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During an online ceremony in the presence of European Commission Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis, MEPs Brando Benifei, Anna Cavazzini and Eva Maydell, SGI Europe revealed its new name and identity. The European Centre of Employers and Enterprises providing Public services and SGIs (CEEP) is now named SGI Europe.

Founded in 1961 as the ‘Centre Européen des Entreprises Publiques’, SGI Europe is the sole cross-sectoral association representing providers of Services of General Interest at EU level.

Opening the ceremony, SGI Europe President Pascal Bolo explained:

“Both our society and our economy have dramatically changed since 1961. Our membership, too, has evolved. While remaining central in every citizen’s lives, at many levels, public services and services of general interest are now very different.

In its early days, our family was mainly composed of big national enterprises – such as SNCF, EDF or GDF in France; Electrabel and SNCB in Belgium; ENEL and ENI in Italy. In the 1990s, our membership grew in new and different directions: providers of public services and of services of general interest active at the very local level.

This renewed membership was a chance to complete and enrich our activities. Following the evolution of the society and of the economy, our membership has evolved, with a constant focus on the services provided, regardless of the ownership or the legal structure in place. SGI Europe therefore intends to represent ALL services of general interest at European level.”

More information on the activities and work of SGI Europe can be found on our new website: www.SGIeurope.org.

Ten months into facing the challenges of the COVID-19 crisis in Europe and around the world, providers of Services of General Interest work tirelessly to ensure that essential and high-quality services continue to be safe and available to citizens and businesses even in these unprecedented times. During the lockdowns across Europe, public transport remained active and ensured the continued mobility of essential front-line worker.

Today, we have united in the common interest to underline the health and safety of using all modes of public transportation during and after COVID-19 and call for strategic action that supports this public good for a resilient and green future for cities.

There is enough evidence to demonstrate that, when measures recommended by the health authorities are implemented, the risk of infection with COVID-19 in public transport is very low. Public transport remains one of the safest ways to move around the city and keep cities alive. With the right measures, public transport is COVID-safe.
Public transport is fundamental to achieving sustainable urban mobility, building resilient cities, combating climate change, and boosting local economies leaving no one and no place behind.

We therefore urge the Commission to recognise and strengthen public transport as the backbone of sustainable mobility and to foster modal shift in its upcoming strategy and implement the following six actions to ensure the public transport sector receives the necessary attention it deserves:

  • Provide support for public transport operators to ensure they can continue to offer high quality transportation with sufficient frequency
  • Recognise the scientifically proven facts instead of perception, when measures recommended by the health authorities are implemented, Public Transport is COVID-safe
  • Help to restore public trust and undertake initiatives to be transparent in the media to positively communicate the health and safety measures taken in public transport
  • Ensure stable financing and funding for the survival of public transportation. This should be reflected in the upcoming Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy and the EU Sustainable Finance Strategy
  • Develop measures to increase the resilience of public transport to future potential crises
  • Support any mobility strategies or projects presented as part of the national recovery and resilience plans since they contribute and accelerate the shift to clean, sustainable and shared mobility

The Operation of Public Transports guaranteeing health and safety at all times on each level

While ensuring the enforcement of all recommendations by the health authorities, public transport undertakings have introduced additional measures such as:

  • Daily cleaning of all vehicles
  • Protection shields on buses and trams to protect drivers
  • Enforcing the obligation for passengers to wear face masks at the stations and when using public transport
  • Providing clear health and safety information for passengers and staff
  • Introducing contactless payment
  • Using real time information to help passengers to avoid unnecessary crowds

Ahead of the European Commission’s adoption of the Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy, we raise our voice to ensure that on a European level public transportation deserves the necessary attention it needs and safeguards such a valuable public good that liberates citizens movement around Europe and serves as best option for environmentally friendly travelling.

We therefore urge the Commission to recognise and strengthen public transport as the backbone of sustainable mobility and to foster modal shift in its upcoming strategy.

