In November 2012 the European Parliament resolution on enlargement – based on the report of MEP Maria Eleni Koppa – has dealt in several points with the social aspects of the European enlargement strategy. Most importantly, under paragraph 6 it pointed out ”the EU continues to be attractive, also because of its unique combination of economic dynamism with a social model and [the EP] regrets that this social dimension has been largely neglected in the enlargement process”. Subsequently, the resolution invited the European Commission to address the issue and reminded about the scope of the Acquis in the social field, which should definitely encourage a more effective work on enhancing social rights. The text also points out that in this field the capacities of social partners, especially trade unions, should be reinforced. As the resolution states, it should be remembered that “the failure to comply with the EU’s common basic social standards constitutes a form of social dumping, which is detrimental to European enterprises ad workers and would effectively prevent a candidate state from participating in the single market”.
Furthermore, it should be emphasised that the socio-economic dimension cannot be separated from the political dimension. The current economic and financial crisis has triggered an increase in populist movements that strongly builds on, and exploits, the dissatisfaction of citizens concerning their social and labour situation. Therefore, addressing these issues is not only a question of participating at the single market, but also a challenge of enhancing European democracy and strengthening the integration process.
FEPS and SOLIDAR would like to strengthen the social aspects of EU enlargement by identifying key benchmarks and evaluating the development on the basis of these benchmarks. The identification of these benchmarks and the following analysis will be done in close cooperation with local think tanks, CSOs and social partners. This is closely linked with the operative objective of the research programme, namely contributing to capacity building and reinforcing think tanks, CSOs and social partners on the field. The benchmarks will be established on the basis of the above-mentioned EP resolution and the definition of the EU Social Acquis, as determined by Eurofund, and following the Europe 2020 and Active Inclusion strategies of the European Commission.
The proposed areas of research are the following:
Social, economic and political rights;
Inclusive labour markets and decent work;
Access to quality services.
To be able to give a precise overview of the most pressing issues, the research programme will be centred on benchmarks defined in cooperation with the researchers and following the EU Enlargement (national) progress reports indicators. National country desk-studies will be prepared by the researchers and an overall synthesis report will be developed encompassing all relevant findings. In addition, the analysis of the benchmarks will lead to the formulation of recommendations to the different actors on regional and national levels. From this perspective, the outcome will also be used to evaluate the effects of the EP resolution with regard to complying with the EU’s common basic social standards. This evaluation would allow then the EP to identify further necessary measures in order to improve social justice and cohesion.
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