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Speech by CEEP General Secretary at the European Dialogue on Skills and Migration – Integrating Refugees and Other Migrants into the Labour Market (23 May 2017)

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Dear colleagues,

It is my pleasure to be able to explain how employers of public services fare in responding to the difficult refugee situation in Europe. To respond to the question of CEEP members’ role, I need to make a clear distinction between to imperatives: public services as ”first responder” on the one hand and as employer able to ensure a smooth integration to the labour market on the other hand.

What I mean by first responder is the ability of CEEP members to answer to emergency situatuations when a refugee first arrive in a local community. It means providing urgent individualised services with efficiency. Our members face numerous challenges on this front:

  • Housing: Most asylum-seekers and refugees are provided with housing in most countries, making this service the most comprehensive provided by local authorities to newcomers. We face serious shortages of affordable housing and accommodation for the refugees, especially in cities and municipalities with already overstretched housing markets.
  • Language: The lack of knowledge of the language of receiving country is a major obstacle to accessing services that public bodies provide, particularly education for children, training and employment, and healthcare. Investing in language immersion courses and supporting voluntary language support activities is crucial.
  • Information and training: Across the continent, there is a perceived and a real need to train staff in local authorities and social services in dealing with refugees, including information about the asylum process. For managers of public services, it is also important to be better informed about national strategies and plans.
  • Specialist services for refugees and unaccompanied children: Many municipalities struggle to provide adequate services for asylum-seeking children (child protection, education, care) as well as specialist services such as trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) treatment services.

In this context, public services have already been severely affected by the economic crisis, leading to weakened infrastructure for service provision and uneven financial resources for integration programmes.

In terms of integration to the Labour Market

Our members are first and foremost impacted by demographic ageing.   Many unfilled vacancies co-exist with high unemployment throughout Europe. We believe that the arrival of refugees has the potential to help recruit for our sectors which are struggling the most. However, the challenges we still face are:

  • insufficient language skills (level of education of asylum seekers and refugees is averagely low or very low);
  • non-existing previous schooling or occupational knowledge (difficult recognition of education and skills);
  • often-unstable legal situation (including disincentives to invest in training);
  • depending of their place of settlement, employment opportunities strongly differ.

We believe that the solutions to these now clearly identified issues will be the following:

  • Promoting multi-stakeholder operational frameworks and structures to assist asylum-seekers and refugees for a faster transition into the labour market and in the workplace.
  • Setting the conditions for a more effective skills assessment and skills matching and upgrading skills to facilitate their integration in the EU labour market (in particular through language trainings, VET and entrepreneurial education).
  • Exploring innovative measures to help employment, such as the Swedish “fast-track” set up by SALAR or advertising economic sectors with workforce shortages.

Social partners cannot take by themselves the overall burden of integration, but our engagement is key to attain the objective, and we have the power to complement what is being done by public authorities.

As for what we as CEEP intend to do to support our members, we have the following concrete means at our disposal:

  • CEEP committed to work with the other economic and social partners to support inclusion of refugees into work and society (TSS “Statement of the EU economic and social partners on the refugee crisis” – 16/03/2016) and will pursue this common objective through the LABOUR INT project.
  • CEEP intends to engage wholehartedly in the future propsects for establishing a dialogue on migration policies with DG HOME and DG EMPL which can be further structured by taking inspiration from existing practices such as the European Alliance for Apprenticeships (EAFA).

The package published today by the European Commission does not come as a surprise, as it is the result of months of intense consultations and the follow-up to the deep reflection on the social dimension of Europe in the context of the White Paper on the Future of the EU.
Valeria Ronzitti, CEEP General Secretary, said:

“Public services’ employers see the reflection paper on the social dimension as a crucial element of the broader reflection on the future of Europe. We are however concerned that the link with the upcoming paper on the Economic and Monetary Union is not strong enough: you cannot have social progress without economic progress and vice versa. We will make this link very clear in our future contribution, and we very much hope that it will be reflected in the result of this necessary process of reflection on the Future of Europe.”

