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At the European level, what the pandemic has cast doubt on is the very fundamentals of European integration. The main features of the European Union, what could be described as its “pillars”, are these: the single market and freedom of movement, the euro and the Stability and Growth Pact, and competition and state-aid law. We can already look ahead and see that the post-crisis EU could be standing on very different foundations if the questioning of the three basic pillars continues over time or, conversely, it could just as easily go back to its old ways.  What will the world environment in which this happens be, though? Here there are four possible scenarios emerging.


There is an urgent need for ambitious, cohesive and transformative economic policies and for Europe’s need to face challenges collectively, and in solidarity. But Europe must do more. The upcoming challenges are daunting: not just the ecological and economic failure brought on by the coronavirus pandemic and the risk of a debt-deflationary downward economic spiral,  but also the economic divergences that have led to the rise of anti-Europe sentiment, nationalism and populism; and the grave, even terrifying ecological risks that transcend borders.  


Social fairness and solidarity are more important than ever in the European Union if it is to meet the challenges of demographic ageing, climate change and digitalisation and deal with the aftermath of Covid-19.  This is according to the latest 'Employment and Social Developments in Europe Report ‘Fairness and Solidarity in the European Social Market Economy’. 


‘A Rising Tide Failing to Lift All Boats’ is the latest publication in Social Justice Ireland’s European Research Series.   This report analyses performance in areas such as poverty and inequality, employment, access to key public services and taxation.  The report also points to key policy proposals and alternatives for discussion.  These include the right to sufficient income, meaningful work and access to essential quality services.  The policy proposals explore how these areas might be delivered upon in a changing world.

As we look towards the future and rebuilding our society and our economy the new Government must consider how we can ensure that our recovery package and investment priorities post COVID-19 help us build a sustainable society and economy, and also move us towards a just transition and meeting our climate targets by 2030.

In this time of unprecedented crisis, the European Union must heed the lessons from the financial crash of 2008 and take substantial and coordinated action now.  Failure to act quickly, decisively and appropriately will have devastating consequences.

The European Union faces many challenges in relation to healthcare, cost of housing and financial distress that will be further exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.  This is one of the key findings from the National Social Monitor – European Edition.  In this Spring 2020 edition of our National Social Monitor, Social Justice Ireland outlines the present situation on a range of policy issues, comparative to the rest of Europe, that impact on people’s wellbeing and looks at what policies can be introduced to support the most vulnerable.

“Economic growth is not an end in itself. An economy must work for the people and the planet.”  So begins the European Commission’s Annual Sustainable Growth Strategy, also referred to as the European Green Deal, consisting of four dimensions:  environment, productivity, stability and fairness.  The Sustainable Development Goals will be “at the heart” of the EU’s policymaking and action to move towards the objective of offering younger generations in Europe a sustainable and prosperous future.

People should be assured of the required treatment and care in their times of illness or vulnerability.  Yet in Ireland the healthcare system still struggles to provide an adequate service to everyone, and despite recent increases in resourcing we still have very high levels of unmet care needs.  

As we watch the political chaos unfold across the Irish Sea, we must acknowledge the need to learn the lessons of Brexit. Many of those who voted for Brexit voted against their own economic interest. This points to a disillusionment with politics and with social and economic policies. Among the lessons to be learned from Brexit are the need for the EU to represent something positive in the eyes of ordinary people. Implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights would go a long way to making sure that this does not happen again in other countries.

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