A major topic for European public services and for the quality of services they provide to European citizens, the needed reform of the legal definition of Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) in the EU legal order has gained substantial recognition over the year 2018, not least through the efforts of CEEP and its partners.
Performing Public Services and Services of General Interest (SGIs) not only entails very specific conditions and obligations, it is also operated in many cases by small- or very small-scale structures. Most of these companies “cannot be considered an SME if 25 % or more of the capital or voting rights is directly or indirectly controlled, jointly or individually, by one or more public bodies”, the European Commission’s Recommendation 2003/301/EC states.
As a result, many small-scale enterprises fall out of the remit of public policies specifically designed to address the specific needs of private-sector SMEs – despite sharing their condition of e.g. scarce financial and human resources or limited administrative capacity. The situation is all-the-more damaging as, per definition, all these companies provide services vital to economic activity and social cohesion alike, from public health to water and energy supply. Moreover, the number of such structures amounts to about 25.000 EU-wide (to-be-compared to about 23 million private-sector SMEs…). In other words, enlarging the legal SME definition to them, thus enabling them to benefit a range of SME-specific policies, tools and frameworks, should lead to a hardly perceptible impact on other SMEs, if at all. A comprehensive overview of arguments in favour of tackling this loophole as well as a summary are respectively accessible here and here.
Whereas this shortcoming of European legislation was widely “below the radar screen” of EU politics, CEEP’s efforts in raising public awareness appear to have a first impact by rallying official support from important decision-makers across EU institutions. This support took the shape of, e.g. a breakfast discussion organised in the European Parliament’s premises, a conference officially hosted and attended by the President of the European Committee of the Regions Karl-Heinz Lambertz, a Resolution of the European Parliament stressing the need for action from the EU executive body (see Art. 16), a CEEP response to a public consultation organised by the European Commission…
The quite specific timing of this European legislature’s end made an actual reform of the SME legal definition before European elections of May 2019 impossible. The decision will therefore logically depend on the future political majority in the European Parliament and the Commission based upon it. The political ground, however, is prepared and CEEP will remain committed towards this necessary step.
CEEP’s Policy Officer for Public Services Alexis Le Coutour (email@example.com) remains at your disposal for any further question.
CEEP organised last Tuesday 18 December, together with ALAL (Association of Local Authorities in Lithuania), the second roundtable meeting in the framework of the European Commission’s co-financed project “Social Services in European cross-industry social dialogue: towards a strong and deeper involvement”.
The project aims to increase the profile of social services at the European level within the remit of social dialogue. By collecting key information in 6 EU Member States (Bulgaria, Cyprus, Hungary, Lithuania, Malta and Romania), this project aims at improving the knowledge of social services’ providers when it comes to social dialogue at national level and to promote their better inclusion within the existing structures of social dialogue. The goals of the project are, therefore, not only to raise awareness about the importance of social services in social dialogue at European and national level, but also to create a long-standing network of social services active within the social dialogue.
The Second Round Table Meeting in Vilnius involved the relevant social services’ providers in Hungary and Lithuania in the discussions on the role of social services in the European cross-industry social dialogue. During the meeting, the objectives and the structure of the project were presented and a general introduction to CEEP and the European cross-industry social dialogue was given by CEEP General Secretary Valeria Ronzitti.
During the discussion, the participants exchanged views and practices regarding the difficulties in establishing social dialogue in the different countries. An important question that was posed was whether it is possible to foster social dialogue and achieve recognition from the governments. The participants discussed not only the obstacles and challenges in doing this but also how their organisations managed to get recognised by their government.
The Draft Intermediate Report, which was presented by WMP expert Eckhard Voss, illustrated the role of public and private providers in the 6 examined countries. Even though there is a mixture of private and public providers, in these countries for-profit providers are on the rise and play an increasing role. The main challenges identified by the Report included the investment in social protection, education and healthcare; the quality and efficiency of healthcare and medical services; the fight against social exclusion; and the understaffing and education and training.
