The European Union (EU) never fully recovered from the impact of the financial crisis of the late 2000s. Without a substantial and coordinated response now to the impacts of Covid-19, Brexit and the climate crisis, the current social and economic crisis could have even more serious repercussions. Major change is required for survival. A strong response based on the European Social Model is essential for success. This response must include investment in a sustainable future and in our social and human capital. It must also move towards more participative forms of governance where people have a real say in shaping the decisions that impact on them. The European response must be focused on protecting people across the lifecycle, young and old, men and women, those with an income and those without. It must be sustainable economically, socially and environmentally. Above all, it must be based on the values of human rights,human dignity and the common good and be ethical at its core.
A more integrated policy response across the European Union is needed, and urgently. The European Pillar of Social Rights could be such a response. However, it requires major political will to ensure that the EU can effectively meet the major challenges presented by the rapidly changing new realities facing the planet, the continent and its individual member countries. To get the support required to deliver such a response, a primary focus must be on tackling the damage to social cohesion across the European Union caused by the last crisis, and continuing with the current one, and on ensuring that this damage is repaired.
Every country in the European Union has a role to play, and Ireland is no exception. The Irish contribution to the reduction in poverty across Europe has been minimal, we have a persistent long-term unemployment problem and an increasingly privatised public services sector. Our addressing of sustainability issues has been rhetorical rather than real. The action demanded of Ireland to reach our 2030 targets and engage meaningfully with the European Pillar of Social Rights requires urgent policy implementation. We need a new Social Contract, meaningful Social Dialogue and a commitment to Wellbeing for All
The chapters presented in this book set out both the rationale and a comprehensive pathway towards Delivering the European Pillar of Social Rights. We trust that those engaged in shaping Ireland’s future for the coming decades will find it of value.