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On 27 March 2020, CEEP, together with its sectoral members HOSPEEM (healthcare), EFEE (education) and EBU (public service broadcasters); PSEF members CER (railways) and UITP (public transport); and partner organisations EASPD (services for persons with disabilities) and HOPE (hospital and healthcare), have launched a new platform “Services of General Interest facing COVID-19”, which is accessible here.
Featuring examples and practices from sectors such as healthcare, telecommunications, public transport, social services, education, administration, energy or water, this page will be regularly updated, highlighting both the short-term effects of the ongoing crisis on providers of those essential services, as well as highlighting proposals for long-term political solutions.

Ahead of the launch of the platform, Valeria Ronzitti, CEEP General Secretary, commented:

SGIs providers work tirelessly to ensure that essential and high-quality services are still available to citizens and businesses. Healthcare providers are, evidently, first in line but all SGIs around Europe have been directly hit by the coronavirus spread, and this cannot be understated.”

“This platform, as well as the network of associations we are building to support it, intends to highlight these consequences, ranging from adapting the management of the staff to facing sharp and brutal changes in the usage of the services.”

“By highlighting to the EU institutions the impacts of the crisis on the ground, the platform will also serve the purpose of contributing to shape the coordinated exit strategy and the comprehensive recovery plan the EU Commission has been tasked with yesterday by the European Council.”

Ahead of the Council video conference of today dedicated to the COVID-19 emergency, CEEP called upon EU leaders to preserve European welfare systems and the social market economy. Valeria Ronzitti, CEEP General Secretary, commented:

“Our members, SGIs employers and providers, work tirelessly to ensure that essential and high-quality services are still available to a frightened population. Healthcare providers are, evidently, first in line on this battle and deserve particular praise. However, all SGIs around Europe have been directly hit by the coronavirus spread and this cannot be understated”.

 “We now ask EU leaders to respond to the commitment and dedication shown by our members on a daily basis with adequate measures to face this crisis, and to make sure their efforts and struggle are fully recognised all over Europe. This crisis has put in broad daylight our critical lack of physical and social infrastructures at the European level. CEEP has long warned for the consequences of undifferentiated fiscal consolidation on the operational framework for SGIs, while witnessing the unreserved support to the “for profit sector” to prepare for the transitions.”

 “It is now time to demonstrate the decisiveness of the EU’s action, with a united response, fiscal policies delivering “whatever it takes”, and making full use of all possibilities through the ESM until the economic dynamic is properly restored. The Corona Response Investment Initiative must help healthcare systems but should also provide support for heavily affected SGIs enterprises.”

 “Measures taken now will pave the way for a solid recovery based on a new paradigm where the “business case” for investing in SGIs should be a major rationale. Urgency plans are crucial, but they should not obliterate long-term needs and strategic choices. On the contrary, this crisis gives us the opportunity to confirm our engagement for a greener economy and improved infrastructure. Schools, hospitals, digital infrastructure are key today, as demonstrated by this crisis, but will also remain key for the long-term prosperity of our social market economy.”

The European employer and trade union organisations’ sympathies are with the families of those who have already lost loved ones to COVID-19, and our gratitude is to the workers and enterprises who are already showing exceptional courage and resilience, both to treat the sick, and to maintain the vital goods and services upon which we all depend. We are closely following the developments of the dramatic emergency of the COVID-19 epidemic across Europe and are at the forefront, particularly within member states, of the design and implementation of the extraordinary measures to help enterprises and workers in facing this emergency.

The European social partners support the set of measures announced by the European Commission and the European Central Bank over the last days, and are in close contact with the Commission to help ensuring a swift and effective implementation, which shall come on top, and in support of, the national measures that have been, and are going to be discussed between national social partners and national governments.

The European social partners urge the European Council of Heads of State and Government to approve all the measures proposed by the European Commission so far, without any delay, nor with changes that could weaken their impact.

