On 25 November, the European Commission published its new EU Pharmaceutical Strategy. Learning from the COVID-19 crisis, the strategy intends to set out a plan for a future-proof and crisis-resilient EU pharmaceutical system relying on 3 pillars:
- ensuring that patients have access to affordable medicines
- supporting the competitiveness, innovative capacity,
- finding the necessary link for more sustainability, crisis preparedness and response and building a strong EU voice in the world in the EU pharmaceutical industry.
Both in our response to the public consultation (available here, with its accompanying additional remarks) and during the latest EU Social Partner meeting with Vice-President Magaritis Schinas and Commissioner Stella Kyriakides, CEEP urged the European Commission to respond accordingly to the challenges of the environmental impacts of pharmaceuticals, and for a linking up with the Zero Pollution Action Plan, as well as to the approach to Pharmaceuticals in the Environment (PiE). CEEP welcomes that this aspect has been taken into account and will hopefully make the necessary changes where it is needed.
The strategy stresses that a more sustainable pharmaceuticals sector is important to reach the objectives of the EU Green Deal. Actions are required throughout the lifecycle of medicines to reduce emission levels, resource use and the levels of pharmaceutical residues in the environment. The strategy recognises that innovation for environmentally sustainable and climate-neutral pharmaceuticals and manufacturing should be a driver, and highlights the need to improve the waste of unused medicines. CEEP regrets the lack of a direct response to the unsustainable problem on the End-of-Pipe solutions. Making the pharmaceutical strategy more environmentally friendly would have required to take the precautionary principle and the control-at-source principle into account, whilst the financing of measures be primarily based on the polluter pays principle.
A progress review on the PiE has also been published along with the strategy. It shows that good progress has been made in implementing the different actions. Most of the actions have already started and are currently ongoing, whilst other have been completed with the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (UWWTD) identifying an issue with pharmaceuticals in waste-water. The Commission is now considering appropriate follow-up in the form of an impact assessment and a possible revision to these findings.
Additionally, a feasibility study on extended producer responsibility (EPR), including in the pharmaceuticals sector, is planned as part of the impact assessment on the potential revision of the UWWTD, with a follow-up to be done on the REACH evaluation and the Fitness Check on the Chemical Strategy.
The Strategy will be one of the main items to be discussed at the political level at the “Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs” meeting of the European Council on 2 December. Once approved, the implementation of the various actions, communications and evaluations foreseen will start immediately. It will translate into both legislative and non-legislative actions, and intends to strictly follow the rules under the Better Regulation principles via impact assessments and public consultations.
On 18 November 2020, the European Commission presented its European Semester Autumn Package, including the Euro area recommendation 2021 and the Proposal for a Joint Employment Report 2021. This is the second step in the 2021 European Semester cycle which began in September with the publication of the Annual Sustainable Growth Strategy, and provided policy guidance to Member States in drawing up their Recovery and Resilience Plans, as well as defined the relationship between the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) and the European Semester.
The Euro area recommendation 2021 emphasises the RRF as the main EU’s recovery instrument from the COVID-19 crisis. CEEP strongly appreciates that great attention is being paid to increasing the level and quality of investments, in particular for the acceleration of the green and digital twin transitions, and that the Commission urges coordinated reforms to ensure cohesion, and foster productivity and growth. In fact, the Recommendation places particular emphasis on reforms and investments to improve labour market integration through effective active labour market policies, on improving the quality and inclusiveness of education and training systems, as well as on closing the gender gap. Similarly, CEEP welcomes the Commission’s focus on health and social protection systems as automatic stabilisers in the crisis that serve to strengthen economic and social resilience in the Euro area, with the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights as an essential element guiding national policies.
