What to expect for EU social policies after the elections

Employment and Social Affairs

Estimated time of reading: ~ 3 minutes

The EU’s future social policies will definitely depend on the member states’ willingness to cooperate and the public’s pressure for changes, as well as the EU’s institutions ability to address any upcoming challenges. At the same time, the result of the next EU elections will have paramount importance in shaping the political view of the bloc, as both the European Parliament and the European Commission will be influenced by the arrangements made by the main political families and the balance emerging from the polls across the Continent. The EU has faced many different crises in the last few years, deepening the burden of economic and political instability on European citizens. This is especially true when it comes to the consequences of the COVID pandemic, the side effects on energy, and the costs of living related to the war of invasion launched by Russia against Ukraine. The rising tensions in the Middle East are just the last issue that multiplied the negative impact of this troubling dynamic for the EU countries and the bloc as a whole. 

After the June 2024 elections, the EU should work together to find long-term solutions to these issues, especially in terms of social policies. Different scenarios can arise from this perspective, from one involving deeper social integration to others that imagine a multi-speed European Union, or a citizen-driven welfare system. In the first scenario, we can imagine a more unified EU with a stronger central role in the definition of general social policies. Looking this way, the EU might establish common minimum standards on matters such as unemployment benefits, healthcare, and pensions. If Brussels and the EU member states want to pursue this scenario, it would require significant changes to the European Union treaties and an increased fiscal capacity for the EU, something at odds with the political will of many European governments, like those labelled “frugals” like the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Austria, and Denmark. 

A multi-speed Europe would be defined by the diverse social preferences of the member states, with the wealthier countries in the EU willing to adopt more progressive policies. Likewise, Spain is experiencing high economic growth, and at the same time, the leftist government led by Pedro Sanchez and his Socialist Party is trying to introduce social and labour reforms. In the third scenario, citizens’ participation in the EU agenda would shift the focus to both general and local solutions. The European Union could thus support social innovation projects, empowering communities to address their specific needs. 

An echo of all these three scenarios can be found in the electoral programmes of the main political families in the EU Parliament, such as the European Popular Party (EPP) and the Party of European Socialists (PES). The EPP focuses on “protecting” the people while strengthening the economy. “We want to ensure that everyone, no matter where he or she lives, has access to good healthcare. We want an ambitious climate policy that brings all citizens on board and leaves a better planet for future generations. We want the best innovations and the most effective market mechanisms to make sure that Europe develops ideas, tools, and products that make a difference for the whole  world,” as the EPP states on its website. The PES looks at securing quality jobs for all EU citizens, as salaries must rise and boost workers’ purchasing power against inflation and the rising cost of  living.” “Our next battles will be to combat in-work poverty, close gender gaps by 2030, regulate AI, limit the pay gap between workers, reach zero deaths at work, ensure the right to disconnect, reduce working time, end labour exploitation and work-related crime, develop job guarantees at the local level, and add a Social Progress Protocol to the Treaties”, as the Socialists write on their programme for the EU elections. 

Estimated time of reading: ~ 3 minutes

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