The Portuguese Presidency of the European Union wants to relaunch “social Europe”

It is the government of Portugal, at the head of Europe for six months, which affirms it: the revival, during the post-Covid period, will be economic, digital, “green”, but it will also have to be social . By presenting his program of action, the Socialist Prime Minister, Antonio Costa, has at the same time revived a theme that the pandemic and its serious consequences have largely eclipsed, that of “social Europe”. The relaunch and the transition for which the Union is preparing cannot lead to “Unbearable ruptures”, insisted Mr. Costa. “There can be no economic recovery without social recovery”agrees Oliver Röpke, president of the Workers’ Group for the European Economic and Social Committee, a consultative assembly.

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To consolidate his thinking, the Portuguese leader will no doubt draw inspiration from the data and recommendations published on Tuesday 12 January by the European Social Observatory and the European Trade Union Institute. The imposing Social report that these two institutions based in Brussels publish each year takes on a particular dimension this time, with, on the one hand, an unprecedented mobilization of the Union and its member countries to try to limit the effects of the crisis and, on the other hand, the prospect of a major social risk. “A bomb ready to explode”, says Luca Visentini, General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation.

The assessment drawn up by the two organizations could obviously not take into account, because of its timeframes, the most recent developments in the crisis (the launch of vaccination, the exact impact of a second, or even a possible third wave, the extension of containment measures …), and therefore the precise extent of the shocks suffered by the countries. In the report, certain figures are therefore lacking.

“A spectacular reaction”

However, official estimates can be used to assess the extent of the problems. Those from Eurostat, for example, which indicate that the number of poor or on the edge of poverty was already 107.5 million in Europe at the end of 2019, or 21.4% of the population. A proportion which should increase. By mid-2020, the overall level of employment had already fallen by 2.7%. Mr. Visentini underlines, for his part, that 40 million people have had to resolve themselves into temporary unemployment because of the Covid-19.

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