PES (Party of European Socialists) Press Release:

PES employment & social affairs ministers: social Europe meaning fighting inequality

Social issues are finally back on the European agenda after years of conservative neglect and pressure from the progressive political family — so we must seize the opportunity to create a genuine social Europe that fights inequality, agreed employment and social affairs ministers from the Party of European Socialists today.

The PES meeting took place before the EU Council of Ministers met to discuss new proposals to implement the European Pillar of Social Rights— a priority which has been urged by socialists and social democrats.

Nicolas Schmit, chair of the EPSCO ministers’ network, said:

“Working conditions, work-life balance, labour mobility and social protection are at the core of what social Europe should be. But these are not enough to meet all citizens’ expectations. It is also vital to address the issue of wages, after years of internal devaluation.

“Above all, fighting inequality must become the EU’s priority. The high levels of inequality which Europeans currently suffer are not automatic or inevitable. They are the result of neoliberal political choices that guide our economy and determine how we live together. That makes them even more unacceptable — but it also means that they can be fixed, if we combat them with new, progressive policies.

“As a start, we expect the next European Council to deliver a strong message for a more social Economic and Monetary Union, and the EPSCO Council to take an active role in the EMU reform process.

“We understand Europeans whose hopes have been replaced by fear and who have lost faith in the future. We are as ready as ever to fight for our core values of solidarity, justice, and freedom.”

In attendance at the meeting were:

  • Nicolas Schmit, Minister for Labour, Employment, Social and Solidarity Economy, Chair, Luxembourg
  • Riina Sikkut, Minister for Health and Labour and Party Leader, Estonia
  • Hubertus Heil, Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Germany
  • Romain Schneider, Minister of Social Security, Luxembourg
  • Evarist Bartolo, Minister for Education and Employment, Malta
  • Michael Falzon, Minister for the Family, Children’s Rights and Social Solidarity, Malta
  • José António Vieira da Silva, Minister of Labour, Solidarity, and Social Security, Portugal
  • Ján Richter, Minister of Labour, Social Affairs and Family, Slovakia
  • Ylva Johansson, Minister for Employment, Sweden
  • Annika Strandhäll, Minister for Social Affairs, Sweden
  • Athanasios Iliopoulos, Deputy Minister of Labour, Greece (Observer)
  • Lina Carr, ETUC Confederal Secretary
  • Maria João Rodrigues, Vice President, S&D group in the European Parliament
  • Agnes Jongerius, EMPL Coordinator, S&D group in the European Parliament
  • Marie Arena, Member of the European Parliament, S&D group in the European Parliament
  • Pervenche Berès, Chair of PES Social Europe Network