Porto Social Forum to refresh cohesion after 2021 summit

  • Lusa
  • 25 May 2023

Organised by Portugal's government, the Porto Social Forum aims to reaffirm the role of social rights in the EU and to follow up on the commitments made at the bloc's Social Summit in the city in 2021

The European Union’s commissioner for social rights has expressed the conviction that the Porto Social Forum, taking place in Portugal’s second city at the end of this week, will “refresh” social cohesion in the EU at a time of “external threat” with the war in Ukraine.

“Social cohesion is important, especially at a time of great change, when there is an external threat,” argued Nicolas Schmit, the employment and social rights commissioner, in an interview with Lusa in Brussels. “This exists, even if we don’t feel or expect to be directly attacked, but there is some kind of threat coming from Russia and therefore I think we have to maintain social consensus and social cohesion in our societies.”

In this interview ahead of the event taking place on Friday and Saturday in Porto – to follow up on the social objectives agreed two years ago – Schmit added: “I think this is part of the message of the Social Summit, which will now be refreshed to some extent in Porto this week.”

Organised by Portugal’s government, the Porto Social Forum aims to reaffirm the role of social rights in the EU and to follow up on the commitments made at the bloc’s Social Summit in the city in 2021, which adopted objectives such as achieving a target of at least 78% employment in the EU for people aged between 20 and 64, guaranteeing annual training for at least 60% of adults and also reducing the number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion by at least 15 million, 5 million of whom are children.

Held during Portugal’s presidency of the Council of the EU, the Porto Social Summit of two years ago thus reinforced the European Commission’s action plan for the development of the European Pillar of Social Rights, through a joint position signed by the presidents of the European Parliament and the European Commission and by the social partners: trade unions, employers and a platform of social organisations.

This new Social Forum aims to advance in these commitments, but also to promote the efforts of EU member states in the area of skills enhancement and lifelong learning, namely at the level of digital transition, as well as to reaffirm European social values in geopolitical terms, at a time when the enlargement of the community bloc is being discussed.

According to Schmit, the initiative now to be held will serve to “ensure that the legacy of the Porto summit continues and that there is a strong commitment to strengthening the social dimension of Europe, as demonstrated with the commitment that was made and signed between governments, but also with the social partners and the commission and parliament, in Porto” in 2021.

Pointing out that “the world has changed tremendously” since then, the commissioner in charge of social affairs adds that the social dimension continues to be a focus of EU member states, namely in the Recovery and Resilience Plans (RRP) for spending post-pnademic recovery funds, in which he said that social investments represent about 30% of the expenses.

“In Portugal it is even higher, around thirty-six percent,” notes Schmit, speaking of a “very balanced and interesting” RRP, which will allow the “modernisation of the Portuguese economy.”

Since the 2021 Social Summit, EU member states have presented national social objectives to be met by 2030 in employment, training and poverty reduction, and are moving forward in areas such as adequate minimum wages, improving working conditions for digital platform workers, new rules on wage transparency, strengthening social dialogue, among others.