversial and make little progress.