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At the Tripartite Social Summit, in presence of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Council President Donald Tusk and Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas, CEEP Vice-President Milena Angelova and General Secretary Valeria Ronzitti presented the views of employers of public services on the future of the EU.

“We need to reconcile EU’s economic and social dimensions. Public services’ employers will work with EU institutions and Member States to create a strong skeleton of modernised and high-performing public services to reconnect citizens and enterprises with the EU project. The Pillar of Social Rights contains strong elements for the development of public services, which we strongly support.”

 

“CEEP also published today its Pulse of Public Services. Its main finding is that a strong investment policy is needed. Public services are strengthening the resilience of our economy. Investment in education is key element to foster productivity developments. Investment in healthcare will ensure that we properly mitigate the consequences of demographic ageing. And physical infrastructures are the one which enables businesses to evolve in a changing and competitive environment.”

 

“On top of investment, one of the key condition to ensure to get back to stable and sustainable economic and social progress remains the swift completion of the banking, economic and political union. Nothing less than the completion of the Economic and Monetary Union will structurally lift Europe out of the crisis. And we should not lose sight of the agenda set up by the Commission for the future of Europe.“

Following the presentation by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker of his State of the Union, CEEP commented on the proposals and visions brought forward:

On a Vision for Europe:

This State of the EU address is very ambitious and sets a clear direction for the Future of Europe, based on the principles of freedom, equal rights and opportunities and the rule of law. “CEEP is particularly interested to hear President Juncker calling for renewing the exercise of the ‘Spitzenkandidaten’, as well as his intention to push for pan-European lists at the upcoming elections in 2019,” explained CEEP General Secretary Valeria Ronzitti. She added that “it is that kind of ideas which will make citizens realise that the European democracy is more than the sum of the 27 national realities.”

On Social Cohesion and Economic Growth:

Several of President Juncker’s proposals have been called for by CEEP for the past few years. As such, having a European Commissioner endorsing the role of Minister of Finances for the Eurozone and chairing the Eurogroup while being accountable to the European Parliament will lead to increased transparency in the decision-making process, and to a more efficient EU Structural Reform Support Service.

President Juncker also clearly called off the proposed two-speed Europe, encouraging all Member States (excepted Denmark, which benefit from an opt-out of the Euro area) to eventually join the Eurozone and identifying the European Parliament as the Eurozone Parliament. “In our Opinion on the March White Paper on the Future of Europe, we clearly ruled out the idea of a multi-speed Europe”, highlighted Ms Ronzitti.

On Migration and Integration of Refugees:

CEEP welcomes the proposals on migration and the integration of refugees. “Those proposals will support the work done by our members to boost the integration of refugees in our societies. As services providers, our members are first responders, providing essential services. And, at the same time, as employers, they need to be able to ensure a smooth integration to the labour market”, explained Ms Ronzitti. “Shutting down illegal migration routes, and opening new legal ones instead, will help to bring the focus on supporting the integration of newcomers in Europe,” explained Ms Ronzitti.

On Fair and Free Trade:

“After years of calling for increased transparency on negotiations of free trade agreements, we are relieved to see President Juncker committing to a full transparency regarding the mandates and positions defended by the EU”, said Ms Ronzitti. This commitment will translate into better accountability, while the European Parliament and national parliaments will have the final say to approve the agreements negotiated.

On the Need to Recognise and Protect Public Services and SGIs:

Valeria Ronzitti added: “We regret that the speech, once again, overlooked the role that public services and services of general interest play in Europe as a cornerstone of our welfare systems.  Industrial policy cannot flourish without strong public services infrastructure, just like social rights cannot happen without strong public services. Public services are too often ‘taken for granted’, leading institutions to under-invest in them, putting at risk the whole vision presented by President Juncker.”

“We however intend, as always, to take a pragmatic stand and make the best out of the draft Commission Work Programme up to end 2018 to improve the daily life of public services providers and employers,” Ms Ronzitti concluded.

Ahead of the State of the EU speech by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, CEEP highlights its vision for the Future of Europe with a package of 5 Opinions, answering the European Commission’s White Paper and Reflection papers presented earlier in 2017:

“Those 5 papers are the conclusions of months of work with all our members. This process started in 2016, when the EU institutions presented their ambition of engaging in a comprehensive reflection on the Future of Europe”, explained Valeria Ronzitti, CEEP General Secretary. “This package, which was completed in July, has already been presented to the EU institutions, and we now are looking forward to assess tomorrow the State of the EU speech in the light of our position”.

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

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