“When it comes to the Pillar of Social Rights, the picture is much more complex. We have new challenges ahead of us, with the first-stage consultation on written statement and access to social protection. CEEP members will look deeply into them with an open mind and all best intentions to try to find a way for negotiations, as we believe this is still THE way labour markets at EU level should be driven.”
“Understanding the logic behind the interpretative communication on working time is much harder for us, both from a content and a methodological point of view. Content-wise, the interpretative communication risks complexifying – and not simplifying – the operations of public services’ providers who are the most affected by the various court cases that the interpretative communication addresses. From a methodological point of view, we feel that the Commission went ahead disregarding the views of the social partners, especially CEEP who always committed to finding a negotiated solution.”
“That is why we were finally willing to enter into negotiations for the revision of the parental leave agreement within the Work Life Balance package, as highlighted in the Commission’s statement accompanying the Commission Proposal for a Directive on work life balance and carers. For us, the decision of the Social Partners not to negotiate puts the future of social dialogue in danger. CEEP is clearly committed to social dialogue: employers and workers know what is possible and deliverable and are the best placed to shape industrial relations. We will realise this commitment when negotiating the next work programme of the social partners.”

CEEP took part on Friday 24 March in an Extraordinary Meeting between EU Social Partners and EU Institutions in Rome, opening the celebrations for the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome. EU social partners presented to Presidents Juncker and Tusk, to Commissioners Thyssen and Dombrovskis and to the Prime Ministers of Italy, Malta, Estonia and Sweden, a joint statement, “declaring their full commitment to the European Union and dedication to continuing to contribute to a successful project and united Europe that delivers for its workers and enterprises.”

During the meeting, CEEP Vice-President Filippo Brandolini said:

CEEP is honoured to be associated to the 60th Anniversary of the Rome Treaty. This involvement is for us a clear sign of the new political will of the Council and Commission to involve Social Partners in the crucial decisions being made for the future of Europe.”

Mr Brandolini emphasised three key priorities for CEEP:

Europe shall not be reduced to the single market. This would be in contradiction with all the work we have been doing for decades as a social partner to foster social Europe. That is why the right balance between the economic and social dimensions of the EU needs to be achieved. A key step in that direction will be for the reflection on the future of the European Social model and of the Economic and Monetary Union to go hand in hand. Member States should never favour one at the expense of the development of the other.”


A key foundation for the European project should be its infrastructures, both physical and social. Our main instrument to accomplish this remains an ambitious and responsible investment policy fully supported by our rules and engagements.  We will continue to make proposals to facilitate investments in key public services infrastructures. We need to be smart about this and remember that we can find social progress beyond technicity, for instance by codifying a clear distinction between operational expenditure and investments and allowing for a long-term horizon. This is for us the meaning of “smart reading of fiscal rules”, which you can find in the social partners’ joint statement.”


Through Social dialogue, we will ensure social market economy better supports employers and workers. Social partners have a key role to play not only through consultations by contributing to government policy making, but also and mainly by directly shaping industrial relations and labour markets through negotiations. We are very pleased that this meeting creates a bridge with the Social Summit scheduled in November, where we are sure that the role of social partners will be strongly reaffirmed.”

CEEP delegation in Rome was composed of Filippo Brandolini (Vice-President), Valeria Ronzitti (General Secretary), Joseph Farrugia (President of CEEP Maltese Section) and Kristin Ivarsson (CEEP Sweden).


The European social partners gathered in Rome on the invitation of the Italian government, the Maltese Presidency, the Presidencies of the European Council and the European Commission, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, solemnly declare their full commitment to the European Union and dedication to continuing to contribute to a successful project and united Europe that delivers for its workers and enterprises.

Seven decades of peace and stability in Europe is an historic achievement. The European Union, which created a union among the peoples of Europe and, step by step, tied together European States with a common purpose, made this possible.