Regarding the role of social dialogue in Social Services of General Interest (SSGIs), it was demonstrated that there is a lack of employer organisations in SSGIs, that social enterprises do not play a significant role and that national governments are the main counterpart to trade unions when it comes to bargaining.
Ms Guoda Vaičekauskaitė and Ms Aušra Bagdonaitė from the Ministry of Social Security and Labour of the Republic of Lithuania provided an outlook into the representation of social services in Lithuania. In addition, Ms Ieva Andriulaitytė, ALAL Head of Brussels Office, and Ms Elma Paulauskaite, Policy Impact Lab Research Manager, presented the national social dialogue and the structure of SSGIs in Lithuania.
The Third Round Table Meeting will be held on 29 March in Paris and is organised by CEEP and UDES. The target countries for this meeting are Bulgaria and Malta. Should you wish to register, do not hesitate to contact CEEP Project Officer Carlotta Astori.
In the framework of the European Pillar of Social Rights, the European Commission presented in September 2017 its intention to create a new European agency, the European Labour Authority (ELA). Its purpose should be to provide information to citizens and businesses on jobs, apprenticeships, mobility schemes, recruitment and training, as well as guidance on rights and obligations to live, work and/or operate in another Member State of the EU. The Authority is also intended to support cooperation between national authorities in cross-border situations, by helping them ensure that the EU rules that regulate mobility are easily and effectively followed. Finally, the European Labour Authority should provide mediation and facilitate solutions in case of cross-border disputes.
The European Commission intends for the EU labour authority to be up and running in 2019 and the regulation proposal which constitutes its legal basis is presently being discussed by the Council and European Parliament. The Council adopted its general approach, proposing to reinforce the control of the Member States over the different new procedures established by the ELA, including mediation processes and the initiation of joint labour inspections between the authorities of two or more Member States.
To facilitate the establishment of the Authority, the Commission set up an advisory group composed of key stakeholders to investigate the practical aspects of the future functioning of the Authority. CEEP together with the European cross-industry social partners were invited as observers to contribute to the development of a set of recommendation to ensure the rolling out of the ELA. Beyond the development of these recommendations, the Working group also provides the opportunity to exchange best practices between Member States on resolving cross-border situations and assessing the potential weaknesses of already existing tools.
During the last sessions of this working group held on the 17 and 18 December 2018, Member States agreed on some key recommendations to be implemented in the framework of the ELA’s procedures aimed at precising the practical tasks to be attributed to the ELA, both for the exchange of information and the organisation of cross-border inspections and providing additional guarantees for the subsidiarity of the procedure. Specific recommendations included:
- ELA should first and foremost support the mutual understanding of national rules and address the issue of differing legal frameworks in which inspections are taking place;
- ELA could act as an information hub, strengthening the information flow between Member States;
- ELA’s role is expected to be one of back-office coordination of operations, e.g. through arranging contacts, the definition of clear procedures, the organisation of translation/interpretation services, and the provision of secured data exchange channels.
- Member States will ultimately decide on possible changes of their legislation to allow for the participation of non-national inspectors in inspections and ensure the usability of inspections results for legal proceedings on national level;
- The ELA should work closely with social partners for collecting, validating and disseminating information and examples of existing practices, in a way which takes account of their capacity to undertake such tasks.
Several meetings of the Working Group are scheduled in the lead-up to the creation of the Agency in 2019. Social partners will also be invited to join the next sessions, on 27 and 28 February, where a key focus will be put on capacity Building and labour market disruptions.