The social partners urge the governments to approve in particular measures envisaging:

  • the temporary full use of the built-in flexibility in the Stability and Growth Pact targets, including its temporary suspension by using the general escape clause;
  • avoiding single market distortions, including bans and export restrictions and especially for export of medical equipment and medicines, and stopping closing borders for goods; safeguarding all freight transport modes is a priority within the EU, also having an essential role to coordinate and inform regarding actions taken in Member States;
  • encouraging Member States’ spending and investment particularly to reinforce staff, equipment and means for national health services, social protection systems and other services of general interest;
  • mobilising unused structural funds and any other available EU funding to support Member States in ensuring financial and income support for workers affected by unemployment or suspension from work, including non-standard workers and self-employed;
  • ensuring credit access and financial support for enterprises, especially all types of SMEs, affected by lockdown and emergency measures, with a coordinated intervention from the EU budget, the ECB, the EIB, and national promotional banks;
  • activating the solidarity fund for natural disasters and any other available funding at EU level;
  • the efforts by the European Commission to deploy full flexibility within State Aid rules should also be acknowledged.

Member States should involve national Social Partners in the designing and implementation of national measures.

All efforts need to be undertaken to help workers, enterprises, economic activities and public services to survive the crisis, so they will be able to come back to their activities when the crisis ends, to keep workers in their jobs meanwhile, to protect from unemployment and loss of income, and to alleviate financial losses.

The Commission and Member States must ensure that financial support reaches enterprises, especially all types of SMEs, and all workers, including the self-employed and those with precarious jobs who are most vulnerable.

The Commission’s plan to apply flexibility regarding the application of its fiscal and State Aid rules is essential to supporting public services, which are stretched to the limit, as well as companies and workers hit by the crisis.

EU funding invested in protecting workers and enterprises from the worst effects of the crisis should be additional to member states’ spending.

Europe must show responsibility, solidarity and efficiency in facing this emergency, by protecting all its affected citizens, workers and enterprises.

The European employer and trade union organisations’ sympathies are with the families of those who have already lost loved ones to COVID-19, and our gratitude is to the workers and enterprises who are already showing exceptional courage and resilience, both to treat the sick, and to maintain the vital goods and services upon which we all depend. We are closely following the developments of the dramatic emergency of the COVID-19 epidemic across Europe and are at the forefront, particularly within member states, of the design and implementation of the extraordinary measures to help enterprises and workers in facing this emergency.

The European social partners support the set of measures announced by the European Commission on 13 March and the European Central Bank over the last days, and are in close contact with the Commission to help ensuring a swift and effective implementation, which shall come on top, and in support of, the national measures that have been, and are going to be discussed between national social partners and national governments.

The European social partners urge the Eurogroup and the Council of Economic and Finance Ministers (ECOFIN), meeting on 16-17 March, to approve all the measures proposed by the European Commission so far, without any delay, nor with changes that could weaken their impact.

The social partners urge the governments to approve in particular measures envisaging:

  • the temporary full use of the built-in flexibility in the Stability and Growth Pact targets, including considering its temporary suspension by using the general escape clause;
  • avoiding single market distortions, including bans and export restrictions and especially for export of medical equipment and medicines, and stopping closing borders for goods; safeguarding all freight transport modes is a priority within the EU, also having an essential role to coordinate and inform regarding actions taken in Member States;
  • encouraging Member States’ spending and investment particularly to reinforce staff, equipment and means for national health services, social protection systems and other services of general interest;
  • mobilising unused structural funds and other EU funds to support Member States in ensuring financial and income support for workers affected by unemployment or suspension from work, including non-standard workers and self-employed;
  • ensuring credit access and financial support for enterprises, especially all types of SMEs, affected by lockdown and emergency measures, with a coordinated intervention from the EU budget, the ECB, the EIB, and national promotional banks;
  • activating the solidarity fund for natural disasters and any other available funding at EU level;
  • the efforts by the European Commission to deploy full flexibility within State Aid rules should also be acknowledged.

Member States should involve national Social Partners in the designing and implementation of national measures.

All efforts need to be undertaken to help workers, enterprises, economic activities and public services to survive the crisis, so they will be able to come back to their activities when the crisis ends, to keep workers in their jobs meanwhile, to protect from unemployment and loss of income, and to alleviate financial losses.

The Commission and Member States must ensure that financial support reaches enterprises, especially all types of SMEs, and all workers, including the self-employed and those with precarious jobs who are most vulnerable.

The Commission’s plan to apply flexibility regarding the application of its fiscal and State Aid rules is essential to supporting public services, which are stretched to the limit, as well as companies and workers hit by the crisis.

EU funds invested in protecting workers and enterprises from the worst effects of the crisis should be additional to member states’ spending.