The Proposal for a Joint Employment Report provides a complete overview of the main employment and social developments in the EU and reveals the devastating impacts the COVID-19 crisis has had on the six-year-long positive trend in EU labour markets. In the Report, the Commission acknowledges that immediate reactions of Member States, notably their swift adoption of short-time work schemes (STWs), have been pivotal to support employment, and calls on Member States to keep these measures in place as long as necessary. In this regard, CEEP appreciates the encouragement to Member States to accompany these measures with upskilling and reskilling schemes, introducing support for the reallocation of labour towards green and digital economy. Nevertheless, CEEP believes that EU intervention through the Support to mitigate Unemployment Risks in an Emergency (SURE) should be further extended to help Member States in these efforts. CEEP also considers that further urgent action is needed to sustain weak segments of the labour market, in particular young people, women, and low-skilled workers who have been most affected by the deterioration of the labour market. Thus, CEEP believes that EU Funds have a key role to play in supporting Member States in implementing reforms for the modernisation of labour market institutions, as well as education, training, and social protection systems. Finally, whilst the unprecedented pressure exerted on health, education and social protection systems during the COVID-19 crisis is acknowledged, CEEP believes that more attention should be paid to the role that enabling, public and social services have for recovery, especially in light of the evidence that underinvestment in these sectors has detrimental effects on the sustainability of the system as a whole.
On 25 November 2020, together with Eurocities, CEEP organized a joint city dialogue to discuss the provision of Services of General Interests (SGIs) and their contribution to the recovery in the aftermath of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Anna Lisa Boni and Valeria Ronzitti, General Secretaries of Eurocities and CEEP, opened the event underlining the special role of SGIs, employing over 60 million workers in a broad range of sectors, and contributing approximately to 26% of the EU’s GDP. They also highlighted that the pandemic clearly spelled out the inadequacy of essential SGIs, especially in the context of austerity policy and spending cuts witnessed in the past decade.
Renate Brauner, Commissioner of the City of Vienna for Services of General Interest and Municipal Economy, presented the study “Remunicipalisation in Europe”. The study stresses examples of the remunicipalisation of services within the European Union. Mrs Brauner emphasised that public capital alone plays an important role in the economy, that the role of the public sector is often under-differentiated, and that the positive contribution of SGIs remains undermined. This focus falls short when it comes to equitable and affordable access of people to high-quality services of general interest. She also explained that the positive effects of public capital on economic growth and labour market development are too-little considered, with each Euro spent generating 80 cents of income. In this sense, she called for a new understanding, according to which infrastructure investments must no longer be understood as debt, but as investment in the future, since a strong public infrastructure and resilient SGIs are the backbone for our society.
Mirzha De Manuel, member of the Cabinet of Valdis Dombrovskis, European Commission Executive Vice-President responsible for an Economy that Works for People, presented the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), centrepiece of the Next Generation EU recovery instrument and should be running until 2026. It is estimated that an effective implementation of Next Generation EU can deliver 2% of additional GDP by 2024 and create 2 million jobs. Its main objectives are also to deliver the European Green Deal and build a more sustainable, resilient, and fairer Europe for the next generation.
In the light of the Next Generation EU recovery package and its implementation criteria, Eurocities and CEEP opened a panel discussion on the specific role of SGIs, cities and local authorities, in this process. Elisa Schenner, Head of EU Affairs at Wiener Stadtwerke, presented the situation of the energy sector on the example of Wiener Stadtwerke Group. As a multi-utility that includes energy and mobility, the Wiener Stadtwerke Group pursues sector integration in using “waste” in one sector as a resource in another. During the COVID-19 crisis, they continued to recruit people and provide services of general interest without interruption.
Maria Dolores Ortiz Sanchez, General Director Planification e Infrastructure of Movilidad en Ayuntamiento, and Alberto Alonso Poza, Financing and Strategy Director of EMT, gave an overview of the opportunities and challenges of the public transport sector in Madrid. EMT reacted immediately to the pandemic by guaranteeing the provision of SGIs, by increasing the capacities of the BiciMAD (bikesharing system) to cope with the increase in usage and helping the mobility within the city at a time of capacity limitations.