This week, on 19 December, the Austrian Presidency of the Council of the EU and the European Parliament have reached a final provisional agreement on the Electricity Market Design Directive and Regulation after half a year of intense negotiations. It was for the Austrian Presidency a main priority to find a good compromise for the electricity files before handing them over to the next Presidency, the Romanian Presidency. “It is an important step towards the completion of the Energy Union and puts us firmly on the path to deliver our contribution to the Paris Agreement”, states Ms Elisabeth Köstinger, Minister for Sustainability and Tourism of Austria and chair of the Council at the press conference on Wednesday. These were the last files of the European Commission’s Clean Energy Package published in November 2016 aiming to facilitate a clean energy transition for all Europeans. CEEP welcomes the decision made by the European legislators and pleaded for a functioning European internal energy market as the basis for the achievement of the EU’s climate and energy objectives in the short and long term, whilst creating a fair and level-playing field for all market actors and ensuring a well-balanced competitive energy market.
For the next legislative step, both files will be discussed by EU Ambassadors who will approve and endorse the deals. The formal adoption by the Parliament and the Council will take place later.
Here is a short overview of the decisions made for each file:
- Empower consumers and defines active consumers by giving more rights and direct market participation whilst protecting vulnerable customers
- Allow customers to switch suppliers within 24 hours by 2026
- Enable electricity providers to set their own prices to limit market distortions and enhance a higher market competition to lower retail prices
- Define roles and responsibilities of new market participants
- Allow Members States to apply regulated prices to vulnerable household customers
- Allow Member States to apply public interventions in price setting for the supply of electricity for other household customers and micro-enterprises to ease the transition period and increase competition
- Set conditions for Member States to establish Capacity Mechanisms to ensure sufficient electricity supply during peak demand times by remunerating resources for their availability
- Emission limits of 550 gr CO2 of fossil fuels per kWh of electricity
- New power plants emitting more than the limit describes are excluded from the Capacity Mechanism
- Existing power plants emitting more or on average 350 kg CO2 per year per installed kW may continue until 1 July 2025 in the capacity mechanisms
- Regional Coordination Centres will have additional tasks related to system operation, market operation and risk preparedness
DSO Entity was also adopted and will include all DSOs of every size.
If you have any more questions on the Clean Energy Package or on the next legislative steps, our Policy Officer Henriette Gleau will answer all your remaining questions. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
With our eyes now on the major challenges of 2019, CEEP intends to build up on the achievements of the past 12 months in order to ensure that employers and providers of public services and SGIs are duly heard in the policy-making at EU level.
The debates and discussions held in 2017 on the Future of Europe have started to be translated into acts and decisions with the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2021-2027. Relying on the success of the past legislative term, such as the focus on investment, the MFF 2021-2027 should be the main tool to bring to life the political priorities of the EU, ensuring its continuity and further emphasising the EU added-value. Seen its successes over the past decades, securing funding of the Cohesion policy should remain one of the great priorities in these discussions. Another priority should be the reinforcement of the Social Window of the EU Invest, building up on CEEP and the High-Level Task Force ‘Investing in Social Infrastructure in Europe’ calls.
Important milestones are now awaiting us in 2019. The European elections, from 23 to 26 May 2019, will be the most followed by the EU. But the “Brexit cut-off date” (29 March 2019), the Sibiu Summit (on 9 May 2019) and the June meeting of the European Council (28 June 2019), where the Strategic Agenda highlighting the overarching priorities for the EU will be discussed, will also be important opportunities for CEEP to play its role, and make sure that providers of public services and SGIs are integral parts of the EU project.
Those moments will be perfect occasions for CEEP to highlight its key priorities and messages for the period 2019-2024. Approved by CEEP statutory bodies in June 2018, those priorities are compiled in a 4-pager booklet. Based on the importance role of our members in implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the digitalisation challenge, it highlights 5 specific calls, with a central role for setting up a fair and predictable level-playing field for SGIs.
Another pillar for CEEP in 2019 will be to bring to life the Social Partners’ Work Programme 2019-2021, which was approved by CEEP General Assembly on 12 December, and its focus on Digitalisation, performance of labour markets and social systems, psycho-social risks, skills, circular economy and capacity-building for social dialogue.
There is little doubt that 2019 will be a pivotal year for the future of the European project. The likely conclusion of the Brexit process, and the beginning of the project of the EU27, together with the entry into a new legislative cycle, will provide opportunities to positively contribute, both at European level and with the Member States.
