In 2021, the Portuguese government – holding the Presidency of the Council of the European Union at the time – set up the Porto Social Forum alongside with the European Commission. The aim of the Forum is to organise a regular exchange between Member States, institutional partners, and civil society on the proper implementation of the European Social Rights Framework. The “European Pillar of Social Rights” was proclaimed in 2017 to set social objectives for the European Union based on 20 principles.
Since then, the Member States have been working to implement the objectives of the European Pillar, which seem all the more relevant given the current geopolitical context, which reinforces the need to preserve our European social model.
European leaders met again at the Porto Social Forum on 26 and 27 May 2023. Following this meeting, an open letter was drafted and signed by European leaders, affirming their renewed commitment to social justice.
This declaration was published on the European media network EURACTIV, specialised in publishing articles on current affairs and major European issues. You will find the content of this open letter below:
“Two years after the Porto Social Summit, and a commitment to developing innovative, inclusive responses to present and future challenges, the Porto Social Forum reaffirms the role of Social Europe, creating synergies for the Future of Europe, writes a group of European leaders.
Europe is about people.
It is about workers, businesses and civil society. It is about ensuring a level playing field for people and all companies. It is about creating quality jobs that enable everyone to fulfil their right potential and assuring a decent living for all. It is about fostering opportunities for the younger generations and access to quality services of general interest, including life and long-term care for older persons. It is about equality between women and men as well as rights and equal opportunities for all.
It is about building an economy that is ever more sustainable, ever more competitive, and ever more inclusive, and where social dialogue and collective bargaining play an active role in those positive transformations.
It is about ensuring the participation and inclusion of all people, including those with disabilities, the homeless or the vulnerable. A society where no one is left behind regardless of their gender, social status, age, health, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or origin.
Two years ago, the Portuguese Presidency of the Council, the European Commission, the European Parliament, the social partners, and civil society pledged to consolidate the commitment already made under the European Pillar of Social Rights in Gothenburg and to pave the way for an inclusive, sustainable, fair and job-rich recovery, while acknowledging that its implementation should be carried out at both Union and Member State levels, and within their respective competences.
The Porto Social Commitment and the Porto Declaration pursued the European agenda, as we renewed the European social contract, committing to further develop innovative and inclusive responses to face present and future challenges.
In early 2022, at a time when the implementation of national Recovery and Resilience Plans was beginning to promote the economic and social recovery after the pandemic shock, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine brought war to Europe once again.
We are still far from being able to evaluate the full effects of Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine, particularly on the most vulnerable people in our societies. However, this cruel and illegal act has strengthened the bonds of solidarity between Europeans and compelled us to find answers to the strategic debate around Europe’s influence in the world. It is time to debate how central the European social model and our common social policies are in a wider and stronger Europe.
Today, the European Union is also undergoing major structural challenges with the green and digital transitions, demographic change, a constantly changing world of work and persisting inequalities and poverty, accompanied by a worrying erosion of the middle class. These structural challenges affect not only the countries of the Union, but also those whose efforts and ambitions are aimed at joining this project.
In this context, the Porto Social Forum held today, a biennial initiative promoted by the Portuguese government with support from the European Commission, in close cooperation with the European Parliament, and involving the social partners and civil society, marked the second anniversary of the Porto Social Summit, creating an opportunity to strengthen the debate on the importance of the social dimension of the European project.
It did so by acknowledging our social model as an advantage at the global level and by highlighting – in the framework of the European Year of Skills – how robust policies on skills, education and training can create better employment and swifter integration in the labour market and foster social inclusion, and consequently boost the resilience and competitiveness of the EU´s economy and society. It further reflected on how to use the most suitable tools, while respecting the principle of subsidiarity and limiting the administrative burden on small and medium-sized companies.
At the same time, it highlighted the importance of an integrated anti-poverty strategy against the multidimensional issue of social exclusion and of access to essential services for all people, especially children. The effective implementation of the European Child Guarantee is a vital component to ensure the success of the European Pillar of Social Rights.
Education and training are not lost expenditure, but a smart investment in human development. Europe must expand its leadership in the frontiers of knowledge, and the development of new technologies. At the same time, the best technology is only as good as the skilled workers who can install and operate it.
Individuals must be empowered to embark on lifelong learning, and SMEs and larger corporations must have the talent they need to thrive.
Therefore, it is clear that the EU’s economic prosperity goes hand in hand with its strong social dimension. We must give greater visibility to social rights and reinforce the assessment of social standards and upward social convergence as part of a sustainable socio-economic governance anchored in tripartism, at a time when our Union is facing a pivotal moment.
Two years after Porto, we renew our respective commitments in the Porto Social Commitment and the Porto Declaration, and our will to maintain the spirit that created it.
Together, we will keep bringing the principles of the Pillar of Social Rights to full realisation.
The future of the EU is its people and must be social.
Ana Mendes Godinho, Minister for Labour, Solidarity and Social Security, Portugal
Agnes Jongerius, Member of the European Parliament (on behalf of President Roberta Metsola)
Ane Halsboe-Jørgensen, Minister for Employment, Denmark
Claude Haagen, Minister of Social Security, Luxembourg
Dennis Radtke, Member of the European Parliament (on behalf of President Roberta Metsola)
Dragos Pîslaru, Chair of the EMPL Committee, European Parliament (on behalf of President Roberta Metsola)
Eleni Gioti, Secretary General for Employment Development and acting Secretary General for Social Solidarity and Povery Fighting, Greece
Esther Lynch, Secretary General, European Trade Union Confederation
Evika Siliņa, Minister for Welfare, Latvia
Frank Vandenbroucke, Minister of Social Affairs, Belgium
Georges Engel, Minister of Labour, Employment and the Social Solidarity Economy, Luxembourg
Harry Kyriazis, Chair of the Social Affairs Committee, BusinessEurope
Heather Humphreys, Minister for Social Protection, Ireland
Hubertus Heil, Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Germany
Johannes Rauch, Minister of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection, Austria
José Luis Escrivá, Minister of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration, Spain
Luka Mesec, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, Slovenia
Karien van Gennip, Minister of Social Affairs and Employment, Netherlands
Marian Jurečka, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Czechia
Marin Piletić, Minister of Labour, Pension System, Family and Social Policy, Croatia
Marlena Maląg, Minister of Family and Social Policy, Poland
Michael Falzon, Minister for Social Policy and Children’s Rights, Malta
Monika Navickienė, Minister of Social Security and Labour, Lithuania
Neale Richmond, Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail, Ireland
Nicolas Schmit, Commissioner for Social Affairs and Employment, on behalf of the European Commission
Oliver Röpke, President, European Social and Economic Committee
Olivier Dussopt, Minister of Labour, Employment and Economic Inclusion, France
Pierre-Yves Dermagne, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Economy and Labour, Belgium
Piotr Sadowski, President, Social Platform
Signe Riisalo, Minister of Social Protection, Estonia
Soňa Gaborčáková, Minister of Labour, Social Affairs and Family, Slovakia
Tuula Haatainen, Minister of Employment, Finland
Valeria Ronzitti, Secretary General, SGI Europe
Vasco Cordeiro, President, European Committee of the Regions
Véronique Willems, Secretary General of SME United
Yiannis Panayiotou, Minister of Labour and Social Insurance, Cyprus
Yolanda Díaz Pérez, Second Vice President and Minister of Labour and Social Economy, Spain”