Virginie Toussain, Legal Officer at Union Sociale pour l’Habitat, presented the situation in the housing sector. She reported that the demand for social housing in France has increased significantly in the context of the pandemic. This means that in many places there is no longer sufficient social housing. In this sense, it is essential to increase investment in quality social housing in order to best mitigate the effects of the pandemic.
Finally, Tjitte Alkema, Vice-Secretary General of HOSPEEM, stressed the need for flexible and essential training for the health work force in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, some positive developments were discernible in the crisis such as the fact that procedures that used to be more time consuming had been made more efficient without impacting the quality of care or patient safety. Furthermore, more flexibility in procedures and processes were observed. Nevertheless, changes are needed: echoing Mrs Brauner, Mr Alkema called for a “golden rule of investment” for SGIs and warned of the danger of a renewed austerity policy after the crisis, which could end the current momentum of SGIs.
On Tuesday 24 November 2020, the European Commission published the New Action Plan on Integration and Inclusion 2021-2027. The new Action Plan presents a comprehensive approach and includes the key actions that are needed for a European approach to integration and inclusion:
- Education and training: increasing the participation of migrant children and children with a migrant background in ECEC, fighting segregation and equipping teachers with the necessary skills and resources to teach in multicultural and multilingual classrooms;
- Employment and skills: improving skills assessment and validation, promoting entrepreneurship, increasing participation in high-quality vocational education and training and addressing specific gender barriers for women’s participation in the labour market;
- Access to healthcare: promoting equal access to regular healthcare services, including mental health, addressing specific challenges faced by women, in particular during and after pregnancy;
- Housing: supporting adequate and affordable housing, promoting autonomous housing and partnership-based approaches, co-housing and accompanying housing with employment and social services.
The New Action Plan proposes targeted and tailored support, building up on the achievements of the 2016 Action Plan and on in-depth consultations with stakeholders, including social partners. The New Action Plan is a substantial step forward in the European Commission’s efforts to build cooperation between Member States, and to maximise EU added value through multi-stakeholder partnerships, as highlighted in the New Pact on Migration and Asylum presented on 23 September 2020.
CEEP actively respondeded to the European Commission’s consultations to establish priorities and actions to promote the integration and social inclusion of migrants and people with a migrant background. CEEP and the other European social and economic partners (CEEP, ETUC, BusinessEurope, SMEUnited, Eurochambres) participated on 19 October 2020 to a dedicated consultation on the future New Action Plan, highlighting the main challenges and needs of the public services’ employers and SGI providers for the integration of third country nationals in the labour market.
This new Action Plan is also building up on the renewal of the European Partnership for Integration, co-signed on 7 September 2020 by the EU social and economic partners and Commissioners Johansson and Schmit. In this spirit, the New Action Plan emphasizes that the effective inclusion of migrants and citizens with a migrant background into the labour market requires the active collaboration of a large variety of actors, with a commitment to continue the cooperation with the social and economic partners.
The New Action Plan finally underlines the importance of the skills assessments and validation, and the further development of the proper tools, such as the EU Skills Profile Tool for Third Country Nationals. CEEP had an important contribution for testing and improving this tool, in the framework of the Labour-Int 2 project, carried out with ETUC and the other social and economic partners, and the financial support of the European Commission.
Should you wish to receive any information regarding CEEP activities in the field of migration and integration, or to get a general overview of the Commission’s New Action Plan on Integration and Inclusion, do not hesitate to contact CEEP Project Officer Stefan Enica.
Recent weeks have been a rollercoaster for the future of the EU and the economic recovery from the COVID-19. On 10 November, after months of intense negotiations, the European Parliament and the presidency of the European Council reached a political agreement on the basis of the €1,8 trillion negotiated by EU leaders in July (which combines the next Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 worth €1,07tln and the €750bln Next Generation EU).