In the meanwhile, enjoy your reading, and best wishes for the festive season!
This week on 28 November, the European Commission has published its long-awaited “A Clean Planet for all – A European strategic long-term vision for a prosperous, modern, competitive and climate neutral economy” paper.
In this Long-Term Strategy (LTS) plan, the Commission is calling for a carbon-neutral Europe by 2050. After the publication of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report in October, alerting the global community of the serious impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, the Commission has now set a new milestone to fight climate change by introducing a plan to drastically reduce the EU’s Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. With this commitment, the Commission has covered nearly all EU policies affected by this decarbonisation process, is aiming to be in line with the Paris Agreement objectives to keep the global temperatures increase below 2°C. Achieving these goals, the strategy serves as a pathway showcasing how Europe can develop a climate neutral economy by investing into realistic technological solutions, empowering citizens, and aligning actions in key areas such as industrial policy, finance, or research. During this process, the Commission is also committed to ensuring social fairness for a just transition, which is highly welcomed by CEEP and its members.
Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President of the Energy Union, stated in a press release “We cannot safely live on a planet where the climate is out of control. But that does not mean that in order to reduce emissions we should sacrifice the livelihoods of Europeans. Over the last years, we have shown how to reduce emissions whilst creating prosperity, high-quality local jobs, and improving people’s quality of life. Europe will inevitably continue its transformation. Our strategy now shows that by 2050, it is realistic to make Europe both climate neutral and prosperous, whilst leaving no European and no region behind” (you can read the full press release of the Commission here).
Further to this statement, a week prior to the publication of the LTS “a Clean Planet for All” paper, CEEP and the EU cross-industry Social Partners (ETUC, BusinessEurope, SMEunited) were invited to a high-level meeting with Vice-President Šefčovič and his cabinet to discuss amongst other issues the key roles played by providers of public services and services of general interest in this decarbonisation process. CEEP, represented by its General Secretary, Valeria Ronzitti, and the Vice-chair of its Energy Task Force, Alain Taccoen, highlighted the need for a level-playing field, for a just transition and for the clear recognition of the role of local actors in this transition.
Additionally, in contribution to the development of this vision paper, the Commission has invited all stakeholders to take part in a public consultation to which CEEP responded on 9 October. You can read our response here.
The next step for the Commission is to promote its strategy vision at the upcoming UN Climate Summit (COP24) taking place from 3 to14 December in Katowice, Poland. After that, as announced by European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič on Wednesday, all relevant Council formations should hold policy debates on ways to contribute to this vision in the run up to the Sibiu Summit on the Future of Europe on 9 May 2019.
For more information, please contact CEEP policy officer Henriette Gleau, responsible for the Sustainability Board at CEEP (email@example.com).
The 2016 quadri-partite statement on “a new start for social dialogue” included the following fields of action related to social partner capacity-building:
- The cross-industry EU social partners agreed to ‘implement the actions agreed in their autonomous work programme 2015-2017 on improving capacity-building and implementation outcomes (…)”;
- The European social partners since then published a report on the future of the European social fund / better supporting capacity building of social partner organisations in June 2018, which included a number of recommendations, notably to the European Commission and the ESF managing authorities, stemming from a thorough analysis of the existing use of ESF resources for social partners’ capacity building purpose.
- The European Commission committed to “examine whether the use of European Structural and Investment Funds, notably the European social fund, can contribute to strengthening the capacity of national social partners by promoting social dialogue and capacity building”;
- The Presidency of the Council recalled Member States’ agreement by Council conclusions to “promote the building and strengthening of the capacities of the social partners through different forms of support, including legal and technical expertise. This should be ensured at all relevant levels, depending on the needs of countries and social partners, including to become solid and representative organisations”.