On 30 November 2020, EU Social Partners, together with the Ministers in charge of vocational education and training (VET) of the 27 and the European Commission, signed the ‘Osnabrück Declaration on vocational education and training as an enabler of recovery and just transitions to digital and green economies’. Following up on the High-level conference held in Osnabrück on 16-17 September 2020, the Osnabrück Declaration restates the joint commitment to “contribute to the post-COVID recovery and to further develop the European Education and Training Area through future-oriented and innovative education and training systems in order to support the digital and green transition and improve employability and competitiveness and thus stimulate economic growth.”

During a dedicated online ceremony, Valeria Ronzitti, CEEP General Secretary, said:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly affected our VET systems due to the lockdown measures and the closure of many enterprises and sites necessary for training. Despite these difficulties, we keep looking forward and attempt to see these difficulties as opportunities for innovation. The common priorities of the Osnabrück Declaration remain as important as ever.”

“We strongly welcome the objective to adopt a systemic approach to lifelong learning with a strong promotion of digital skills. The COVID-19 crisis has shown how important it is for all workers, students, teachers, and educators to tackle this challenge. Enterprises today need adaptative skillsets that combines technical, sector-specific skills, as well as transversal and soft skills and competences.”

“The potential of the education sector to contribute to this transformation will highly depend on the ability of the people working in the sector to guide this journey. To achieve these objectives, we also need effective investment that supports the development of equitable and sustainable education systems.”

“We count on the commitments of the Osnabruck declaration to address one of the greatest challenges in adult learning: increasing synergies between education and socio-economic actors, as many systems still exist without mechanisms for coordination between education providers and social partners.”

Ahead of the video conference of the members of the European Council on 19 November 2020, the European social partners urge member states to endorse the agreement found on the European recovery fund and Multiannual Financial Framework for 2021-2027.

The agreement found as a result of the trilogue on the recovery fund and the so-called MFF (the EU’s long-term budget) is essential to help the EU economy recover from the damage the COVID crisis continues to inflict.

European enterprises and workers urgently need the EU financial support foreseen in this agreement. This is not the time for political games. It is the time to deliver the compromises found for the common good of all member states.

Ensuring that the basic rule of law requirements are respected is necessary for the smooth functioning of market economies and the protection of enterprises and workers.

Today [3rd November 2020], Valeria Ronzitti, CEEP General Secretary, and Tor Hatlevoll, chair of CEEP Macroeconomics Task Force, addressed the Macroeconomic Dialogue at political level, in the presence of, amongst others, Olaf Scholz, German Vice-Chancellor and Federal Minister of Finance, Christine Lagarde, European Central Bank President, Pascal Donohue, Eurogroup President, and Valdis Dombrovskis, European Commission Executive Vice-President for an Economy that Works for People.

Addressing the EU responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, Valeria Ronzitti, CEEP General Secretary, commented:

“We believe that short term work schemes are useful in mitigating the impact of the crisis on employment levels. We call for all Member States to maintain short term work schemes. Together with the temporary framework for state aid and the SGP escape clause, these short-term work schemes remain central to mitigate the ongoing crisis.”

“We strongly welcome the ambition of the Commission to use this crisis to transform our economy: Next Generation EU and the Recovery and the Resilience Facility respond to this call, and push for a change of paradigm in favour of structural, long-term quality investments in essential services.
We will only rebuild our economy through investments in knowledge, in new technologies, green and digital and in the successful reskilling and upskilling of the workforce to achieve higher productivity. Education and training are the perfect companion to short-term working schemes to that aim.”

“Our members stand ready to provide long-term investment plans to feed in the National Recovery and Resilience Plans. The implementation of the RRF must propose solutions to tackle issues such as energy poverty, housing overcrowding and access to quality and affordable healthcare and education. This can be done through both new funding opportunities and new structural reforms. The RRF can bring to life the spirit of the European Pillar of Social Rights, and its ambition to improve access to essential services.”

