Newsletter

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Five weeks ahead of the European elections of 26 May, the European Parliament held its final plenary session from 15 April to 18 April and thus concluded its activities for this eighth legislature. On top of the list is the so-called InvestEU programme – a key element of EU policies for the short- and long-term future. InvestEU builds on the success of EFSI, more well-known as the “Juncker Plan”. CEEP endorses the new programme’s architecture and particularly its policy focus on funding sustainable infrastructure, innovation and digitalisation or the development of social investment and skills. This result, in some respect, mirrors the priorities and input of the High Level task Force on Investing in Infrastructures (to which CEEP contributed), as expressed in its final report “Boosting Investment in social infrastructure in Europe”. However, CEEP warns, InvestEU should at all cost avoid certain shortcomings from the Juncker Plan, e.g. in closing the persistent investment gap in Europe, as mentioned in the European Court of Auditors’ own and very recent concluding report.

InvestEU is but one of many important texts recently adopted by the European co-legislating body, several being highly relevant to the ongoing budgetary (“MFF 2021-2027”) negotiations: the so-called ESF+ on 4 April or the “Common Provisions“ Regulation on 27 March…  The latter is particularly important in defining functioning rules for almost every EU public policy relevant to Cohesion Policy. For the European Parliament to take a clear stance on such an important issue only a few weeks before EU ministers responsible for Cohesion Policy gather informally is a welcomed signal : no time can be wasted. The European Parliament is moving in the right direction during this legislature’s final phase, taking over several principle keys to the ambitious Cohesion Policy that CEEP has been advocating for several years (cf. here and here). This is also the result of efforts from the Committee of the Regions’ “Cohesion Alliance”, which CEEP joined. It is now up to the European Council and the next political majority to swiftly act in concluding negotiations as soon as possible after the European elections of May 2019.

Please get in touch with Alexis Le Coutour, CEEP Policy Officer on Public Services (alexis.lecoutour@ceep.eu) should you have any questions on this subject.

On 9 April, the fourth report of the Energy Union was published by the European Commission showcasing the progress that has been made over the last five years since the start of the Juncker Commission, and setting new ambitious energy and climate policies for the future. CEEP particularly supported the Commission on its path to create a resilient Energy Union that also takes the deeply intertwined economic, social and climate European policies in its scope. The report rightly re-assesses the prospects of bringing more attention to the consumer activities within the energy market. With the recent approval by the European Parliament of the last files of the Clean Energy Package from 2016, the Commission wants to commit to becoming a world leader in deploying renewable energy and setting energy efficiency strategies to effectively combat climate change in the long run.

However, there is still a long way to go to bring a European answer to the current and rising energy challenges. CEEP welcomes this fourth ‘Energy Union report’ and its overall efforts for a well-rounded energy and climate policy strategy in its European framework. Europe has indeed been progressing over the last 5 years towards a modern and climate friendly European Energy market, but there is still a lot to be accomplished in the energy transition to guarantee affordable, secure and sustainable energy for all Europeans. Realizing this vision will require concrete steps to reach the new targets of 32% renewable share by 2030 anchored in the Renewable Energy Directive. It is still unclear how this target can be achieved as it is binding at EU level without concrete national plans.

The State of the Energy Union rightly emphasizes that the national energy and climate plans are a very important tool to increase the reliability of the European climate and energy policies. CEEP appreciates the Energy Union’s efforts for a coherent approach towards its renewable and energy efficiency targets whilst avoiding to limit Member States in the choice for their way towards decarbonisation.  At the same time, we need to encourage smaller investment projects in the field of energy as well as in the transport and heating and cooling sector. Such projects should also include cross-sectoral projects to ensure skills in the labour market can be smoothly transformed and facilitate a sustainable innovation in the public sectors. It also remains just as important to avoid future plans in this report being too bureaucratic and taking away the necessary freedom of Member States to choose their individual decarbonisation path. The national energy and climate plans must not be a tool to impose certain technologies to Member States.

Additionally, five more documents have been published along with the fourth report on the progress of the national energy efficiency targets and the renewable energy implementations in Europe as well as the strategic action plan on batteries and a communication paper for more efficient and democratic decision-making in EU energy and climate policy.