The Opinion of the ESF Committee on the proposed regulation 2021-2027 for an ESF+ says that “an appropriate amount of ESF+ resources should be allocated for the capacity building of social partners involved at all stages of programming and implementation. Such capacity building could take the form of, among other things, training, networking measures and strengthening of social dialogue.” Building on this, the ESF Committee discussed the possible ways in which national social partners can benefit from capacity building support provided by the ESF through both shared and direct management. The Commission is also considering this, with a view to making concrete proposals going forward.
On the side of the social partners, it was acknowledged that a certain number of managing authorities have improved the involvement of social partners in the ESF programming phase compared to the previous financial period. Nevertheless, further improvements are needed to fully implement and strengthen the partnership principle and to better provide capacity building support for national social partners. The social partners also need to identify their concrete needs for capacity building support within their national/regional context. This includes their needs, which the ESF could help meet in helping to support social partners’ involvement in the European Semester process, and to achieve a better implementation of the outcomes of the European social dialogue.
CEEP is organising in December a series of events and conferences on ongoing key projects. On 11 December, the CEEP CSR Label Awarding Ceremony will bring together the recipients of the CEEP CSR Label, hosted by SALAR in Stockholm (Sweden). On 14 December, in Brussels (Belgium), the fourth and final dissemination seminar for the ‘LABOUR INT – Labour Market Integration of Migrants – A Multi-Stakeholder Approach’ will be held, concluding the first edition of this project. Finally, in Vilnius (Lithuania) on 18 December, CEEP is organising the 2nd Round Table Meeting on the involvement of social services’ providers in the European cross-industry social dialogue, focusing on the situation in Hungary and Lithuania.
CEEP CSR Label Awarding Ceremony
Tuesday 11 December 2018, Stockholm
On 11 December 2018, together with CEEP Sweden, CEEP is organising the 7th CEEP-CSR Label Awarding Ceremony. The event will be held in Stockholm, at Hilton Slussen Hotel (Guldgränd 8, 104 65).
The ceremony will be the occasion to award the 16 enterprises that were evaluated as best complying with CSR commitments and practices. The best CSR practices awarded with merit will be presented during this awarding ceremony, which will also provide participants coming from all over Europe with an incredible networking opportunity.
Following the awarding ceremony all participants will be invited for drinks and dinner in SALAR’s premises (Hornsgatan 20, 118 82 – Stockholm, Sweden), located nearby the Hilton Hotel.
To register, please complete the form before Monday 3 December 2018. A draft agenda is also available.
4th Dissemination seminar LABOUR INT – Labour Market Integration of Migrants – A Multi-Stakeholder Approach
Friday 14 December 2018, Brussels
CEEP, ETUC and EUROCHAMBRES, are organising the LABOUR INT project 4th Dissemination Seminar which will take place on Friday, 14 December 2018 from 9:00 to 17:00. This event will be held at the Auditorium ITUH, Boulevard Roi Albert II 5, 1210 Brussels, Belgium.
Through this project, CEEP intends to raise awareness of the problems related to the integration of asylum-seekers and migrants amongst the employers’ associations, trade union organizations and civil society in general. The objective will also be to disseminate the project results and spread best practices in Northern and Central Europe, whilst promoting the LABOUR INT Multi-Stakeholder approach and the European Partnership for Integration.
2nd Round Table Meeting on the involvement of social services’ providers in the European crossindustry social dialogue for Hungary and Lithuania
Tuesday 18 December 2018, Vilnius
CEEP and ALAL are organising the second-round table meeting on the involvement of social services’ providers in the European cross-industry social dialogue, taking place in the framework of the European Commission co-funded project “Social services in EU cross-industry social dialogue: towards a strong and deeper involvement”. The event will be the setting to discuss the role of Hungarian and Lithuanian social services’ providers in the European cross-industry social dialogue.
This event will be held on Tuesday 18 December 2018 at Vilniaus Klubas – Traku str 2, Vilnius 01132, Lithuania.
Please contact CEEP Project Officer Carlotta Astori should you have any questions on those events.