On Wednesday 28 October, the European Commission has presented its proposal for a Directive on “adequate minimum wages in the European Union”. According to the proposal, this Directive aims at establishing “a framework for setting adequate levels of minimum wages”, and ensuring “access of workers to minimum wage protection, in the form of wages set out by collective agreements or in the form of a statutory minimum wage where it exists.”

Following the presentation, Valeria Ronzitti, CEEP General Secretary, commented:

“We remain convinced that a Council Recommendation would have been the proper way forward to address the issue of fair minimum wages in Europe. It is furthermore important to state that CEEP was open, during the two stages of the consultation process of social partners, to negotiate with our counterparts the content of a Council Recommendation. Social dialogue is always the best way to address issues directly impacting employers and workers.”

“Against that background, we welcome the fact that the European Commission clearly states in several articles, and in particular article 4, that collective bargaining remains the best instrument to achieve the objectives of the proposal and shall consequently be promoted all over Europe. However, CEEP will remain vigilant that this proposal does not endanger the autonomy of social partners when it comes to wages negotiations.”

“We now call on the European Parliament and the European Council to make sure that the role of social partners is protected and that the proposal supports and do not endanger our European economy in these difficult times. That is why we will insist that the Directive ensure sufficient time for transposition: we are indeed deeply concerned by the two-years timeline outlined in the proposal. An unrealistic timing for transposition at a time when Members States, national and local social partners are striving to face the COVID-19 pandemic and prepare the recovery, risks to further exacerbate inequalities instead of levelling them down.”

On Wednesday 14 October, Rainer Plassmann, CEEP President, and Valeria Ronzitti, CEEP General Secretary, addressed the Tripartite Social Summit (TSS) videoconference. In presence of, amongst others, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, CEEP called for the clear recognition of the role played by services of general interest during the COVID-19 crisis and on the path to recovery.

During the opening round, President Plassmann said:

“We fully support the Commission’s ambition to further strengthen Europe’s resilience by empowering its structural ability to foster a fair and inclusive twin-transition and we are reassured to see such rapid progress from the Council.”

“Overall, we call for a clear recognition of Services of General Interest by all Member States as the key ingredient to making society resilient to future crises. This is proved by the projects that our members are presenting to their governments in the context of the National Recovery Plans.”

“Finally, CEEP calls for the EU institutions to propose solutions and mechanisms to address and sanction breaches of the rule of law and to make sure our recovery is made into a real democratic process involving social partners and essential service providers in every step.”

Taking the floor during the open discussion, General Secretary Valeria Ronzitti commented:

“CEEP calls for the strong involvement of social partners in the implementation of the Next Generation EU and the Multiannual Financial Framework. We welcome the commitment of Council President Michel to carry this message to the upcoming European Summit, and count on Member States to include social partners in the design of the national Recovery and Resilience plans.”

At the occasion of the TSS, CEEP also presented a first version of a compilation of investment plans submitted by CEEP members from across Europe to the National Recovery Plans, highlighting the expected impacts on the overarching priorities of the EU.

This Wednesday 16 September 2020, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen presented her first State of the European Union (SOTEU) address to the European Parliament plenary. On this occasion, Mrs von der Leyen presented her vision and ambitions for the EU moving forward, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recovery instruments.

Following this speech, Valeria Ronzitti, CEEP General Secretary, commented:

On the pillars of the post-COVID-19 recovery: “With a primary focus on thanking healthcare providers and frontline workers and reinforcing the need for the post-COVID-19 to rely on a strong social market economy, CEEP wholeheartedly supports the main lines presented today by President von der Leyen. However, they should be accompanied by real implementation and that is where our members will come into the picture”

On the implementation of the recovery package: “Whilst fully acknowledging the importance of the green and digital transitions for creating new growth and employment models, CEEP wants to see the details beyond the rhetoric. With our members, we can support EU, national, regional and local institutions to ensure that investments are made in the right infrastructures, either physical or social.”

