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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).

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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.

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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”.

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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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CEEP organised this morning (25 January) a breakfast event on “Local Public Services Enterprises and the EU SME Definition” at the European Parliament, hosted by MEPs Herbert Reul (EPP, Germany) and Jean-Paul Denanot (S&D, France).

Speakers representing local public services enterprises from all around Europe illustrated the need to engage in a reflection on the EU SME Definition to make it a real tool of support for all SMEs in the EU. Concrete examples were presented by Thierry Durnerin (FedEpl – Fédération des Entreprises Publiques Locales, France), Dr. Milena Angelova (BICA – Bulgarian Industrial Capital Association, Bulgaria) and Dr. Özgür Öner (GdW – Federal German Housing and Real Estate Organisation, Germany). They invited MEPs and representatives from EU institutions to a reflection on how to make the EU SME Definition more inclusive so that it can better support growth and jobs creation.

Many of CEEP members are small and medium-sized enterprises, meeting the thresholds of an SME in terms of size. They however are not considered as SMEs per the EU definition, as they operate under some control of a public authority as providers of SGEIs. Such enterprises can therefore not take part in some funding and financial schemes and face a regulatory burden from which other SMEs (who might be competing for similar markets) are exempted.

Katherina Reiche, CEEP President:

“CEEP does fully support all measures aiming at facilitating SME business operations. The European Union urgently needs this huge potential of SMEs to enhance growth, competitiveness and employment. However, since the SME definition is becoming more widely used (at EU and national level, as well as in aspects of financing), we want to point at some of the shortcomings of the current EU SME policy.”

Services of General Interest can be described as “enabling services”. This means that without reliable energy and water supply or dependable waste water or waste management, the production of many other goods and services would not be possible. It is therefore unfortunate that many local public enterprises cannot benefit from easier access to finance or a reduction in the administrative burden. Instead, the opposite is true.

“With regard to the decision about whether a company is an SME or not, it should make no difference whether a state agency or a private individual is a partner in the company. The same demarcation criteria should apply without exception in both cases.”

You can find more on CEEP’s position on the issue in our Opinion “For an Inclusive EU SME Policy”.

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The members of the Public Services Employers’ Forum (PSEF), representing Public Services and Services of General Interest (SGIs) employers and providers, welcome the intention of the European Commission to bring more balance between the economic and social dimensions of the European Union through its initiative on a “European Pillar of Social Rights”.

SGIs are a cornerstone of the EU Social Model and have a central role to play in the Pillar’s process to ensure the citizen’s quality of life and support the development of European businesses.

PSEF members believe that, in order to better support the EU social dimension, the Pillar should aim at fostering a better understanding of the differences between the national social systems and to define possible common reference principles to foster upward convergence.

The way forward is not for the Pillar to produce new EU social legislation, but to contribute to making sure that the existing regulations are still fit for purpose. The EU Social Acquis already encompasses 70 directives providing workers with protection and rights, therefore the problems existing with the EU social Acquis are not about quantity but quality and enforcement. Moreover, any initiative undertaken in the framework of the Pillar in the social policy area should be subject to the standard consultation procedure enshrined in the EU Treaties, and consequently foresee the involvement of social partners. The Pillar should serve as a reference document pointing out gaps in existing social legislation to assess and address. Amongst the existing social regulation, a modernisation of the Working Time Directive should be pursued to provide legal certainty to enterprises, organisations, employers and workers across Europe and ensure that this legal tool is still fit for purpose.

The European Pillar of Social Rights could inspire the development of new benchmarks to compare and measure social policy developments within the framework of the European Semester. Therefore, the Pillar should not be limited to the euro area Members, but cover all Member States of the EU. PSEF members believe that such benchmarking could make the reform agenda simpler and more specific in nature by recognising the differences between Member States, thereby increasing transparency and ownership regarding the implementation and enforcement of reforms. The EU should promote reforms which allow Member States to thrive autonomously within the European Union. This would require reforms that increase sustainable growth, competitiveness and productivity, facilitate the efficiency of SGIs, and ultimately reduce vulnerabilities and inequalities as experienced in the existing social infrastructure at national level.

The significant divergences across Europe are strongly related to the EU Member States’ structural weaknesses and in existing hindrances to the provision of sufficient, sustainable and predictable investments in physical and social infrastructures in key services such as transport, energy, communication, water, waste management, healthcare and education.

In order to change this situation by promoting and supporting the necessary forms of investment, the Pillar may serve as a basis for adapting the European fiscal rules to secure growth-friendly fiscal consolidation and to foster key forms of public investment such as in education, health and social services, contributing most to productivity gains in the economy. In this context, a comprehensive and non-dogmatic review of the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) needs to be considered.

The ways and means of pursuing the principles of the Pillar should be developed, decided upon and implemented by the Member States. Respecting the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality will be key for the success and widespread acceptance of the European Pillar of Social Rights. In this regard PSEF members consciously point out that the existing legal competencies of the EU should not be extended by the Pillar and the proven balance between regulations at national level and EU level should remain unchanged. The Pillar should instead provide a set of principles and objectives to be shared by the Member States making the best use of the European Semester.

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The signatories of this joint statement are CEEP (European Centre of Employers and Enterprises providing Public services and SGIs), CEMR (Council of European Municipalities and Regions), CER (Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies), EBU (European Broadcasting Union), EFEE (European Federation of Education Employers) and HOSPEEM (European Hospital and Healthcare Employers’ Association).

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