A week later, on 16 November, the EU ambassadors of Poland and of Hungary blocked the approval process, opposing the compromise found on the creation of a rule of law mechanism attached to the EU funds. Throwing the EU back in crisis mode a few days before a meeting of the EU heads of state and of government on the COVID-19 crisis, the decision of the Hungarian and Polish governments has put a break on the swift availability of the EU support badly needed by some Member States.
Like many EU stakeholders, CEEP and the other EU social partners deplored this decision, calling on “Member States to endorse the agreement found on the European recovery fund and Multiannual Financial Framework for 2021-2027” in a joint statement. Noting that “the agreement (…) is essential to help the EU economy recover from the damage the COVID crisis continues to inflict”, we highlighted that “European enterprises and workers urgently need the EU financial support foreseen in this agreement”, and that “it is time to deliver the compromises found for the common good of all Member States.”
The link between respect for the rule of law and EU funds was also high on the agenda of the Federal Assembly of the European Movement International (EMI) on 19 and 20 November. As an international association member of the EMI, and able to count on my presence as Vice-President of the EMI for the next 3 years, CEEP intends to activate this network in order to raise its voice on the issues of rule of law. Together with its partners within the EMI, CEEP also intends to be an active and vocal actor in the future Conference on the Future of Europe, both at European and local level, in order to make the exercise meaningful and relevant for citizens.
Of course, those issues will not take us away from our key calls for an SGI-centred recovery. Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to restate our call during the Macroeconomic Dialogue, during which CEEP recalled the importance of rebuilding “our economy through investments in knowledge, in new technologies, green and digital, and in the successful reskilling and upskilling of the workforce to achieve higher productivity”, as well as our readiness to “to provide long-term investment plans to feed in the National Recovery and Resilience Plans” to address issues such as energy poverty, housing overcrowding and access to quality and affordable healthcare and education, as recently stated at a webinar organised with Eurocities and at the heart of our future activities within the SGIs facing COVID-19 platform.
Those core messages will be at the heart of our renaming event scheduled on 8 December. Featuring the participation of European Commission EVP Valdis Dombrovskis and MEPs such as Brando Benifei and Eva Maydell, the event will feature the reveal of the new name of the association, as well as policy debate on the role of SGIs in the COVID-19 recovery. Held online via Zoom, we hope to count on the presence of many of you on the occasion.
In the meanwhile, I wish you a good read.
On Wednesday 14 October, a CEEP delegation, including Rainer Plassmann, CEEP President, and Valeria Ronzitti, CEEP General Secretary, addressed the Tripartite Social Summit (TSS) videoconference. In presence of, amongst others, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, CEEP called on this occasion for the clear recognition of the role played by services of general interest (SGI) during the COVID-19 crisis and on the path to recovery.
Together with a meeting with Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič on the Foresight Report, this high-level videoconference was a first opportunity to call upon EU leaders to adopt a clearly SGI-centred recovery, with both a focus on the genuine integration of the SGIs in the National Recovery Plans (NRPs) and a reflection on new ways to assess the concept of “economic growth”, going beyond the currently accepted Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Addressing the priorities to be highlighted in the NRPs, CEEP has taken the opportunity of the TSS to support the business case for the role of SGIs in the recovery. Building up on the concrete examples from its members, President Plassmann called upon EU leaders for a “clear recognition of SGIs by all Member States as the key ingredient to making society resilient to future crises.” The priority now will be to follow up on those first steps, raise the interest and further highlight the relevance of investing in public services and services to ensure a green, fair, and digital Europe.
Also, CEEP will have the possibility to support the EU institutions in setting up new criteria to define “sustainable and inclusive growth”. The 2020 Foresight Report recognises that “the crisis has reignited the debate on what kind of economic growth is desirable, (…) and on the need for new metrics to measure progress beyond GDP growth. The EU is well-placed to (…) promote inclusive growth and equality, with the UN SDGs at the centre of economic policy”. This recognition reflects a longstanding demand from CEEP: for SGIs, growth and productivity cannot be assessed in the same way as for private businesses
Providers of services of general interest intend to be an integral part of the conversation: going beyond their sole economic ‘raison d’être’, the activities of our members contribute to many other spheres – developing skills, ensuring and protecting the health of citizens, providing essential services to businesses,… Highlighting the specificities of SGIs, this fundamental work can help to better integrate economic actors whose primary aim is not solely to make profit.