Europe must show responsibility, solidarity and efficiency in facing this emergency, by protecting all its affected citizens, workers and enterprises.

This Friday [13 March 2020], the European Commission has presented its guidelines in order to provide a prompt and efficient European response to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the EU economy.

Reacting to this package of measures, Valeria Ronzitti, CEEP General Secretary, said:

“We highly welcome the Commission’s effort to put in place a set of actions to mitigate the economic and social impacts of COVID-19. In particular, the flexibility-driven approach to the state aid regime and to the Stability and Growth pact will surely contribute to improve Member States’ margins of maneuver to offer relief to enterprises and workers.”

Our members, providers of public services and services of general interest, are highly affected, such as the healthcare sector – which clearly must be given ultimate priority right now – as well as transport and education. Additionally, public banks and financial institutions will suffer the pressure to adequately respond to this emergency and must have the proper tools and incentives at their disposal to safeguard liquidity ratios across Member States.”

Giving the appropriate support to those essential services is indispensable. Nevertheless, we are concerned that, apart from the tailored measures that are rightfully designed to assist the healthcare system, the Commission’s action plan announced today lacks a well-defined approach to public services and services of general interest, especially local public services enterprises with structures, staffing and budgetary capacities of SMEs.”

“Finally, the challenge we face today must be a lesson for the future. The EU must finally set up an institutional framework that allows for the efficient coordination among different levels of governance and enhances the EU’s leading role. Without such skeleton, our capacity to respond to shocks will remain short-termist and marginal.”

Today [10th March 2020], the European Commission put forward its proposal for a new Industrial Strategy. The Strategy comprises a communication for A New Industrial Strategy for Europe, An SME Strategy for a sustainable and digital Europe, an Action Plan for better implementation and enforcement of the single market rules and the Single Market Barriers Report.

Reacting to this proposal, Valeria Ronzitti, CEEP General Secretary, said:

“CEEP considers the Package published today as a central element for the realization of the EU’s ambition to support the environmental and digital transitions of economic actors, on equal footing with the EU Green Deal, the European Sustainable Investment Plan and the Digital Package.”

“Services of general interest are at the heart of those strategies and are essential actors of the competitiveness and adaptability of the EU industrial base. SGIs are responsible for the provision of the infrastructure without which most, if not all, of our economies’ value chains would collapse: We call in this context for a balanced approach, fully taking into account the specificities and achievements of employers and enterprises of services of general interest.”

“CEEP welcomes the inclusion of the SME strategy in this Industrial Package. The new Commission’s framework has rightly identified the measures necessary to assist SMEs while recognizing that SMEs are very diverse. In this context we insist on the role of local public services SMEs for achieving our sustainability and competitiveness objectives and call for the strategy to also address their needs in the assessment of the SME definition.”

“The Circular Economy Action Plan is a key component of the EU industrial architecture. EU industries must fully embrace the ways of the circular economy or risk failing to meet with the EU’s environmental objectives. SGIs are at the key players in driving this new economic strategy and will pave the way of other economic actors to follow.”

We encourage the EU, national, regional and local authorities as well as social partners, to further build on this new strategy for concrete actions to reinforce the legal framework of the EU industry, R&D, financing, intellectual property, skilling and reskilling of workers, climate action measures, circular economy, as well as adapting competition rules and fight unfair practices.”

Today [5 March 2020], Věra Jourová, European Commission Vice-President for Values and Transparency, and Helena Dalli, Commissioner for Equality, presented the Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025 of the European Commission. This initiative is designed around three main pillars: gender-based violence, gender pay gaps and the disproportionality between men and women occupying decision-making positions.

Reacting to this proposal, Valeria Ronzitti, CEEP General Secretary, said:

“CEEP welcomes the Commission’s holistic approach and consistent articulation among the proposals: policy coordination within and between different levels of governance is indispensable for the achievement of effective gender equality policies. We encourage the EU, national and regional institutions to go even farther on that track, namely by adopting a sound and systemic approach to gender-budgeting.”

“Guaranteeing equal opportunities and ensuring the fair and further inclusion of women in the labour market will have a substantial impact on the productivity of the EU. That is why, as CEEP, we strongly welcome integration measures and the de-construction of gender-based stereotypes within the labour market.”

“We will contribute to the future consultations of Social Partners on pay transparency, calling for a balanced approach fully taking into account the specificities and achievements of employers and enterprises of services of general interest.”