Europe is faced with many economic, social and political challenges: lack of inclusive, balanced and sustainable growth, insufficient competitiveness and employment creation, inequalities, exceptional migration flows, security issues, and the need to redefine EU-UK relations. These challenges require ambitious European solutions. Together, the European Union and its member states have the means to provide common answers, show solidarity, and make a difference in a moment of geopolitical instability, economic problems, rising populism and extremism. Only united are we strong at the global level.

European social partners strongly believe in the European Union. Populism, nationalism, xenophobia, anti-European sentiments, isolationism or protectionism come from poor economic and social performance and people’s fears about the future. This should be addressed through a serious, fact-based, transparent, and open-debate, and concrete initiatives that can improve workers and companies’ everyday life, thereby preventing a downward spiral that will damage everyone. European and national commitment can and must go hand-in hand.

Our social market economies combine free markets, private initiative, economic freedoms, free movement of people and social rights, a well-functioning welfare state and high-performing public services. Both economic and social cohesion should be improved. A particular effort is needed to lift up our youth, to give them back prospects of a bright future, to demonstrate the benefits of the European project.

Europe has the most highly developed social systems in the world and it will continue to be so provided we ensure that the European social model is made more robust and sustainable with the active support of social partners. Providing equal opportunities and addressing inequalities in the labour market and society, increasing levels of employment participation and social inclusion, is part of the answer to greater economic prosperity and better social outcomes in the EU.

A well-functioning social dialogue at EU, national, sectoral and company level is important to devise efficient policies that will increase European prosperity and ensure social fairness.

To increase prosperity, giving room for more and better employment opportunities for all generations, we need to improve Europe’s attractiveness as a place to invest and create jobs. After a decade of under-investment, increasing efficient and productive private and public investment is essential for Europe’s present and future growth and employment. We need to achieve a proper balance between our stabilisation and sustainability needs including, where public investment is concerned, through a smart reading of our fiscal rules. In parallel with the extension of the so-called Juncker Plan for Investment, EU and national efforts to remove obstacles to investment, entrepreneurship and job creation in Europe must be stepped up.

To reverse the relative decline of European industry and given the importance of manufacturing as a growth and job creation driver in all sectors of the economy, including services, we call on the European Union to urgently put in place an ambitious industrial policy strategy. Our main competitors are not waiting. The time for action is now.

High performing public services must be fostered and we also urgently need a dynamic EU SME action agenda. The EU must support competitiveness and innovation, while managing transition processes towards the digital, low carbon and circular economy. We also need a strong skeleton of modernised and efficient public services able to reconnect citizens and enterprises with the European project while promoting social and territorial cohesion.

Having efficient European institutions is essential to have a well-functioning Economic and Monetary Union and devise balanced and effective European policies benefiting all Member States enterprises and workers. Europe needs transparent, democratically accountable and well-performing institutions. The European social partners count on the European Commission, the Council and the European Parliament to be united and work together to improve the capacity of the European Union to address enterprises’ and workers’ needs and expectations. We stand ready to support you in this endeavour.

PDF Version

At the Tripartite Social Summit, in presence of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Council President Donald Tusk and Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, CEEP General Secretary Valeria Ronzitti and the President of CEEP Maltese Section Joseph Farrugia presented the views of employers of public services on the future of the EU and charting the course towards growth, employment and fairness.

 “You can be sure of our commitment to contribute to upcoming debates and reflection papers on the Future of the EU, in particular on the social dimension and on the deepening of the EMU. The Commission’s guiding principle in this regard must be: ”economic policies are social policies, and social policies are economic policies”, to quote Commissioner Thyssen.”


“CEEP will also consult its members on which option or combination of options we favour from the White Paper on the Future of the EU. But we can already exclude scenario 2 – the reduction of the EU to the sole Single Market – as it goes against our ”raison d’être”, both as social partners and as providers of SGI. The Single Market is a tool to achieve sustainable growth, social and territorial cohesion. It is NOT an end in itself.”


“President Tusk, the Council now has a great responsibility, as the Commission’s White Paper rightly puts the debate in your hands. In this regard, our wish in CEEP is that you will not leave the debate on the Future of the EU before having collected 27 signatures, starting from the upcoming Rome Declaration.”


