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EU: The Porto Declaration – A Word of Caution for an Ambitious EU Social Policy

The EU Member States have expressed support, but also certain reservations, regarding the Commission’s ambitious European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan. The Porto Declaration of 7 May 2021, provides an indication of further developments of the social dimension of the European Union and the production of new EU legislation in the field of social law, in the years to come.

On 3 March 2021, the Commission von der Leyen presented an ambitious Action Plan to implement the European Pillar of Social Rights. This Commission document contains new policy targets and proposals for legislative and non-legislative initiatives, which has to emphasise the importance which the Commission awards to the social dimension of the EU. When the Member States (the European Council) convened at the EU-Summit in Porto (Portugal) to express their views on the Action Plan, it seemed apparent that the Commission may have been a bit too ambitious for certain Member States.

The EU social policy, together with creating social legislation on the EU-level, remain controversial issues, as several Member States see this as an essential part of their national sovereignty. Therefore, the Porto Declaration (the text upon which the Member States agreed) is less voluntaristic than the Commission’s Action Plan. It refers to the Action Plan as “useful guidance”, without committing itself to the full implementation.

The Council also states that it is “determined to continue deepening the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights at EU and national level, with due regard for respective competences and the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality”. The reference to the limited competence of the EU and the subsidiarity and proportionality principles clearly implicate that the EU cannot go too far in its coordination and legislative efforts. A relatively suitable example, is the current stalemate on the proposed EU Directive for adequate minimum wages.

Nonetheless, the Porto Declaration is still an important political text, which gives the go-ahead for the Commission to start the implementation of the Action Plan. It refers to i.e.:

  • An inclusive recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic (more and better jobs);
  • Challenges relating to digitalisation, artificial intelligence, teleworking and the platform economy, which will require particular attention with a view to reinforcing workers’ rights, social security systems and occupational health and safety;
  • Reducing inequalities and defending fair wages;
  • Fighting discrimination and actively working to close gender gaps in employment, pay and pensions;
  • The revision of the European Semester in light of the new targets on jobs, skills and poverty reduction.



Source: The Porto Declaration