Today [14th January 2020] the European Commission released the first proposals under the “100 days priorities”, notably the investment pillar of the Green deal and the 1st phase consultation of the social partners on minimum wage as an integral part of the Communication on building a strong social Europe for just transitions.
As a first reaction to those initiatives CEEP General Secretary Valeria Ronzitti commented:
“We welcome that the European Green deal investment plan and the EU just transition mechanism were published on the same day. To hope achieving the high level of ambition of the green deal we need the right funding attached to it, both in terms of support to infrastructures with the Investment Plan and in terms of investment in people with the Just transition Fund. For all this to be sustainable we also need a clear social roadmap as employers cannot be left alone in anticipating and managing transitions. In this regard, we strongly welcome the fact that the communication on social Europe also addresses transitions because employers and workers will face many of them beyond the environmental one. Everything is interlinked and we hope to keep seeing this comprehensive approach also in the future concrete proposals. Not only at EU but also at national and local level.
Apart from this general support, however, we can already express concerns:
“While welcoming the proposal for a just transition fund we wish to issue an early warning as to make sure local and regional actors have the capacity on the ground to benefit from these new 3 pillars architecture and to avoid complexity. To further improve the outreach of the new fund we call on the Commission to rely on National Public Investment banks and on their unique knowledge of structural needs and possibilities for investing at National level.”
“We also believe that Social dialogue and collective bargaining should have been identified, in the first stage consultation on minimum wage, as the first and foremost solution to foster adequate and fair minimum wages in Europe. We believe social dialogue is insufficiently identified as the key solution for all Member States and CEEP will make sure this important role is highlighted in its response to the consultation.”
On Thursday 12 December 2019, CEEP held the fourth edition of its Public Services Summit. The whole-day event took place in Brussels, at the European Economic and Social Committee. On this occasion, CEEP welcomed, amongst others, Karl-Heinz Lambertz, President of the Committee of the Regions (CoR), Luca Jahier, President of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), MEPs Katrin Langensiepen and Anna Cavazzini, as well as various speakers from the European Commission, European Parliament, trade unions and civil society.
The event was opened by Rainer Plassmann, CEEP President, and Karl-Heinz Lambertz, who highlighted together the EU institutional renewal, the need to act on the key priorities for citizens, as well as the role of public services and services of general interest in this process.
Ahead of the event, David Maria Sassoli, President of the European Parliament, prepared a statement for the Public Services Summit. Emphasising that “public services are the backbone of our societies”, President Sassoli highlights that “we need to ensure that everyone has access to affordable and high quality public services, that both provide for our individual needs and make our communities stronger”, calling for proper funding and investment, as well as recalling the principle of “access to services” from the European Pillar of Social Rights. You can read the whole statement here.
Panel 1: A Fair, Competitive and Sustainable Social Partnership
The first morning panel of the Public Services Summit dealt with the important issues of Social Dialogue and the EU social agenda. The panel was composed of Milena Angelova, CEEP Vice-president, of Jörg Tagger, Head of Unit for Social Dialogue of the European Commission’s DG Employement, MEP Katrin Langensiepen, vice-chair of the EMPL committee and Lina Carr, ETUC confederal secretary.
Milena Angelova insisted on the need to design policies and reforms that are able to bring together competitiveness, the transition to a climate neutral economy and fairness in the labour market. She welcomed the work of the Juncker European Commission to strengthen social dialogue, and called for Ms von der Leyen to further strengthen social dialogue through fundings, by the ESF and for joint actions of social partners.
Jörg Tagger presented the achievements of the Juncker commission to support social dialogue, including the initiative on the new start for social dialogue. He also presented the major new initiatives of the EU commission including the EU framework for minimum wages, the binding measures for pay transparency and the future work on unemployment benefit schemes. He concluded by reiterating the commitment of the European Commission to support social dialogue.
MEP Katrin Langensiepen addressed the importance of agreeing on a Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) that would help address poverty and social exclusion in Europe. She expressed how important public services are in Europe to help address exclusion and tackle inequalities.
