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Addressing EU Ministers for Employment and Social Affairs at the opening session of the informal EPSCO in Tallinn, CEEP General Secretary Valeria Ronzitti expressed deep regrets that the EU social partners could not find a common ground to negotiate on work-life balance.
As the social partners are the best-placed to identify, design and implement measures on this issue, Ms Ronzitti encouraged Member States to now work on the proposal tabled by the European Commission in close and constant cooperation with their national, regional and local social partners.

Whilst trusting Member States to find an agreement in co-decision about the majority of proposals from the European Commission’s proposal on work-life balance for parents and carers, Ms Ronzitti expressed strong concerns on a proposed EU-wide carer’s leave. Such a proposal could reveal counterproductive with negative impact on women’s employment. “Women are still the primary carers of dependant relatives in most cases, meaning that we risk adding yet another leave to women. Additionally, as public services workers are in majority women, our members are concerned regarding the potential financial impact this could have, particularly when adding demographic change”, explained Ms Ronzitti. She continued: “Caring for a dependant is in most cases not limited in time, at the difference of a parental leave. It should therefore be for Member States to determine whether it is necessary to introduce a carers’ leave”.

The key aspects of designing support measures for carers which are relevant to people’s life paths must include investments into supporting services for informal carers and formal care services and allow for employee-driven flexibility in employment relations. The high-level Task Force on Social Infrastructures estimated investment needs on long term care at about €262 bln per year, which is more than half of the total estimated investment needs in social infrastructures (estimated at €455 bln per year when education and social housing are included).

CEEP therefore recommends to Member States to adopt a holistic approach on this issue: leave arrangements are not the panacea and the only way to achieve work-life balance.

Check against delivery.

Dear President Tusk,
Dear Commissioners,
Dear members,
Dear participants,

On behalf of CEEP members, and the whole community of public services and SGIs, it is my honour to welcome you to the third edition of the Public Services Summit. I am delighted to welcome today such an impressive number of high-level representatives from EU institutions, beginning with Donald Tusk, President of the European Council. The German Chancellor Angela Merkel asked him at short notice to participate in the preparation of the G20 Summit on 29th of July in Berlin. But president Tusk sends us a video message. That is a great honour, because we can only guess his extremely busy agenda.

I am confident that this Public Services Summit is a perfect opportunity to further emphasise the key role that employers and providers of public services and services of general interest play in Europe. CEEP represents 500.000 providers of essential key services, 25.000 of which are local public services enterprises. They account for 26% of EU GDP and employ 30% of the EU workforce.

Public services are absolutely essential to our economy and the welfare of every single one of the 500 million European citizens. This edition will resolutely be forward-looking, with a focus on the discussions on the Future of Europe, the evolution of public services and the place for social dialogue in the coming years. But the PSS is not only meant to profile CEEP: it also aims at offering a platform for debate and reflection between the wider public services community and policy makers, at EU and national level, also involving the economic and social partners. Once again, I warmly welcome you to CEEP Public Services Summit 2017.

For us, but also for Europe, the last 12 months have been unique. The current easing of tension is about the same topics that lead EU into strained relationship, between Member States and towards citizens:

  • Firstly, Brexit: Negotiations started and it is obvious that you can loose a lot by leaving the EU.
  • Secondly, anti-EU sentiments: The recent electoral successes in France and the Netherlands were successes of pro-EU courses.
  • Thirdly, Trump: The EU is the critical size to balance weights and to stick together for a smart climate policy.

Soon enough, both President Juncker and President Tusk were calling for an in-depth reflection on EU’s own nature and future. This is why CEEP gave concrete input to the white paper process, delivered to the European Commission in December last year. We propose not only measures that could be taken by the European institutions to foster support for the European project and move forward on the path of integration. We also propose specific activities for CEEP and its members to contribute to this end. Please allow me to also thank all members that have been active in drawing up CEEPs input to the Commission White Paper at this point.

In this context, CEEP members have a key role and SGIs must now be strengthened as opposed to being put under further pressure. This is not a call to “protect our own interest”, it is a call for democracy.

CEEP is absolutely supportive of the on-going debates on the Future of Europe. To be a real success those debates must be open and inclusive. The discussions should trickle down to the citizens, and reach them in their daily life.

Europe is not only about “Brussels”. Citizens are the first concerned and their voice should be the first-heard when it comes to discussing what Europe should become by 2025. And citizens should also be the main beneficiaries of the real added value of the European project.

Our contribution to the debate on the Future of Europe relies on two pillars: as an EU general cross-industry social partner, regularly consulted by the Institutions, and as THE cross-sectoral representative of public services and SGIs providers. There is still a need for a stronger recognition of our members’ essential role as economic stabilisers. That is why we call on a framework allowing European SGI providers to flourish. We see five main alleys to reach that objective:

Bringing the Acquis Communautaire for Services of General Interest to life

In the EU Treaties, Services of General Interest are explicitly recognized. However, this recognition must still become a tangible reality. For instance, in-house provision of SGIs should be considered as a regular mode of provision, and EU institutions should ensure that Member States do not gold-plate legislations impacting SGIs.

