Preventing social exclusion has become a critical issue in the European Union (EU) as a result of cutbacks in social expenditure imposed by Member States’ exploding debt. This issue sits at the intersection of employment and training policies and of reforms seeking to adapt social protection systems to the new realities of the present socio-economic context (population ageing, family instability, massive unemployment, employment insecurity, in-work poverty and persistent and increasing social inequality). This article will show that promoting social protection as part of a social investment approach is an excellent means of reconciling the objectives of equal opportunity over the life cycle, sustained economic performance (improved structural competitiveness) and strengthened social cohesion in the interest of collective well-being. Particular emphasis is given to the need to promote universal and individual rights to mobility and lifelong training, which would constitute new social guarantees, offsetting requirements linked to labour market flexibility. The article also emphasizes the importance of incorporating these rights throughout the EU as part of a wider social protection floor. This would offer permanent protection against the risk of exclusion in the Union, promote the economic and social integration sought since the revised Lisbon Strategy (2003-2005), and create confidence and hope among Europe's citizens.