For further information, please contact our policy officer Henriette Gleau (henriette.gleau@ceep.eu).

On 16 April, the Commission launched a discussion on how to render decision-making at EU level more efficient in the social field. As a result, three Communications have already been adopted and a fourth one, on social policy, is now being published. With this Communication, the Commission is launching a debate on an enhanced use of qualified majority voting in social policy, hoping to make decision-making more “timely, flexible and efficient”. This possibility is provided for in the EU Treaties for several specific areas through so-called passerelle clauses. These clauses allow for a shift from unanimity to qualified majority voting under certain circumstances. As a first step, the Commission proposes to consider the use of the passerelle to facilitate decision-making on non-discrimination. The use of the passerelle clause could also be considered in the near future to adopt recommendations in the area of social security and social protection of workers. To activate this passerelle clause, according to Article 48(7) of the Treaty on European Union, the European Council would have to decide by unanimity, with no objection from national parliaments, and with the European Parliament’s consent.

The Commission invites the European Parliament, the European Council, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions, social partners and all stakeholders to engage in an open debate on an enhanced use of qualified majority voting and the ordinary legislative procedure in social policy on the basis of  the Communication. CEEP commitment to this debate is based on its role as an organisation which, together with its employers and trade-union counterparts, contributed to the very definition and constitution of Europe’s social dimension and its legislative and non-legislative tools, through constant negotiations, debates and cooperation with the EU institutions. CEEP believes that a stronger potential lies in the EU bringing support to Member States in developing further initiatives and actions which would ensure a stronger refocus of EU instruments for social policy purposes. Instruments like the European Semester were built to ensure progressive convergence between the Member States through debates, mutual-learning and peer pressure on issues often exclusively in the remit of Member States such as social protection and education and training policies. CEEP supported the inclusion of the Pillar of social rights in the EU Semester as an effort to making it more balanced with the economic dimension whilst respecting the strict repartition of competence in the European Union.

CEEP members believe that respecting the principle of subsidiarity and proportionality is a condition sine qua non to the success and widespread acceptance of further development of the EU Social Dimension. It is also critical to recall that a unique model that would work for every country does not exist and that only Member States can anticipate the implications of policy initiatives at national, regional and local level. Full harmonization of EU social rights is presently neither desirable nor politically feasible in the present state of the EU since divergences between Member States are too important in terms of social and industrial relation systems. There could also be strong political risks created by exploring the use of the passerelle clause. Before the European elections and the risk of seeing the rise of euroskepticism in Europe and in the European Parliament, the use of the passerelle clause may send the wrong signal that Member States are being overruled. The progressive integration of national policies, by which Member States are asked to give up part of their sovereignty, is a long term and far-reaching process, which requires long-term and consistent support from EU governments and citizens. Unanimous decision-making may take longer and require more patience from all involved in the process, but it offers better guarantees for a broad support for integration.

The European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) recently published a new report “Gender budgeting: Mainstreaming gender into the EU budget and macroeconomic policy framework”, which states that less than 1% of the EU’s Structural and Investment Funds has been set aside for the promotion of gender equality. This despite the EU’s legal obligations and political commitments to close the gender gap, which persists across all Member States. The issue was also addressed during the Informal EPSCO, during which CEEP and the EU cross-industry social partners exchanged views with EU Ministers of Employment and Social Affairs on the state of gender equality in the EU.

As the EU is preparing its ‘budget for the future’, EIGE put forward proposals on how to ensure the budget serves the future of the whole population. Currently women earn less, spend more time on caring and housework, and end up with significantly lower pensions than men. The report outlines in detail how the EU institutions and Member States can help realise the goal of gender equality through improved gender budgeting, which identifies the different needs of women and men and allocates resources accordingly.

Recommendations made by EIGE in the report include:

  • The setting of gender equality as a priority across the entire EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF);
  • The institutionalisation of gender mainstreaming methods and the monitoring of its impact in all funds;
  • The setting of budgetary targets for gender equality;
  • The introduction of a system to track funding for gender equality in all funding programmes.