Fostering territorial cohesion and social inclusiveness

Services of General Interest, regardless of their sector of operation, are central in fostering social and territorial cohesion, ensuring that no citizen is left on the margin of the society. The digital transformation is also a good example of this: I believe not to be exaggerating when I say that the digitalization of our economies and societies will be the greatest political challenge we will have to face in the next few years. It revolutionizes the way we communicate between individuals, the way we move, the way we gather information: Instead of calling to reschedule a meeting, we send a WhatsApp message; instead of buying a car, we purchase ad-hoc mobility on a carsharing app; instead of turning pages in a dictionary, we ask SIRI. If we live in a remote area, instead of having to visit our doctor 25 kilometres away to get a new prescription, we will soon connect with him or her through an eHealth application.

A great challenge we are facing in this context is: How can we make sure that every citizen can actually benefit from these new developments, irrescpective of where they live or their economic situation? SGI providers play a pivotal role in this regard: they roll out broadband in remote areas that exclusively profit-oriented providers tend to pass by, integrate modern mobility options into urban public transport schemes and develop solutions for easy access digital healthcare.

However, SGI providers cannot reach that goal alone: the penetration of digital infrastructure in rural areas will need better policy and financial support, digital skills will need to become an integral part of any educational curriculum and policy choices made to govern the digital economy and society should leave a certain degree of flexibility and be technologically neutral, allowing public services’ providers to find cost-effective solutions to adapt services to citizens’ needs.

Ideally, the entire range of services offered in one way or another by the “public sector”, that is, enterprises providing public services as well as local, regional or national public authorities should one day be digitally accessible to citizens. eGovernment is an important key word in this respect. Digital pioneer countries like Estonia, whose extraordinary electronic government system I have had the opportunity to experience first-hand, have systems to integrate everything from declaring your taxable income to paying your electricity bill into a single digital gateway. It makes live not only tremendously more comfortable for the individual citizens, it also saves Estonia administrative expenses equivalent to an astonishing 2 % of GDP.

The upcoming Estonian presidency of the Council of the European Union will be a particularly interesting opportunity to strengthen the digitalization of the services we provide as CEEP members, support the public authorities we deal with in doing the same.

Putting SGIs at the heart of sustainable growth

By their nature and their missions, and regardless of their sector of activity, Services of General Interest are key in designing and implementing policies conductive of sustainable growth, and should be recognized and encouraged as such. Our members can greatly contribute to developing a genuine circular economy, or to developing new technologies for a greener future. The ongoing rapid digitalization efforts will further increase that contribution: Nowhere are the benefits of digitization more clearly seen than in the range of our topics, especially sustainability and the working environment of the future.

Supporting SGIs providers in innovation

Providers of Services of General Interest need a framework allowing them to have room to innovate and improve their services, develop skills and invest in R&D.

As such, removing barriers to innovation and ensuring an access to innovation aids for SGI providers would lead to increased efficiency and effectiveness of the provisions of public services, with spill over effects benefitting the whole population. This would imply, amongst other things that innovation aids as foreseen by art. 28 of the General Block Exemption Regulation are made accessible for Local Public Services Enterprises that, due to their size, face very similar challenges to SMEs as defined by the EU SME definition.

Cornerstone of the EU Social Model, important actor among the employers in the EU Social Dialogue, CEEP will, once again, build bridges. Bridges between our members and EU decision-makers; Bridges amongst EU institutions; Bridges across the political and ideological divides. Services of General Interest are at the heart of the European welfare states. EU citizens are calling for decision-makers to stand for stability, (social) security and transparency. CEEP now calls on EU leaders to personally engage into the debate and take responsibility, enabling citizens to identify themselves with EU principles.

We have got to know President Tusk since a while now and therefore know he says things as they are and is always ready to stand up for his commitments and ensure their realisation. That is why we are particularly happy that the wider public services’ community can debate with him today and acknowledge that they can put faces on Europe that they can trust.

With this I wish you all good debates, and to CEEP members in particular I wish that today will be inspirational for our current work on the Future of Europe.

CEEP, together with a group of organisations representing civil society, trade unions, business, local authorities and companies, presented today (7 June 2017) a new multi-stakeholder alliance named ALL at a conference in Brussels. The alliance has been established to campaign in favour of European cooperation and democracy at a time when both are challenged.

ALL is bringing together different sides of European society as part of a diverse and inclusive campaign in the run-up to the European Parliament elections in 2019. Through a network of national partners, ALL will endevour to offer millions of Europeans a better chance to discuss and influence politics through democratic dialogue.

