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Event Report – Webinar on the Implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights: Housing



Last May 29th the “Webinar on the Implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights: Housing” organised by Eurodiaconia with the participation of Feantsa explored the importance of the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR) as a catalyst of national policies in the field of social policies and as a monitoring tool across the EU.

Anne-Sophie Wislocki, Policy Officer at Eurodiaconia, briefly introduced the mission of the organisation, as a European network of churches and Christian NGOs providing health and care services and advocating social justice both on a local and a national level.

Jointly signed by the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission on 17 November 2017 at the Social Summit for Fair Jobs and Growth in Gothenburg, the EPRS wants to underline the importance of social rights in all 28 member states. In particular,  it doesn’t define new rights for individuals or groups of citizens but aims at providing a solid foundation for those already recognised at EU level  by building upon 20 key principles, structured around three categories:

  1. Equal opportunities and access to the labour market
  2. Fair working conditions
  3. Social protection and inclusion

Eurodiaconia and their partner associations are mostly active with the third chapter which refers to issues as - just to name a few - Childcare, Social Protection, Minimum Income, Access to Essential Services, Housing and Assistance for Homeless.

The relevance of EPRS precisely being that a single document covers many aspects of the work of social associations and, although not legally binding, it can concretely act as a link between different policy levels – local, national and European – and a reminder: all rights present in the EPSR have a legal basis and all the nations have the obligation to protect them.

The second part of the event was dedicated to show how the EPSR can help in monitoring these specific family of social rights – in particular the ones related to housing and homeless - at a European level and, on the other hand, how social organizations can help in implementing the EPSR.

Eurodiaconia participated in the drafting process of the EPSR and now is working on its implementation: a tracking tool will soon be launched and used to report to the Commission to assess the state-of-play.

Wislocki warmly invited all participants to use the EPSR in their regular advocacy, to participate to the tracking process and also to get involved in the European Semester at national level. Firstly born as a macroeconomic tool, the European Semester is now trying to become “more socially involved” with a look to social issues and the EPSR can also be considered a result of this recent development.

A practical example of how to use the EPSR to monitor social rights in Europe and of how to implement was given during the second part of the Webinar by Maria Jose Aldanas, Policy Officer at Feantsa and expert on EU policies related to housing.

Feantsa is the European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless: they strongly believe in homelessness as depriving individuals of human rights so they wanted to create a transnational network to do a more focused work on housing rights through monitoring housing laws. When they first heard of the EPSR, they decided to take advantage of it in order to try to lobby at a European level.

The right to housing and assistance for the homeless is stated in Principle 19 of the Pillar and Feantsa welcomed it because it brought together various aspects of the right to housing as, for instance, the fact that everyone in Europe should have a decent home or that individuals should be protected from eviction and that no one should be ever left without shelter.

At the same time, they believed that other indicators need to be included to capture all the realities of homelessness, not only the ones related to severe housing deprivation, including existing binding obligations already spelled out both in the Treaties and in the Case Law. They made a document collecting housing obligations as stated in national and European law systems and they started using them to monitor the housing situation in Europe.

They also thought that paying attention to the European Semester could have been instrumental to the implementation of the Pillar. For instance, they noticed how in the Autumn Package 2017 homelessness has been flagged as a concern in several European countries (Czech Republic, Denmark, Ireland, France and Italy) but most member states have paid less attention to it in their National Reform Programmes since housing continues to be mostly considered as a good rather than a right.

As for the Spring Package 2018, Feantsa has welcomed the increased awareness of social objectives and an increasing outlook on housing and its social impact (particularly present in the Country Reports).

In “a more social European Union” it’s crucial – according to Maria Jose Aldanas - to provide data, statistics, good quality information so to picture what’s really happening and to analyse the implementation of the housing rights in Europe. To do that Feantsa publishes every year an Overview of Housing Exclusion in Europe. The 2018 edition, co-produced by Feantsa and the Abbé Pierre Foundation, looked at the latest European data and revealed how millions of Europeans face housing exclusion daily as well as a dramatic increase of homelessness in most countries.

Feantsa’s experience helped to understand how key the EPSR is to guarantee social rights in the European Union. At the same time, it needs support from organisations in the field. Her case – Feantsa’s case - provided perspective on how to contribute to the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights: referring to existing binding obligations, paying attention to the European Semester to channel their instances and providing data and extra information to the Institutions.  NGOs and associations working in the field of Social Rights should use this political memento and raise a greater awareness in Europe. This call to activism was in the end one of the main goal of the Webinar.

Elena Girotti
Winner of the Master’s Degree Prize “Europe that will be” given by the Emilia-Romagna Regional Council
Europe Direct Emilia Romagna