During the Informal EPSCO in Bucharest (10-11 April), CEEP General Secretary Valeria Ronzitti addressed the issue, highlighting the importance of using non-legislative measures such as gender budgeting to foster gender equality. She added that fiscal policies and administrative procedures can be structured to address gender inequalities. This will promote accountability and transparency in fiscal planning, increase gender responsive participation in budget processes and advance gender equality.

Should you wish to know more about EIGE’s joint activities with the EU Social Partners, do not hesitate to contact CEEP Project Manager, Carlotta Astori.

Dear reader,

With now less than one month to go before the European elections, the campaign is now in full motion with ‘Spitzenkandidaten’ from the different political groups hitting the road across the EU. As this is the last newsletter before this important milestone, I would like to restate the importance of this election for the Future of Europe, and how CEEP became and will remain active on the ground through its members.

In the light of rising Euroscepticism, fake news and various other threats to democracy in Europe, CEEP joined a chorus of European organisations which took a stand to promote active participation in the elections. Amongst others, CEEP played an active role in the Alliance for Democracy set up in 2017, joined the Democracy Festival in Texel on 11-13 April 2019 and supported the ‘This Time I’m Voting’ campaign of the European Parliament. Being active at this level allowed us to put CEEP and its key messages at the heart of the debate, highlighting the importance of the link between the European Union, public services and SGIs, and citizens.

In parallel to our activities at EU level, several CEEP members also took up the opportunity to set the agenda in their constituencies, by engaging with candidates and organizing various events in Germany, The Netherlands, France and Italy: the activities of CEEP members in the lead-up to the elections have been and will be various, facilitating the contact with future elected MEPs and Commissioners.

By engaging with citizens and candidates, CEEP is preparing the ground for the post-elections’ activities, which will be concluded by the Public Services Summit, to be held on 11 December 2019, and will serve as the first important ‘rendez-vous’ between CEEP and the new institutional leaders of the EU. More information on the event will be circulated in the coming months, but we invite you to already save the date.

In the meanwhile, we encourage all of you to go and vote on 23-26 May, to contribute to the European democracy and have a say on the future direction for the EU.

Kind regards,

Valeria Ronzitti

On 14 March, the Regulatory Fitness Platform of the European Commission (or “REFIT Platform”) adopted a series of Opinions dealing with varied issues relevant to the EU legislative and policy-making framework. Amongst those, two Opinions were drafted by CEEP General Secretary Valeria Ronzitti, together with other REFIT Platform members, full REFIT member since its creation in May 2015.

The first of these Opinions refers to “Transparent Transposition” and draws up recommendations aimed at addressing the issue of over-regulation by national and sub-national authorities transposing EU legislation into national law. The second one is entitled “State Aid and ESIF” and raises awareness on the needed alignment of EU State Aid rules with European Structural Investment Funds (ESIF) regulation.

CEEP is fully convinced of the added value of both these Opinions as well as the impact that they will have on future EU policy-making and in supporting the proper implementation of EU legislations at national, regional and local level. Those two outcomes will only be attained if and when institutions, SGI providers, employers, workers and even citizens, make full use of all the opportunities stemming from those REFIT Opinions.
On the one hand the opinion on “Transparent Transposition” should be used to highlight the shortcomings that impact the whole European legislative machinery. On the other hand the one on “State Aid and ESIF” underlines the current lack  of complementarity between two of the most important areas of EU policy-making, which are competition policy and cohesion policy. As such, those opinions can serve as a basis for our future actions when it comes to better monitoring the implementation of the EU legislation in Member States, and highlight the need to address both the competition policy and the EU funding tools.

The REFIT Platform exerting a consultative function as the European Commission’s regulatory body, these opinions are not legally binding. In both cases, however, they send the right signals and enable EU decision-makers to better locate shortcomings and room for improvement. CEEP believes that both these opinions, contribute (together with many other) to improving EU law-making in terms of quality across many policy fields. But beyond the matters at stake, they clearly establish the REFIT Platform’s added value as a forum to stimulate and structure political debate.

CEEP Policy Officer Alexis Le Coutour remains (alexis.lecoutour@ceep.eu) at your disposal for any further questions on this issue.

On 27 March, MEPs in the European Parliament in Strasbourg approved in a vote the last files of the Clean Energy Package (CEP) on the Electricity Market Design Directive and Regulation. A final approval was also voted for the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER Regulation) and Risk-Preparedness for the electricity sectors. All files were voted with a large majority.

