In early May 2013 a high-level conference presenting the Social Investment Package to civil society, Member State officials and key stakeholders was held in Leuven, under the aegis of the Irish Presidency of the European Union. A number of keynote speakers from various major European institutions took part in the event, including the President of the European Commission, the President of the European Council, and the Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion. Commissioner László Andor gave a speech on the rationale behind the Social Investment Package. The conference focused on three themes relevant to the Package, including investment in people, social innovation and the role of NGOs, and the involvement of young people in tomorrow’s social Europe.
In his speech, Commissioner László Andor focused on the themes of innovation, investment, and involvement. He noted that several social partners and stakeholders including the European Parliament, the Social Protection Committee and the European Economic and Social Committee have already commented on the social investment package. Investment in people was praised as a cost-effective, coherent strategy generating a range of social and economic benefits later on in life and in other areas. Such benefits include higher employment rates for women as a result of accessible early childhood education and care services. Touching on the example of the Roma people, the Commissioner demonstrated how inaction in the face of exclusion can lead to a waste in human potential. Other issues which were touched upon in the speech included the implementation of the Social Investment Package, which also relies on the Social Open Method of Coordination for the dissemination of best practice among Member States. A range of European initiatives for social investment, including the use of the European Social Fund and the European Platform for Investing in Children, are mentioned in the speech. Commissioner Andor emphasised the importance of partnership with social partners and civil society in shared ownership of social investment and fighting poverty and exclusion.
Many of the key elements from the speech touched on the core elements of the European Commission’s Social Investment Package, the integrated policy framework which aims to ensure systems for social protection respond to individual’s needs throughout their life, but also to facilitate targeted social policies, as well as active inclusion across all Member States. The Social Investment Package itself features several main policy strands, which aim to help Member States address the risk of social exclusion and poverty in Europe as a result of the financial crisis, and of demographic change. Commissioner’s Andor’s speech focused on the support available to Member States through the European Social Fund and associated guidance offered by the Social Investment Package to Member States when it comes to social investments. A wide range of policy responses is available, ranging from using social policy budgets effectively, to building up people’s capacity now and in the future. Long-term investment is the rationale for the call to invest in children and young people: this specific stream of the Social Investment Package is what the European Platform for Investing in Children aims to contribute to, with the support and input from key stakeholders in this field.