Earlier this week Volonteurope participated in the visit organised by Social Platform to Riga, Latvia. The visit comes less than a month ahead of the beginning of the Latvian EU Presidency. Social Platform members and Latvian civil society organisations worked together to present recommendations to the Latvian government, represented at the event by Uldis Augulis, Minister for Welfare.

Some of the key messages to the Latvian government included:

  • Make social investment a key component of policies to promote competitiveness in Europe
  • Use EU funds to achieve the social aims of the Europe 2020 Strategy
  • Make sure that all services across the EU comply with the principles of affordability, accessibility, quality, universality, availability and accountability
  • Guarantee financial support to local and national civil society

All these recommendations are important for the realisation of a more socially just Europe and should be taken into account by the Latvian and future EU Presidencies.

Discussions with our colleagues in Riga showed that the problems affecting Latvia are common to several other parts of Europe. Inadequate levels of minimum income, unemployment, lack of services, rising inequalities, rural poverty and lack of funding for local civil society were mentioned as some of the challenges facing the country today.

Voluntary organisations in Latvia have played an important role in promoting social inclusion and youth participation in public life. But the sector needs more support and recognition if it is to expand its capacity to promote the common good.

It is on the common good that we must focus our efforts. The Latvian government needs to use its EU Presidency to push Europe towards policies and priorities that benefit society as a whole. The recommendations mentioned above illustrate that economic growth and competitiveness, one of the Latvian Presidency’s objectives, cannot be achieved if Europe continues to face rising inequalities, in-work poverty and high levels of social exclusion.

The Europe 2020 Strategy is clearly failing to reach its social objectives because little attention has been paid to them. With economic growth and (precarious) employment taking precedence over the wellbeing of people and communities, Europe urgently needs to find common good solutions for its current challenges.

This requires cross-sectoral cooperation. National and local governments, EU institutions, businesses, civil society, communities and citizens need to be involved in the decision-making process and contribute to the common good. This means adopting a certain set of “common good behaviours” and moving beyond solutions that only benefit vested interests from certain sectors of society.

As mentioned in a previous article, our ambition is to identify and promote the set of behaviours that will bring about benefits to all. Stay in touch with Volonteurope to know more about our COMMON GOOD FOR EUROPE campaign.