On 22 November, a draft “Brexit-deal package” was agreed by the EU and the UK political leaderships. It consists in two key texts, a Withdrawal Agreement designed to organise and regulate the Brexit in itself and a Political Declaration setting key targets and broad lines e.g. in institutional, socio-economic or technical regards for upcoming negotiations on a future EU-UK relationship.
Although a mere declaration of mutual intentions, values and goals, the Political Declaration contains important statements that EU and UK negotiators should consider whilst shaping a future EU-UK relationship. To name but a few, the aim of going “beyond their commitments under the [WTO’s Agreement on Public Procurement GPA]” or the fact of considering “sustainable development as an overarching objective of the Parties” are positive. The intention of settling “a free trade area as well as wider sectoral cooperation where it is in the mutual interest […] ensuring a level playing field for open and fair competition [and] respecting the integrity of the Union’s Single Market and the Customs Union as well as the UK’s internal market” is welcome as well.
The European Council already endorsed both texts as a package deal over its extraordinary summit of 25 November. The European Parliament, although it has not yet officially taken position, should give its consent to it smoothly, according to its President. In opposition to it, ratification by the UK Parliament is quite uncertain so far – to the extent that all options (from a No-Deal Brexit to the organisation of a second referendum in the UK) are openly discussed in the wider debate.
Under the condition that this draft deal is ratified by both sides, Brexit should succeed in guaranteeing that the UK and the EU remain as close as possible when it will materialise on 29 March 2019. This is what CEEP always advocated in the best interest of public services, and thus citizens, on both sides. Only then, negotiations to build the future relationship between the EU and the UK could begin following Article 218 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).
CEEP’s Policy Officer for Public Services Alexis Le Coutour (firstname.lastname@example.org) remains at your disposal for any further question.
Last Wednesday, the European Commission presented its long-term strategy for a prosperous, modern, competitive and climate neutral economy by 2050 – A Clean Planet for all.
A few days before the beginning of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) in Katowice (Poland), the strategy intends to show how Europe can lead the way to climate neutrality by investing into realistic technological solutions, empowering citizens, and aligning actions in key areas such as industrial policy, finance, or research – whilst ensuring social fairness for a just transition. In line with the commitments undertaken in the Paris Agreement in 2015, the Commission’s paper covers nearly all EU policies.
Considering their sectors of activity, many CEEP members are placed at the heart of the strategy. Our members in the field of energy, transport, housing, waste management and water are, directly or indirectly, undergoing a double transformation, with both ongoing digitalization and decarbonization revolutions.
For CEEP members and for the EU, reducing our greenhouse gas emissions is a moral obligation and a commitment. We are committed to playing our role to follow an efficient and sustainable path to decarbonize, whilst maintaining a high-quality of public services for all citizens. We need to spread the message that public services and services of general interest are the best-placed to ensure a socially, territorially and societally inclusive energy transition, where nobody must be left behind.
Reaching the goals of a climate neutral economy will need more than a commitment. For the EU to become a trailblazer in the sustainable transition, long-lasting massive investments in skills (for workers and for citizens) and in sustainability will be needed, together with a holistic approach for infrastructure strategy.
Those issues should remain high on the agenda of the EU and will have to be part of the core issues in the upcoming electoral campaigns in 2019. The decarbonization process is indeed one of those topics where a long-term vision is needed: the choices which will be made today will have a long-lasting impact and will require that all actors involved project themselves into the future and visualise their evolution.
We are now at a very pivotal moment for the European social and economic model. Facing heavy transformative forces, and in the emergence of a multipolar world, the EU has important choices to make. The long-term fate of the European project is at stake, and showing ambitions and commitment, whilst preserving the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality, is now ever more necessary.
More than ever, the European elections will be pivotal in 2019. After years of discussions, and following the Brexit process, the Future of Europe will start to take shape, first during the Sibiu Summit on 9 May 2019 and during the elections between 23 and 26 May 2019. CEEP intends to play an active role in this process, both at European and at national level.