After the adoption of the 2030 climate legislation and the commitments to meet the Paris Agreement commitments, the CEP is one of the largest Commission files to be finalized and approved this year towards a steady path to decarbonize our economy. Last year on 18 December, EU negotiators reached a common agreement on the two last remaining files of the CEP, which was published by the European Commission in Winter 2016. CEEP welcomes the progress that has been made for the two electricity files compared to the initial proposal of the Commission and overall welcomes the Parliament’s final approval this week to approve the new set of market design rules for the European energy market. Miguel Arias Cañete, European Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, stated that “This package brings the completion of the Energy Union closer. The energy market will be more secure, more sustainable and more competitive”.

CEEP pleaded for a functioning European internal energy market and welcomes overall that consumers and CO2 emission reduction are placed at the heart to achieve 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 that CEEP welcomes the new roles and responsibilities that have been put in place to ensure that there are no further market distortions and non-discriminatory treatment privileging certain actors. To ensure and safeguard a functioning EU energy market, CEEP also pleaded for  recognition that system adequacy is vital to the European electricity system and that capacity mechanisms are a tool to guarantee that enough capacity will always be available, especially at peak periods to supply demand. For that, new rules have been put in place setting conditions for Member States to ensure a sufficient supply of electricity during peak times.

Furthermore, CEEP welcomed in general the Commission’s efforts to find effective tools to reduce emissions in the electricity sector; However, respecting the emission limit of 550 gr CO2 of fossil fuels per KWh of electricity will be challenging for some Member States. The Regulation will exclude new power plants emitting more than the limit mentioned above from the capacity mechanisms and existing power plants that produce on average 350kg CO2 per year per installed kW may continue until 1 July 2025 in the capacity mechanism. With regard to the establishment of the EU DSO entity, CEEP supported this concept in principle and welcomes that DSOs regardless of their size are allowed to become a member in this entity and are included in the process to design the Network Codes. Also, it is positive to see that DSOs can act in their roles as active neutral market facilitators, by managing procurement of flexibility through the support of given incentives and establishing network tariffs and exercising data management.

For the publication into the Official Journal of the Union, the two electricity files will have to be formally approved by the Council of Ministries of the EU before the Regulation file can enter into force on 1 January 2020. The Directive will have to be transposed into national law within 18 months. The Regulation for Risk-Preparedness and ACER will enter into force right after their publication.

If you have any more questions on the Clean Energy Package please contact our Policy Officer Henriette Gleau (henriette.gleau@ceep.eu).

Since its creation in 2010, the European Semester is a cycle of economic and fiscal policy coordination within the EU and is now an integral part of the European Union’s economic governance framework. It provides Member States with recommendations on structural reforms, on fiscal policies and on the prevention of excessive macroeconomic imbalances.

In this context, on 27 February, The European Commission released a new set of country reports. The reports provide the analytical basis for the country-specific recommendations in the European Semester.

One novelty in this year’s reports is the inclusion, for the first time, of a specific Annex on ‘Investment guidance for cohesion policy 2021/2027’. This analysis on investment needs is expected to be included again in the country reports in five years’ time. The objective is to ensure greater coherence between the coordination of economic policies and the use of EU funds, which represent a significant part of public investment in several Member States (cohesion policy funds alone in the next programming period correspond to 0.5 % of EU GDP). To that end, country reports identify priority areas for policy action regarding public and private investment in Member States, and therefore provide the analytical basis for a successful programming of cohesion policy funds and use of related EU funds in 2021-2027. This annex is of particular importance for CEEP’s members. Indeed, many public services are referred to as key investment targets. Health, education and other public services’ infrastructures are referred to prominently when addressing the need to create a low carbon economy and reinforce energy efficiency. For instance, housing features also prominently in the analysis of many Member States. But more interestingly, and to some extent more than in previous years, the European Commission highlights in several cases how the lack of social housing calls for stronger investment in the sector as well as in energy efficiency of (residential) buildings, especially with regard to the next ESIF programming period. The Pillar of Social rights is also abundantly referred to as well as the objective of improving the quality, effectiveness and labour market relevance of education and training, equal access to, and completion of, quality and inclusive education and training, particularly for disadvantaged groups, and lifelong learning, notably flexible upskilling and reskilling.