Finally, Lina Carr expressed the strong attachment of ETUC to the implementation of the Pillar of Social Rights and mentioned that the new Commission should work on the implementation of the remaining principles, putting a specific emphasis on the principle for fair wages in Europe. She called for a ‘socialisation’ of the European Semester and for further reinforcing the social policy aspects of the EU economic governance.
Panel 2: Public Services and SGIs for a Green Deal
In light of the European Commission’s freshly published Green Deal on 11 December, keynote speaker Stephen White, policy analyst at DG ENV, explained the Commission’s full engagement and focus to deliver the expectation of the Green Deal agenda over the next four years. In this discussion, the panel highlighted the vital role of Public Services and SGIs in achieving a climate-neutral Europe by 2050 in a sustainable way.
Mr Brandolini, Vice Chair of CEEP stressed the importance of ensuring that the new Green Deal respects the economic, social and environmental dimensions, and that these are placed at the very heart of European policy making, across all sectors. In particular, the discussion raised the issue of social acceptance for this climate transition and the danger of civil upheavals if this new deal is not just and feasible for all EU citizens.
Mr. White concluded that the only way to meet this challenge is for all actors, institutions, cities and communities to engage. As representatives of public organisations, we stand ready to ensure that this transition leaves no one behind.
Panel 3: Public Services, SGIs and the EU Industrial Strategy
The 2019 Public Services Summit’s first afternoon panel welcomed Ruth Paserman, General Advisor in the Cabinet of Valdis Dombrovskis, Luca Jahier, President of the European Economic and Social Committee and MEP Anna Cavazzini (Greens, DE). The debate was extremely constructive, and panellists accurately brought to the table the key aspects that must be reflected upon when discussing a joint industrial strategy for Europe.
Ms Paserman kicked off the discussion bringing a strong message regarding the importance of cooperation amongst Member States. She highlighted the fact that given the challenges we are about to face – such as digitalisation, demographic transition and climate change – we must join efforts towards the strengthening of the European industry as a whole. In this context, she pinpointed that to make a successful transition towards a circular economy and to establish a well-functioning European single market, public services are indispensable.
President Luca Jahier opened his intervention welcoming the new Commission’s strong beginning and progressive agenda. Mr Jahier believes that we are facing enormous challenges and that the only way to overcome those is to seek for the opportunities that they will bring alongside them. Furthermore, he stated that Europe must take the lead in this process and be pioneers since the very conception of innovative products all the way until their production and distribution.
Finally, MEP Anna Cavazzini delivered a very consistent contribution, emphasizing the centrality of public services and services of general interest for the successful implementation of an industrial strategy as well as the Green Deal, which are inseparable processes. Ms Cavazzini said that in order to properly undergo the industrial transition ahead, citizens must be able to conceive a long term-vision and for that they need to rely on a stable political framework as well as have access to high-quality affordable public services.
Panel 4: The State of Democracy in Europe
The concluding panel of the day addressed the state of democracy in the EU, and brought around the table Jacek Krawczyk, President of the Employers’ Group of the EESC, Petros Fassoulas, General Secretary of the European Movement International (EMI), and Tanja Rudolf, Advisor to the Director-General for Communication at the European Parliament.
Opening the session, Ms Rudolf presented the campaign of the European Parliament ahead of the May 2019 elections, which focused on 3 principles: a clear vision and narrative, the financial constraints, as well as the need to build connections.
Mr Krawczyk addressed the specific contribution of the EESC and of its Employers’ Group, highlighting both the actions undertaken (at EU and at local level) and the need to make the ‘business case’ for the EU, as a stable environment to boost support and democratic participation, including from businesses and entrepreneurs.
Finally, Mr Fassoulas presented the activities that were undertaken by the EMI in 2019, specifically highlighting the Democracy Alive Festival, as well as some key outcomes ‘Listen to Europe’ survey. This survey, conducted by the EMI in 2019, highlights a widespread lack of support for democracy, as well as a sense of disempowerment and alienation regarding the future. Mr Fassoulas also highlighted the need for pro-democratic forces to join forces to counter negative perceptions and drive changes.
