The European Social Network (ESN)’s Reference Group on the European Semester was launched in 2014. By providing input from a local perspective on the European Semester process - the cycle of economic and social policy coordination with the Member States – the Group aims to bring issues related to service planning, provision and management to the forefront of EU policy-making.

Every year, Group members undertake analysis of the European Commission’s country reports and Country-specific Recommendations (CSRs), by answering targeted questions drafted by the ESN policy team. The Reference Group meet once a year, usually in September, to wrap up the issues stemming from the questionnaire and to discuss priorities that the EU Semester should address.

Professionals working on social services and policy in 25 EU participated in the meetings held over the last 3 years.

01 |   The first meeting, in 2014, took place in London. Discussions between ESN members, EU Commission officials and European social policy experts discussed the challenges and opportunities of the EU Semester process, as well as its relevance for social services.

The outcomes of the 2014 activities are presented in our report:  ‘Connecting Europe to Local Communities. The view of local public social services on the European Semester 2014. The key messages and an overview of the report can be found in the dedicated news article.

02 |   The 2015 meeting took place in Brussels. Among the issues addressed were the impact of austerity policies on public social services management and provision, territorial competences and disparities, the sustainability of EU funded projects, evidence-based policy-making, and active inclusion, housing and long-term care.

Based on our 2015 findings, we published our report 'Looking ahead: Local social services priorities for the European Semester 2016’, where we provide a cross-country analysis, country profiles and recommendations on social policy priorities.

03 |   At the 2016 meeting, in Brussels, participants provided input on the (then) new Commission’s initiative, the European Pillar of Social Rights. Among the topic of the meeting were: social protection, housing, deinstitutionalisation and social services for migrants and refugees.

In November 2016, we published our annual EU Semester report ‘Connecting Europe with local communities. Social services priorities for the European Semester 2017’. It features a cross-country analysis, country profiles and the presentation of recurring themes that have emerged when analysing the 25 countries, translating into a set of key messages to be taken into account for the planning of the EU Semester cycle for 2017.

04 |   The 2017 meeting of ESN’s Reference Group allowed for assessment of the 2017 European Semester process and a reflection on the group’s key messages from 2014 to 2017. Other important issues covered in the meeting were the implementation of the proposed European Pillar of Social Rights, how economic aspects of the Semester and EU policy are linked to social ones and group discussions on a range of thematic areas particularly relevant in 2017.

On November 2017 we published the annual EU Semester report 'Bringing together Europe and local communites: Social services priorities for the European Semester 2018'. Like most years it features a cross-country analysis, along with country profiles which details the key messages and themes that will need to be taken into account when planning the next EU Semester cycle for 2018.



  • All resources (including presentations) from the meetings are available to members in the dedicated area of the website.
  • European Semster Reference Group: Events Page

If you would like to be involved, please get contact with our Policy Officers Will Hayward or Leyre Merchán Paúles