Access to essential services
Liberalisation and privatisation of public services, including an excessive and non-accountable use of Public-Private Partnerships (hence putting profit above the interests of people) deprive society and most of the population of essential tools to meet their needs. Unmet needs, lack of affordable public structures, and too-costly private provisions are found in crucial sectors influencing Europeans’ quality of life, such as health and care, education and training, childcare and housing.
Public services – ranging from health, child and elderly care, education and training and employment services, transport, water, waste, energy, social housing, information and social services to justice systems as well as infrastructure as a whole – represent the backbone of European provision of services and common goods to citizens and residents. High-quality and accessible public services and common goods provision are a fundamental right. They are essential in order to combat inequalities and social exclusion, to guarantee equal treatment and to tackle the social, economic demographic and environmental challenges facing Europe.
Social housing, and decent housing for all households, is a pillar of many social models across Europe. In this regard, and in conjunction with just transitions and the inclusion of the UN2030 Agenda, there should be more emphasis on combating household energy poverty.
Member States could take measures (also through the Semester) to intervene more actively in controlling and shaping the private housing market, e.g., through building permits, rent controls, tax on 2nd properties etc., and to prevent speculation.
In general, Principles 19 and 20 should be construed as a bridge between the UN2030 Agenda and the EPSR in order to prevent poverty, banish hunger and deprivation, promote good health, ensure equal opportunities and sustainable cities and agriculture. The human right to water and sanitation, recognised by the United Nations in the Social Development Goals (SDGs), must be backed by concrete proposals in order to be accessible to all.
Local workers, mobile workers and migrant workers, irrespective of their immigration status or nationality, must have the same rights and should benefit from equal treatment, quality jobs and decent working conditions, while everyone should have equal rights to adequate, safe and affordable housing and social protection.
Some priorities that may also be promoted through closer cooperation between Member States and, where necessary, leading to EU legislation:
- Promote universal social services as public services, organised collectively on the basis of public service principles and underpinned by clear legal frameworks.
- Fight against budget cuts in social services, and for adequate funding and staffing for social services. Support access to training and qualifications, higher levels of professionalisation, representation and defence of workers’ rights by trade unions; and develop effective recruitment and retention policies at all levels.
- Pursue the professionalisation of these jobs for better collective guarantees. Increase collective bargaining coverage.
- Improve working conditions in the people care sector, especially filling the gaps between migrants and local workers.
- Advocate the development, implementation and monitoring of standards for the quality of services and jobs, building on the EU voluntary quality framework for social services of general interest (SSGI), which recognises the need for high-quality services and employment.
Actions aimed at setting a minimum floor of rights in the EU, a level playing field in the Single Market
- Explore the viability of EU legal instrument(s) on public services, based on Article 14 of the Treaty to develop regulatory framework(s) for public service providers.
- Mainstream principle 19 in the EU Directives on access and working conditions for third country nationals for reasons of employment. .
Actions aimed at establishing upward convergence in living and working conditions
- See also Anti-Poverty Action Plan. It may include targets for public investment in social housing.
- Develop benchmarks for government expenditure within the Stability and Growth Pact to ensure necessary funding for universal, affordable and high-quality public services (e.g. through the “golden rule”).
- Access to decent housing must be ensured.
- Support initiatives to integrate public service elements and fundamental rights in relevant EU sectoral initiatives.