Today [11 December 2019], the European Commission has presented the long-awaited Green Deal for Europe. CEEP welcomes this proposal: as climate change is happening, Europe needs to act now.
CEEP particularly highlights the necessity to recognize the vital role of Public Services and Services of General Interest (SGIs) as key actors in this climate transition, addressing the challenges of digitalisation, the social and the economic aspects. Valeria Ronzitti, General Secretary, commented on the proposal: “The success of the Green Deal is Europe’s last chance to fight Climate Change, and its success will depend on the integration of a well-balanced approach towards a sustainable development. Placing at the very heart of the policy-making the economic, social and environmental dimensions is precisely where services of general interest are located.”
In the framework of the EU Green Deal, CEEP calls more specifically for:
- The need for strong and well-balanced climate policy-making: in light of the new Climate Law, and supporting the ambition to achieve climate neutrality by 2050, CEEP highlights the wide-ranging challenges of climate change across different sectors and countries, affecting each differently. It should be therefore understood that “one size does not fit all”: it will be crucial to ensure legislations from different sectors do not conflict with previous existing policies and are in harmony to achieve efficiently our climate goals.
- Successful integration of mitigation and adaptation policies in the EU Green Deal: it is vital to consider the adaptation of our economies and the resilience of our infrastructures. Action must simultaneously handle other environmental challenges such as water availability or biodiversity, and CEEP welcomes the new EU Biodiversity Strategy and the Zero Pollution Action Plan.
- The key role of Public Services and SGIs in safeguarding social infrastructures in Europe: in this highly intensive climate transition, we welcome in the EU Green Deal the attention given to citizens and communities. Public Services and SGIs are in direct contact with their users and understand the importance to leave no one behind in this transition.
- A sustainable financing plan with a long-term vision: Boosting financing to climate-friendly solutions and transforming the European Investment Bank towards the first Climate Bank is a vital step to accelerate the climate transition. Public Services and SGIs promote economic growth and employment in Europe by providing essential services (communications, water, energy, waste treatment, transport, etc.) and their contribution is crucial to support the competitiveness of our industries.
With the positive vote of the European Parliament on the new European Commission, the EU is now set to enter its new institutional cycle on 1 December 2019. With 461 votes in favour, the new European Commission has gathered a broad support from all sides of the European Parliament. CEEP welcomes the outcome of the vote, which puts an end to instability and provides the College of Commissioners with a stable majority.
With its focuses on an EU Green Deal, on making the economy works for the people and the EU fit for the digital age, Ursula von der Leyen and her College of Commissioners will address important issues for the future of Europe.
Valeria Ronzitti, CEEP General Secretary, commented on the new European Commission:
“We welcome the broad support of the European Parliament to the new European Commission today, which confirms the entry into office of Ursula von der Leyen and her College of Commissioners on 1 December. Building up on the outcomes of the Juncker Commission, the priorities identified by President von der Leyen will help the EU to face the triple transition: decarbonized, global and digital. Now is the time to effectively deliver on those promises and ensure that the EU remain a beacon for peace, prosperity and sustainability.”
“Employers and providers of public services and services of general interest will be instrumental to bring to life the priorities of the new European Commission. Climate change and the EU Green Deal, reconnecting the social and the economy, making Europe fit for the digital age: public services and SGIs, active in sectors such as healthcare, education, housing, public transport, energy, telecommunications or water, are at the heart of all those policies.”
“As the cross-sectoral social partner representing providers of public services and SGIs, CEEP supports the proposed approach to bridge EU decision-making and the reality of enterprises, workers and citizens. This College of Commissioners will need to be inclusive and recognise the role of social partners to succeed. Building up on the practice initiated by the Juncker Commission to consult social partners on any initiative having an impact on growth and job creation in a broad sense and our integration into the debates to shape the future of Europe. In that regard, the Conference on the Future of Europe will play a central role and we look forward to further discuss with President von der Leyen and her College of Commissioners on how they intend to associate social partners to that initiative.”