We intend to contribute to those conversations, which are at the heart of the definition of the Europe we want to see materialise in the future, which puts on equal footing the economy, the ecology and the well-being of citizens.
I wish you a good read.
On 14 October, the European Commission has adopted its State of the Energy Union Report for 2020, where it assessed the good progress made towards achieving the current 2030 climate and energy targets. It is the first report since the adoption of the EU Green Deal, therefore it can provide an important insight into the Energy Union’s contribution to Europe’s long-term climate goals and where we still have to improve.
Even though most of the information was gathered from the National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs), which were written before the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, the report also shows the importance to follow up on the EU Green Deal and reach the objectives of the Commission’s proposal for a higher 2030 energy and climate target. Arguably, this statement can go further according to the European Parliament’s vote in mid-October on its 60% GHG emission reduction target.
The report takes a holistic look into the state of the Energy Union in five key areas including decarbonisation and the growth of renewables, energy efficiency, energy security, the internal energy market, research, innovation and competitiveness as well as an overall assessment on the NECP.
To get the full picture of the report’s main outcomes and what it really means for the EU Green Deal, here are the five main takeaways from the report, which will be at the heart of the upcoming activities of CEEP Energy Task Force and Sustainability Board.
The report shows that the EU is on track with its renewable energy targets for 2020 when it is estimated to reach 22.8 % and 23.1% of renewable energy use in the overall EU energy mix. Despite the fact that many EU Member States are fulfilling their targets, others are lagging behind. Belgium, France and Poland are at high risk of not meeting their targets for 2020, whilst the Netherlands and Luxembourg are at a moderate risk. The Commission underlines that investments in renewable energy are increasingly driven by market decisions, and Member States grant more support to renewable energy through competitive tenders. The Commission hopes to solve this problem with its new renewable energy financing mechanism, which allows countries struggling to meet their renewable targets to financially support a more decarbonised energy mix. This will give Member States the potential to accelerate their renewable production and contribute to the objectives of the EU Green Deal. However, the report also shows that public and private spending trends on clean energy research and innovation are not encouraging. Member States have spent a little less on clean energy technologies compared to the previous years and the overall EU’s public research and innovation investments as a share of GDP is the lowest of other major economies.
To reach the climate and energy goals set in the EU Green Deal, Member States have to make much better use of supportive EU instruments such as Horizon Europe, the Innovation Fund and InvestEU as well as of the EU recovery funds that will encourage appropriate pathways towards climate-neutrality.
The results on the progress for more energy efficiency is the weak angle of this report. The EU may pass the 2020 goals of 20% energy savings, yet this is only due to the events of the COVID-19 crisis and not to structural improvements. It is clear that without the lockdown this target would not have been met. This is the consequence of Member States’ failure to renovate and adjust its inefficient buildings, which are the largest energy consumers.
Therefore, the new Renovation Wave of the Commission is tackling this exact problem by introducing a minimum energy standard for buildings to come down to 60% GHG emission reduction by 2030 compared to the 2015 level, as well as an energy consumption reduction of 14%, and energy consumptions from heating and cooling buildings must be down to 18%. The Commission stated to be prepared to sue countries falling short of this goal. At the same time, energy efficiency jobs have increased by an annual 17.4% between 2000 and 2017. That being said, much better progress needs to be made and it will be important to consider the individual national circumstances before drawing conclusions in order to improve energy efficiency in buildings.