On the need for an inclusive economic recovery: “As providers of services of general interest, our members need access to financing and support. The focus that the European Commission puts on traditional SMEs only calls for EU institutions to reflect on the current definition of ‘Small and medium-sized enterprise’. All SMEs will be engines of the recovery, whether public or private.”

On the EU economic architecture: “Completing the Capitals Market Union and the Banking Union is more than necessary, and we strongly support the renewed commitment to reach those goals. The progress on those two major tools needs to be completed and go hand in hand with an in-depth review and modernisation of the Stability and Growth Pact.”

 On migration: “We support the underlying rationale behind the upcoming proposals on migration. As an employers and SGI providers’ organisation, CEEP plays a key role in the integration of migrants and refugees into labour market. The renewal of the Partnership for Integration is further proof of that commitment. However, social partners and service providers cannot make it alone. The successful integration requires a genuine EU migration policy, calling on all 27 Member States to also step up their efforts.”

On Monday 7 September 2020, the European Commission – represented by Commissioners Johansson and Schmit – and the European Social and Economic Partners (CEEP, ETUC, BusinessEurope, SMEunited and EuroChambres) renewed their commitment to the European Partnership for Integration from 2017 with a joint statement.

In the context of the COVID-19 crisis, CEEP and its partners “recall the need for a comprehensive approach to integration that empowers all relevant stakeholders at local, national and European level, and the essential role played by public authorities.” Also, looking beyond the current crisis, the signatories emphasise that labour migration can offer a unique opportunity to support economic growth and make labour markets more resilient. Cooperation with countries of origin and better intelligence on skills and labour market shortages can play an important role in this endeavour.

During the signing ceremony, Valeria Ronzitti, CEEP General Secretary, said:

“Many of the existing supporting instruments, many projects and organizations working with and helping migrants and refugees are disrupted as a consequence of the COVID-19 outbreak. It is imperative to make sure that this supporting net remains operational throughout the crisis.”

“With the renewal of our Partnership for Integration, we must use this opportunity to ensure that our social and political infrastructures progress towards the elimination of migration-related inequality. We are committed to doing so by further fostering a multi-stakeholder approach, supporting entrepreneurship, and facilitating the identification, assessment and validation of skills at the earliest stage.”

“CEEP is willing to push for further extended cooperation with the Social and Economic Partners in the area of labour migration and to reinforce our joint effort in implementing EU-funded projects at the local level and to facilitate the labour market integration of refugees where this is more needed.”

On 21st July 2020, EU heads of state and of governments agreed on the shape and size of both the Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 (MFF) and the Next Generation EU recovery instrument.

Commenting the agreement reached by the European Council, Valeria Ronzitti, CEEP General Secretary, said:

“As CEEP repeatedly called on EU leaders to maintain the ambition of the European Commission on the overall size of €750bln, we welcome the overall volume of the recovery instrument agreed. We however deeply regret that the innovative dimension of this instrument didn’t meet its highest potential level with the proposed game-changing EU4Health.
We now count on the National Recovery Plans to revive that ambition, to promote investment in social infrastructure, including healthcare, as well as in digital and green. This shall compensate the loss in ambition in the final deal for some programmes, including InvestEU or the Just transition Fund. In order to make sure that those Plans will promote a sustainable and inclusive growth, it will be essential to involve national, regional and local social partners in their preparation.”

On the MFF, we commend the negotiating capacities of President Charles Michel and the fact that an agreement was found; any further delay would have put citizens’ and markets’ confidence in the capacity for Member States to reach compromise in the name of the European project under threat. Important progress will still be needed to modernize the MFF. This can only be achieved thanks to an institutional framework that allows the efficient coordination among different levels of governance and enhances the leading role of the EU. This can spark the Union’s unique competitive advantages to face the challenges ahead. We count on the Conference on the Future of Europe to be the basis for this new framework.”

“Finally, we now look forward to the discussion and approval of this framework by the European Parliament, which is a key step to ensure the legitimacy of an instruments that is made to serve European citizens.”

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