Today [21 November 2019] CEEP, European cross-industry social partner representing employers and providers of public services, holds the final dissemination conference for its the project “Social services in European cross-industry Social dialogue: towards a strong and deeper involvement”.
Co-funded by the European Commission, this CEEP project was co-organised with the following national social services organisations from across Europe: UDES – French association of social enterprises, UNISOC – Belgian national employer organisation for non-profit organisations, and ALAL – Lithuanian association of local authorities. It aims at providing a better understanding of how social dialogue is organised in social services, focusing on the situation in Bulgaria, Cyprus, Hungary, Lithuania, Malta and Romania.
In her opening remarks, Valeria Ronzitti, CEEP General Secretary, emphasised the importance of social services and of social dialogue, and how they can support each other. “The aim of this project is three-fold: it raises political awareness about the key role played by your services to ensure the stability of the EU economy and citizens’ participation in the social and economic life”, said Ms Ronzitti.
She continued: “It also is a major contribution to further raise the involvement of social services in cross-industry social dialogue. Social dialogue provides means and solutions to cooperate with institutions, both at EU and at national level. And social services have their place at the table, when the EU must strive for more balance between economic and social.”
The main purpose of the 21 November Final Conference was to discuss and promote the outcome of the project, which are presented in the following study and report (also available in Bulgarian, French, Hungarian, Lithuanian and Romanian).
Today [7th November 2019], Valeria Ronzitti, CEEP General Secretary, addressed the Macroeconomic Dialogue at political level, in the presence of, amongst others, Christine Lagarde, European Central Bank President, Mário Centeno, Eurogroup President, and Valdis Dombrovskis, European Commission Vice-President for Social Dialogue and the Euro.
Addressing the role of education and training in facing the challenges of digitalization, demographic transition and climate change, Ms Ronzitti stressed:
- The central role of public services and services of general interest in the European economy: “Despite the generalized economic slowdown, the service sector is currently the “silver lining” of our economy. Public services and services of general interest are in this context essential for the welfare of citizens and play a major role in maintaining wage stability and household consumption.”
- The need for better coordination: “CEEP welcomes the joint policy debate organised by the Finnish Presidency, bringing around the same table the Economic and Financial Affairs Council and the Education and Youth Council on 8 November. Such courageous initiative should help to identify pathways to address the existing investment gap in education infrastructure.”
- The current gaps in investment in social infrastructure: “The report of the High-Level Task Force on Investing in Social Infrastructure in Europe ‘Boosting Investment in Social Infrastructure in Europe’ identified a gap of EUR 15 bn in social infrastructure. We see two pathways to address this issue: public funding will be indispensable, while there is also a great potential to introduce alternative financial models, merging private and public funds.”
Today [16th October 2019], Milena Angelova, CEEP Vice President, and Valeria Ronzitti, General Secretary, addressed the Tripartite Social Summit (TSS). In the presence of Antti Rinne, Prime Minister of Finland, Ms Angelova thanked both President Tusk and President Juncker for their commitment and dedication to social dialogue for their last TSS.
Highlighting the challenges and priorities for employers of public services and services of general interest, and how they can contribute to a “competitive, fair and sustainable Europe”, Ms Angelova said:
- On the central role of public services in the European economy: “Public Services promote economic growth and employment in Europe by providing essential services. They contribute substantially to the fight against climate change and, thanks to their quality, to the competitiveness of the European industry.”
- On the need for investment to support the industrial transformation: “Today’s industrial policies must link many elements: innovation, investment, skills and decarbonisation. CEEP has been constantly warning about the need for tremendous investments in digitalisation, automation, robotisation and artificial intelligence in order to have an impact on productivity and competitiveness. We promptly need new investments in physical and social infrastructures and in skills and competences to foster real productivity gains, create more jobs and pay better wages.”
- On sustainability and inclusiveness at the core of all policies: “All the policies that we devise today can only be successfully implemented if sustainability is placed at their core. To ensure the social feasibility of environmental policies it is important that these transitions are inclusive and do not leave anyone behind.”