Security of supply
The security of energy supply in the EU has passed the COVID-19 test. The report shows that the resilience and preparedness of the EU energy system has proven robust and secured the continuity of essential operations. For that reason, the Commission underlines again the need for a functional and efficient EU market. Yet there is still some work to be done for further electricity and gas integration in the market to fully ensure better use is made of smart integration technologies for industries, transport and energy sectors that can meet the energy efficiency targets that are missing.
Emission Reduction Target
At the current stage, the EU is on track with its 2030 targets in cutting down GHG emissions by 40% compared to 1990 levels. Yet, the new target proposed by the Commission of 55% reduction and the proposed new climate target – and the proposal of the European Parliament to go up to 60% – will have to change the discourse dramatically. This means that to set higher goals for national wholesale revision planning, the renewable share needs to increase up from 38% to 40% and buildings renovation rates need to double. Also, the Emission Trading System (ETS) has shown some positive effects that contributed to the reduction of the emissions due to a stable carbon price during the COVID-19 crisis, yet this effect may fade. Despite these efforts, the report pointed out for the first time in an energy subsidies analysis, a clear need to reduce subsidies supporting fossil fuels’ production and consumption. The stats show that fossil fuels’ subsidies amounted to 50 bn Euros in the EU in 2018 and were on the rise. The Commission is now counting on the 750 bn Euro recovery package to stimulate more financial flows into the climate goals of the EU Green Deal.
Internal EU Energy Market
The effects from the 2019 Clean Energy for all Europeans package shows that there was more support in streamlining rules for electricity market design as well as an improvement of the gas markets. As for the electricity market, the new rules seek to make the most of interconnectors allowing for better cross-border trade and management of power across European grids. The EU’s 2030 interconnectivity target of 15% is already exceeded by most Member States. The next step will be to deploy more smart grids, which the Commission is hoping will increase energy efficiency and more renewable based electricity.
As a follow-up to the Seventh Environment Action Programme (7th EAP) which shall expire on 31 December 2020, the Commission is presenting a proposal for an 8th EAP, with a long-term vision and priority environmental objectives for 2030 to support the EU commitment to achieve a green recovery.
The new 8th EAP lays out a series of priority objectives in the areas of climate neutrality, adaptation to climate change, protection, and restoration of biodiversity, aiming at zero pollution and reducing the pressures of production and consumption on the environment.
The new action plan is designed to be a legally binding instruments to ensure and safeguard Member States’ implementation of the EU Green Deal and climate-neutrality objectives in 2050. The action plan has now also proposed to make the Green Deal’s pledge to do ‘No Harm’ a legally binding law and sets out a new monitoring framework to ensure the objectives will be reached.
The Commission’s proposal of the 8th EAP will now have to be discussed by the European Parliament and the Council. In preparation of the future discussion on legally binding laws and new monitoring tools, here are the most important take-aways of the new 8th EAP and what these will mean for the implementation of the EU Green Deal and CEEP future activities:
New monitoring Framework
A new aspect of the plan is the integration of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and a new monitoring framework, which was announced earlier in the EU Green Deal. The aim of this new monitoring system is to measure the progress made by the EU and its Member States in implementing the programme’s priority objectives and inform policy makers and stakeholders if the Union and the Member States are on track to achieving a systemic transformation. It should also provide an opportunity to explore the potential of the ongoing working streams on the planetary boundaries for example in freshwater use, land use/change, ocean acidification as well as a tracking on the EU’s consumption footprint such as deforestation in Europe and in third countries.
For this, the Commission has proposed to use a nine-point Planetary Boundaries scheme, set up by the European Environmental Agency in May 2020, that will support the EU’s progress and measure the reducing environmental impacts.
The action plan’s monitoring framework should comprise a limited number of key indicators for high-level communication. The aim of this is to have a consistent timeline on the state of play of the environment, the impacts of climate change and the effectiveness of Member States actions.
The next step proposed by the Commission is to launch a consultation on the headline indicators to improve the monitoring of biodiversity, circular economy, and the zero pollution and is planned for the end of 2021.