ALL was initiated by the European Movement International, working in partnership with the following organisations:

  • BDI – Federation of German Industries
  • BusinessEurope
  • CEEP – European Centre of Employers and Enterprises providing Public Services and SGIs
  • CEMR – The Council of European Municipalities and Regions
  • DI – Confederation of Danish Industry
  • EEB – The European Environmental Bureau
  • EMI – European Movement International
  • ETUC – European Trade Union Confederation
  • European Youth Forum
  • IV Bund -  Federation of Austrian Industries
  • Svenskt Näringsliv – Confederation of Swedish Enterprise  
  • Transparency International EU

For more details (including our mission statement) please go to www.allfordemocracy.eu

The European Commission presented today [31th May 2017] its reflection paper on the Deepening of the Economic and Monetary Union. This is for CEEP one of the most expected reflection paper following the White Paper on the Future of Europe, and it represents a long-awaited follow-up to the Five Presidents’ Report of 2015. Today’s reflection paper will have to be analysed in connection with the paper on the social dimension of Europe, as social and economic developments are two sides of a same coin.

“We welcome this renewed ambition of the European Commission to complete the Economic and Monetary Union,” said Valeria Ronzitti, CEEP General Secretary. “Completing the EMU should bring more transparency and democratic accountability, while making sure our macroeconomic instruments are able to support a long-term and sustainable growth.”

A key step forward is the prospect of reinforcing the Economic and Fiscal Union through a new central stabilisation function, a better alignment of economic and social priorities as well as a possible simplification of the Stability and Growth Pact by 2020-2025. “CEEP has been calling for a simplification of the EU fiscal rules for a long time. The reflection paper can trigger an honest and non-dogmatic review of the SGP, including its interpretative communication of 2015. We believe that such a process can lead to simplifying the rules and supporting investment to relaunch the economic engine,” explained Ms Ronzitti.

CEEP equally welcomes the call to increase the democratic accountability and effective governance of the Economic and Monetary Union: Reinforcing and formalising the dialogue with the European Parliament and increasing the external representation of the euro area – including a EU Finance Minister – can increase the democratic ownership of the EU economic policies.

Valeria Ronzitti concluded: “We are confident that all those goals can be achieved if the European Commission, Member States and all stakeholders involved answer the call of Vice-President Dombrovskis and Commissioner Moscovici: ‘It is time to put pragmatism before dogma, to put bridge-building before individual mistrust.’“

sans-titre

We, the European Social Partners,

ACKNOWLEDGE that we are at a critical juncture for the European Union concerning growth and quality job creation, as the economic recovery continues, with differences across Europe, yet we continue to face significant economic, environmental and social challenges;

EMPHASISE that robust industrial and competitive business fabric, supported by high-performing public services, in the European Union is an indispensable basis to weather the multiple challenges we are currently facing;

STRESS that the EU has committed to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which together comprise a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure peace and prosperity for all people;

RECOGNISE that achieving the Sustainable Development Goals requires further efforts, in particular a greener and more sustainable economic growth. This implies considerable investment and skills related initiatives to enable the necessary adaptation of enterprises and workers to changing jobs content;

EMPHASISE that the EU has committed to the provisions of the Paris agreement on climate change and that further improving resource efficiency is a key condition to decarbonise the economy;

RECALL that the EU’s economy is highly resource-dependent and therefore vulnerable to exports restrictions and increased prices of imported commodities, which is expected to continue as global demand for raw materials and energy resources keep rising;

RECALL that the inefficient and unsustainable use of resources, the loss of biodiversity and degradation of ecosystems, and the impacts of climate change pose challenges for long-term economic growth and social cohesion;

WELCOME the fact that the European Union has made the transition towards a low carbon, resource-efficient and circular economy a central policy priority;

ACKNOWLEDGE that improvements in resource efficiency alone can bring multiple benefits for business and society at large and hence, the implementation of EU environmental acquis should be a priority;

STRESS that effective adaptation of economies and labour markets to more resource-efficient practices and processes requires a workforce with the appropriate skills and competences and that education, initial and continuous vocational training play a critical role in delivering and updating relevant skills, taking into account the priorities of the New Skills Agenda, as appropriate;

RECOGNISE that this transition needs to be managed transparently, fairly, and effectively by public authorities at EU, national and regional level in charge of economic, environmental and education and training policies, and in close cooperation with the social partners. Diverse economic, environmental and labour market realities, and industrial relations practices in the Member States should be taken into account;

RECALL that many enterprises of all sizes have already embarked in making their business models more resource efficient and circular and that existing good practices should be replicated as much as possible across the EU, in particular to incentivise SMEs to become resource-efficient. In that regard, WELCOME the finance and stakeholders platforms that the European Commission, the European Investment Bank and the European Economic and Social Committee are currently developing;

CALL on the European institutions to perform, in close coordination with the European social partners, an in-depth analysis to identify conditions and success factors for European enterprises and workers to benefit from the European Union moving towards a more circular economy;

CALL on the European institutions to also identify, in close coordination with the European social partners, the effects of the transition to a circular economy on various sectors as well as how to ensure good outcomes for enterprises and workers.

PDF Version

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)

[Check against delivery]

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.”

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