Ms Angelova also emphasised the added-value of social dialogue and called for a proper and genuine cooperation between employers and trade unions: “It is our shared responsibility to anticipate and equip the workers with appropriate skills, so that they can face the necessary transitions with confidence. Employee training is an investment and not a cost.”
CEEP also presented during the Tripartite Social Summit the outcomes of its most recent Pulse of Public Services. You can find the report here.
You can find the PDF version of this statement here.
The members of the Public Services Employers’ Forum (PSEF), representing Public Services and Services of General (Economic) Interest (SG(E)I) employers and providers, are looking forward to the new legislative term and would like to take this opportunity to introduce their role and priorities with a view to future dialogue with European Union (EU) decision-makers.
Public services and SG(E)Is are a cornerstone of the EU Social Model and of democratic societies; they have a central role to play in ensuring the citizens’ quality of life, contributing to informed citizenship, supporting the development of European businesses and contributing to the growth and competitiveness of the EU.
The quality and access to essential services such as education, energy, healthcare, public service media, public transport and services provided by local and regional governments is instrumental to the realisation of our common objectives, and we, PSEF members, are committed to doing our part in balancing the economic and social dimensions of the EU.
In the context of the identification of the new political priorities for the EU, we call for Public Services and SG(E)I providers to be placed at the heart of the project for a striving Europe, as their empowerment should be a key issue in every single Member State.
The Public Services Employers’ Forum would like to highlight the following priorities:
Developing social dialogue
Strong social partners’ organisations are instrumental for the successful implementation of the principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR). All European social partners’ organisations aim to strengthen social dialogue at all levels, in order to reflect and respond to the needs of more diverse economic and social situations. However, the degree to which social partners have been involved in the design and implementation of relevant reforms and policies, as stated in the principle 8 of the EPSR, still varies from one Member State to the other. Identifying strong representative organisations and supporting their capacity building remains a key objective to ensure successful participation of social partners.
We, therefore, call for a continued and stronger support by the European institutions to social partners and particularly seek stronger political support in creating autonomous employers’ organisation in the public services sphere at the national level.
Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
The 17 SDGs facilitate finding common global solutions by addressing poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice.
Effective public services are key to their successful implementation, requiring the provision of public goods. It will require efficient and successful coordination between the providers of those public services.
We, therefore, call for an integrated approach to the implementation of the SDGs across the EU, based on the explicit recognition and empowerment of our members’ role in this process.
The European Union took important steps to put forward-looking investments a core element of our macroeconomic policies. Our members recognise and value the impact of the European Fund for Strategic Investment and the added-value of the investment-focused Country Specific Recommendations while stressing the importance of maintaining grants for certain types of investments. We also strongly support the initiatives of the European Commission to link the implementation of the EU funds with the priorities identified in the European Semester.
We, therefore, call upon the EU institutions to maintain within its key priorities the objective of investing in productivity and quality of services, research and innovation, as well as in our physical and social infrastructures.
Involving social partners in the European Semester
The EU Semester has become the main instrument of coordination of the reform process across the EU. Our members have great hopes that their efforts will be recognised within the European Semester through the implementation of the principles of the EPSR dedicated to the access to and quality of essential services, whilst enabling genuine multi-level governance of the European Semester.
We, therefore, call for our national members to be better integrated at all levels in the consultation process to adequately represent the views of all social partners across Europe.
Promoting gender equality
Horizontal and vertical segregation of the labour market are major issues for our members and have a big impact on gender equality. Traditional gender norms and stereotypes continue to have a strong influence on the division of labour between women and men, at home, school, work and in society as a whole. Effective and well-funded public services support the achievement of gender equality in the labour market, namely by easing the daily social integration of all societal groups. At the same time, actions must be taken at the national level to address stereotypes that still influence in education and career choices, and prejudices that affect women’s integration in the labour market and development in the workplace. Member States should also cater for the necessary investments in social infrastructure and welfare policies that can support a fair sharing of family and work duties within households.
We, therefore, call upon the European Commission to develop a new multiannual European strategy for Gender Equality to keep these issues high on the European agenda.