“There is now a need to set up a framework to foster investment and financing the real economy, including public services. According to our Pulse of Public Services, 44% of the respondents are still reporting difficulties to fund their activities as one of their top challenges. Member States with fiscal space should enable necessary investment in public infrastructure and Member States who have been granted flexibility have to use it for long term investment, and not for short-term priorities.”

After nine months of negotiations, EU employers and trade unions approved a framework agreement on active-agein and an intergenerational approach.

The agreement is to ensure a healthy, safe and productive working environment and work organisation to enable workers of all ages to remain in work until legal retirement age. It is to facilitate the transfer of knowledge and experience between generations at the workplace and takes into account the changing national demographic and labour market realities.

BusinessEurope, UEAPME, CEEP and the ETUC signed and handed over the agreement to European Commission President Juncker, European Council President Tusk and the Maltese Prime Minister Muscat on Wednesday 8 March during the signature ceremony.

This agreement will be implemented by the members of the signatory organisations across Europe.

Following the presentation by Jean-Claude Juncker of the European Commission White Paper on the Future of the EU, CEEP General Secretary Valeria Ronzitti said:

“European Employers and providers of public services and SGI are fully supportive of the initiative of President Juncker to put to discussions different scenarios on the Future of the EU. We believe that engaging with stakeholders, both at EU and at Member state levels, is the only way forward to re-connect EU citizens and the EU project.

We welcome the approach brought forward today, as it aims at making the process of reforming the European Union as open as possible and pave the way to a close cooperation with other institutions and citizens.

The European Commission has played so far a key role in driving forward the reflection on the future of the EU. It is now up to the European Council and to the Heads of state and of government to show responsibility and to make a choice for Europe among the different options outlined.

CEEP hopes that the choices which will be made will be guided by the general interest of all European citizens, and should at all costs not be guided by any electoral appeal. Our common priority is now to make Europe a safe, a prosperous and an uplifting common project again.”

Following their meeting preparatory to the Tripartite Social Summit with European Council President Donald Tusk, Katherina Reiche and Valeria Ronzitti, CEEP President and General Secretary, said:

“We very much value the commitment of President Tusk to social dialogue and social partners. CEEP is looking forward to keep working together with President Tusk in the future and on finding the way forward for the European Union”.


In presence of ECB President Mario Draghi, European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis and Maltese Minister of Finance Edward Scicluna, Valeria Ronzitti, CEEP General Secretary, addressed the main issues faced by the EU economies at the macro-economic dialogue at political level.

Following the publication of European Commission’s Communication on Fiscal Stance, CEEP believes it is a clear call to responsibility sent to Member States, as wel as a call to start considering the Eurozone as a whole and not just as the sum of its individual components. CEEP also addressed:

The role of Member States fiscal policies

We have always considered public investment in key physical and social infrastructures as the main lever to foster growth for the benefit of citizens and enterprises in Europe. We also believe that some expenses favorable to long-term growth should remain separate from current expenditure: investment with positive effects on future generations, such as education and healthcare, could be financed with debt and deficits, unlike consumption expenditures.

The need for a balance between sustainability and stabilisation

For us, there is no point in opposing sustainability of public finance and the needs of stabilisation.
More efficient investment leads to larger effects on domestic GDP and larger international spillovers. Moreover, surplus countries can now borrow at record low interest rates. Therefore, the accumulation of government debt following fiscal expansion can actually be quite modest and does not endanger long-run debt sustainability.

The governance issues for the Economic and Monetary Union

We need to be realistic over what we can achieve. In the EMU, fiscal policies are a national responsibility. The SGP does not oblige countries with fiscal room for manoeuvre to make use of it. There is no guarantee that the coordination of national fiscal policies through the SGP will result in an appropriate aggregate euro area fiscal stance. With our present instruments, the concept of the Fiscal stance is methodologically and politically ambitious. It is now for Member States to commit and see this communication as an important step toward a more coordinated andexpansionary Euro area fiscal policy. The longer we wait, the more we decrease our long-term growth prospect.


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