You can find more about CEEP position on gender equality in our response to the roadmap for the Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025 here.

The European Commission published today [4 March 2020] its proposal for an EU Climate Law, establishing the legal framework for achieving climate neutrality by 2050. This new legislation should serve as the backbone to realise the EU net-zero climate targets and prepare a fair and effective climate strategy, emphasised in the EU Green Deal.

Reacting to this proposal, Valeria Ronzitti, CEEP General Secretary, said:

“CEEP supports the ambition of the Regulation for an EU Climate Law by the European Commission to correctly link policy measures from all sectors of the economy to achieve the ambitions laid out in the Green Deal. Whilst we welcome the intentions of the Regulation, CEEP regrets the lack of connections to important sectors across the economic value chain in Article 3 to achieve this ambitious climate transition.”

“CEEP has been calling upon the Commission to conduct a proper Impact Assessment for the entire EU Climate Law. We welcome the fact that there will at least be such an Impact Assessment for the EU targets for greenhouse gas emissions reductions for 2030, including all types of greenhouse gases beyond CO2 emissions.”

“As EU Social Partner, CEEP is committed to supporting the Commission on its mission to include and engage all citizens to play an active part of the climate transition: no transition will take place without the acceptance of society, and public services and SGIs are key enablers to include everyone in this transition thanks to their proximity with citizens.

Representing at EU level providers of public services and of services of general interest, CEEP brings together a broad-range of sectors, such as energy, transport, housing or waste management, which are at the heart of the climate transition and contribute to solutions supporting the EU ambitions for a more sustainable, economically viable, socially fair and environmentally friendly transition.

The European Commission published today [5th February 2020] its communication laying out its plans regarding the future review of the EU Economic Governance. Kicking off a consultation process that will last until the end of the year, this communication takes stock of the achievements and shortcomings of the current EU Economic Governance framework.

Reacting to this first communication of on the topic, Valeria Ronzitti, CEEP General Secretary, said:

For years now, CEEP has been a vocal promoter of a review of the Stability and Growth Pact and of the overall EU economic governance. We therefore welcome today’s launch of the consultation process by the European Commission. Today’s announcement should kick-off a broad and constructive conversation on how we could, together and in full transparency, improve the rules governing the EU economic governance.”

“The EU is faced with numerous challenges, such as supporting the digital transition or addressing climate change and its consequences. CEEP believes that adapting our economic governance with a more flexible approach is now more than needed, and that Member States should be further encouraged to invest and to adopt growth-friendly fiscal policy. More flexible fiscal rules should be one of main tools to use in order to reach that goal.”

“With its members, CEEP will actively contribute to the discussion, and calls the European Commission to keep his promises and deliver on this file. This consultation will be an important barometer to judge the commitment of this European Commission to the other institutions, social partners and other stakeholders.”

Today [22nd January 2020], the European Commission presented its communication “Shaping the Conference on the Future of Europe”, laying out the contribution of the institution to the debate. This communication is a direct answer to the resolution adopted by the European Parliament on 15th January 2020.

One of the flagship proposals of the 2019-2024 legislative term, this Conference on the Future of Europe aims at giving a new impulse to the European construction and bring the EU closer to citizens. Running for two years, the Conference should lead to proposals for institutional reforms to make Europe stronger, more democratic, more efficient more transparent and with a greater capacity to act.

Reacting to those first contributions, Valeria Ronzitti, CEEP General Secretary, said:

“We welcome the joint ambition of the European Parliament and of the European Commission to organise a broad and far-reaching Conference on the Future of Europe. Building up on the record participation at the 2019 EU elections, this Conference should further give back ownership and trust about the EU project to citizens by involving them directly.

“Following the publication of the European Commission’s proposal, the European Council should now also put forward its own position. Only a genuine inter-institutional approach, involving all institutions, consultative bodies, social partners and the civil society across Europe, could fulfil the ambitions and expectations put in this initiative. The Conference on the Future of Europe should not be an exercise ‘by the EU Bubble for the EU Bubble’.”

“CEEP will closely monitor the upcoming discussions setting up the format and organisation of the Conference. With our representativity and the mandate it brings us, social partners have a legitimate place in the Conference. We therefore call on the genuine and proper participation of social partners in the governance of the Conference, as well as in the events organised in this context at national, regional and local levels.

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