Ensuring inclusive digitalisation
The emergence of digitalisation, in all its dimensions, is having far-reaching economic, social, and political consequences on all spheres of our lives. Digitalisation is an opportunity that also requires understanding and addressing transition challenges, as well as related training and investment needs. Successfully steering the process of digitalisation is largely dependent on the effective provision of SG(E)Is, such as modern education, training and lifelong learning systems and broadband infrastructure.
Public services and SG(E)Is provide essential services and infrastructure and enjoy the trust of the citizens. As citizens increasingly access services online via global platforms, these platforms have evolved into gatekeepers between service providers and citizens, often taking unilateral decisions on their services’ display and ranking. We have a responsibility to ensure that nobody is left behind, that all citizens can find and access SG(E)Is’ services in the digital environment.
We also have to ensure that digitalisation supports upward convergence in Europe. However, we suffer from bottlenecks, notably in the area of education and training; 44% of the workforce lacks the sufficient e-skills required by the digital transformation. At the same time, soft skills will be equally important to provide the EU workforce with the adaptability it requires in the digital age.
We, therefore, call on EU policymakers to continue addressing these challenges in cooperation with social partners by developing a reliable knowledge and understanding of skills’ needs and mismatches in the most affected economic sectors and by promoting inclusive, tailor-made, lifelong learning opportunities for all. New initiatives should take the form of structured dialogue with the EU and national social partners, to bring about evidence-based practicable solutions also taking into account the interests of service users into account.
 European Commission, Secretariat-General. European pillar of social rights. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union; 2017 [cited 05 August 2019]. Available from: http://dx.publications.europa.eu/10.2792/95934
Signatories of the joint statement
CEEP – European Centre of Employers and Enterprises providing Public Services and SGI
CEMR – Council of European Municipalities and Regions
CER – Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies
EFEE – European Federation of Education Employers
HOSPEEM – European Hospital and Healthcare Employers’ Association
EBU – European Broadcasting Union
UITP – International Association of Public Transport
European employers and trade unions are jointly calling on the new European Commission and Parliament for a more proactive and ambitious EU industrial strategy. The European Trade Union Confederation, BusinessEurope, CEEP and SMEunited want to position European industry as a global leader that will responsibly deliver prosperity by creating value for the people and the planet. EU industrial policy must support the creation of more world-leading companies and technologies, able to compete across the globe, able to offer good employment and working conditions in industry and be in line with Europe’s climate and environmental commitments and ambitions.
At a joint event on 9 October in Brussels, trade unions and employers will jointly call on the European Union to help strengthen Europe’s sustainable industrial base:
“Europe needs a sustainable industry” says Luca Visentini, ETUC General Secretary “that flourishes and continues to provide quality employment during the digital and ecological transition ahead. The goal is to shape a just and fair transition that does not leave anyone behind. It needs large-scale private and public investment for quality job creation, and for governments and the EU to work with unions and employers to anticipate and manage change.”
BusinessEurope Director General Markus J. Beyrer said: “Digitalisation, climate change, the acceleration of the global innovation race. In all that, Europe’s industry is key to turn these challenges into opportunities. For this to happen, Europe needs a plan for its industry. It must be more proactive, more strategic and act faster than in the past.”
CEEP General Secretary Valeria Ronzitti said: “Europe’s future is intertwined with the future of our industry. We have a tremendous responsibility in building industrial policies that reconcile innovation for sustainability, investment, skills and competitiveness. I truly believe that social partnership is the best instrument for this transformation.”
SMEunited Secretary General Véronique Willems said: “A strong European industrial base cannot rely exclusively on a few multinational companies, but has to be built on the whole economic fabric, including SMEs. Social partners can contribute to finding the right balance between competitiveness and welfare. This can only be achieved by increasing productivity. Together, we have to aim for the transition to a digital and circular economy to become sustainable for the economy and the society at large.”
Please click here to consult CEEP Policy Kit with regards to the Finnish Presidency of the European Union (July-December 2019).