New year, new Presidency. Will the Portuguese deliver on the Pillar of Social Rights?

New year, new Presidency. Will the Portuguese deliver on the Pillar of Social Rights?

Portugal has just taken over the rotating presidency of Council of the European Union, following the German Presidency. The main priorities of the Portuguese Presidency will be:

  • To promote Europe’s recovery, leveraged by the climate and digital transitions
  • To implement the EU Pillar of Social Rights as a key element for ensuring a fair and inclusive climate and digital transition
  • To strengthen Europe’s strategic autonomy keeping it open to the world

The Presidency will launch the new EU Disability Strategy, the renewed Child Guarantee for Vulnerable Children and the EU Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan. We also expect to see launch of the “EU Homelessness Collaboration Platform”, which we hope will allow homeless people and their representative organisations to have more say over where the EU invests its funds to tackle homelessness. We know from various studies that persons with disabilities make up a disproportionate amount of Europe’s homeless population. In the Netherlands it is claimed that 29.5% of homeless people have an intellectual disability. In the UK 12.3% of homeless people displayed autistic traits and 45% have been diagnosed with a mental health condition [1].

A Council Summit to discuss the new EU Disability Strategy is planned for June 2021, which will result in Council Conclusions on its implementation, and there are plans for a High-Level Conference on the 19th and 20th of April to present and explore the content of the Strategy.

The Portuguese Presidency’s flagship event will be a Social Summit in Porto on the 7th and 8th of May which will mirror the summit that took place in Gothenburg in 2017 to launch the Social Pillar. The topic of the Summit will be how we can implement the Social Pillar and deliver changes such as higher minimum wage thresholds throughout, more investment in community services so people are no longer forced to live in institutions, and more money going towards supporting low-income families in meeting their basic needs. But will their six months overseeing the work of the EU result in benefits that will actually be felt by persons with disabilities across the EU? Well, as the saying goes, the proof is in the pudding.

The success of the Portuguese Presidency will come down to how well the European Commission has listened to the disability movement and other civil society organisations when drafting the new Disability Strategy and the Social Pillar Action Plan. What is in the hands of the Portuguese is to guide the messages to emerge from the Council Conclusions, the High-Level Conference on the Disability Strategy and the Social Summit. These will direct the Commission on how to implement the Disability Strategy and the EU Pillar of Social Rights in the years to come.

Member States are the source of the money that makes up the EU budget and have the final say on any EU legislation that will emerge from either the Disability Strategy or the Social Pillar, so the opinions expressed by the Council and by the Portuguese Presidency carry a lot of weight. Our experience with the Portuguese authorities so far has been highly encouraging, and we are confident that we can count on them to stand by our side in letting the Commission know what we want and holding them accountable to deliver on their promises.

Would you like to know more about precisely what we think the Disability Strategy needs to do to improve people’s lives?

If so, check out our full position paper on the European Disability Rights Agenda.

More information

You can read EDF’s full position on the Action Plan of the EU Pillar of Social Rights here. You can also read the position paper of the European Expert Group on the Transition from Institutional to Community-based Care (EEG), which was co-authored by EDF.


Haydn Hammersley – Social Policy Officer