It will be important to follow the implementation of the MFF through the prism of this new guidance made available by the European Commission. The Pillar of social rights, with its emphasis on essential services, should also contribute to assessing our services as a priority target for investments.

CEEP organised this Friday 29 March, together with UDES, the Third Round Table 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 will 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 has the objective of 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 Third Round Table Meeting in Paris involved the relevant social services’ providers in Bulgaria and Malta in the discussions on the role of social services in the European cross-industry social dialogue. The meeting was opened by the host, MP Sarah El Hairy, Deputy representing MoDem and the department of Loire-Atlantique in the French National Assembly. 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. Despite the fact that 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.

The Malta Council for Economic and Social Development, together with representatives of the Foundation for Social Welfare Services and the Ministry for Social Policy provided an outlook into the representation of social services in Malta. In addition, experts from the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences presented the national social dialogue and the structure of SSGIs in Bulgaria.

The Technical Training Course will be held on 15 and 16 May 2019 in Brussels and is organised by CEEP. The target countries for this meeting will be the 6 Countries that are the project’s focus (Bulgaria, Cyprus, Hungary, Lithuania, Malta and Romania). Should you wish to register, do not hesitate to contact CEEP Project Officer Carlotta Astori.

Dear readers,

With the EU elections approaching, the EU co-legislators are speeding up the process of adopting their last proposals, whilst preparing the ground for the new, post-26 May, institutional setup.

Important files wrapping up include, amongst others, the Clean Energy Package and the final activities of the REFIT Platform, whose mandate will end on 31 October 2019, and which recently approved its Opinion on “transparent transposition”, prepared and pushed for by CEEP and addressing the consequences of ‘gold-plating” in the transposition of EU legislations. You can read more in this Newlstter.

CEEP also highlighted its profile at the highest level, ahead of the May elections. Indeed, on 20 March, CEEP Vice-President Milena Angelova addressed the Tripartite Social Summit (TSS), in the presence of Viorica Dăncilă, Prime Minister of Romania, Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, and Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission. Organised every semester by the European Council, the TSS is the ideal platform to highlight our key messages for the future socio-economic development of the EU and remind EU leaders and social partners about the central role of high-quality, affordable and accessible public services and SGIs in the EU social model.

With two months to go before the EU elections, this TSS was of particular importance for CEEP. Together with ETUC, BusinessEurope and SMEunited, CEEP issued a joint statement, highlighting that “democracy needs to be lived in order to remain alive”, and “urging citizens across Europe to go out and vote in the European elections from 23-26 May 2019 in order to have a say on the future and to defend democracy, sustainable economic growth and social justice.”

For CEEP, this commitment is translated into the organisation of a series of events, gathering around the table EU decision-makers, CEEP members and institutional players. Kicking off these events, our first  debate was held at the European Economic and Social Committee in Brussels on 7th March 2019, with the participation of, amongst others, Luca Jahier, President of the EESC, MEP Karine Gloanec-Maurin, chair of the European Parliament Intergroup on Public Services, MEP Jo Leinen, Honorary President of the European Movement International, Christian Mangold, Director for Campaigns at the European Parliament, Petros Fassoulas, Secretary General of the European Movement International, and Tellervo Kyla-Harraka-Rounala, Vice-President of the EESC Employers’ group. At this occasion, CEEP officially supported the EP campaign “This time I am voting”

Our members are also active on the ground, with events organised with candidates to the European elections already scheduled in Germany, in France, in Luxembourg and in the Netherlands. Going beyond the political divide, those events highlight the importance of exchanging on the European project and engaging in a constructive cooperation at all levels.

The next important event CEEP is associated with is the Democracy Alive, in Texel, on 11-14 April 2019, where we will have the opportunity to exchange with citizens, EP candidates and other organisations.

We look forward to all those future opportunities to exchange views and reinforce our standing before and after the elections. Coordinated actions, at the EU, national and local levels, are the best way to increase the reach.

I wish you a good read.

Kind regards,
Valeria Ronzitti

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