The action plan proposal was developed in line with the EC’s proposal of the EU Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027. The Commission has urged the need for more resources and data in the European Environment Agency (EEA) and in the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) that will support the new monitoring framework in the action plan that measures and reports on the environmental progress in the EU. The cost of this project is estimated at 23.379 m Euros for the EEA and 2.369 m Euros for the ECHA. These costs are planned to be taken out of the LIFE budget according to a split of 2/3 of the costs for DG Environment and 1/3 of the costs of DG Climate Action for the EEA, the needed resources for the ECHA is planned to be fully covered by DG Environment.
Following up on the presentation of the New Pact of Migration and Asylum and of the updated EU Skills Agenda by the European Commission, the roundtable discussion on the topic ‘’EU labour migration policy: time to move from a skill-based to a sector-based framework?’ will be an important opportunity for CEEP to share SGIs employers’ vision and experience in the field of labour migration. The event will be held on 5 November 2020.
The roundtable will bring together the EU Social and Economic partners to discuss how labour migration policy can respond to the challenges that the labour market face in terms of anticipating and matching current and future skills needs. During the panels, speakers will address the specific sectoral issues related to the migration policies in the agricultural, health and long-term care and the ICT sectors.
CEEP believes that labour migration plays a key role in addressing skills shortages and mismatches across the EU. At the same time, a better forecasting of the labour market and skills trends and needs requires implementing a multi-stakeholders approach by fostering a deeper cooperation between local and regional authorities, employers, public services’ and education and training providers, while actively involving employers in labour migration schemes and ensuring that their labour market needs are reflected.
CEEP will take part in this event that is in line with its various activities in the field of migration and integration, one of the most concrete ones on the ground being the Labour-Int 2 project. In the framework of this multi-stakeholder project, CEEP coordinates the Expert Group on Skills and Migration (EGSM) which has as main objective to gather and share knowledge and expertise in order to elaborate common solutions to refugees’ and protection-seekers’ labour market integration challenges, with a specific focus on skills and qualifications.
The research activity within the EGSM is carried out by the International and European Forum on Migration Research (FIERI). FIERI is the research institute on migration, mobility and integration that is currently finalizing the drafting of the Labour-Int 2 reports, namely “Testing the EU skills profile tool for TCNs” and “Mapping ICT tools for TCNs integration”.
The reports will be shared and discussed during the second meeting of the EGSM, that will take place online on the 19 November 2020. The meeting will also provide the opportunity to further link digitalization and integration practices, reflecting on possible ways of transferring and using innovative ICT-based tools to facilitate the integration of refugees into the labour market.
Should you wish to know more about the outcomes of the roundtable discussion or to learn the latest progress in the framework of the EGSM work, do not hesitate to contact CEEP Project Manager, Carlotta Astori or CEEP Project Officer Ștefan Enică.
On 12 October 2020, the European Committee of the Regions published the first edition of the “The EU Annual Regional and Local Barometer”, which looks at the situation of local and regional authorities in Europe. From now on, the report will be published annually and describes developments in global trends and their implications for EU policies at regional and local level for the coming year.
This year’s edition focuses on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. EU regional and local authorities have been on the frontline in tackling the health crisis and keeping people safe. The report shows how they are also key to the economic recovery. It highlights the impact on the most vulnerable in our communities and presents new public opinion data on these issues, polled less than a month before publication.
Considering the link between local and regional authorities and providers of SGIs, CEEP will monitor the follow-up initiatives which might stem from this report. You can consult the Annual Regional and Local Barometer here, and some key messages here below.
Pandemic as a crisis for the health sector
The rapid spread of the coronavirus initially triggered a public health crisis across the EU, with local and regional authorities immediately having to draw up emergency plans to deal with the pandemic and protect citizens. The pandemic has affected regions to varying degrees. According to the report, this could be partly explained by differences in the health systems’ capacity, the proportion of elderly people in the population and other regional factors such as poverty, urbanisation and air pollution. Another factor was that the virus reached countries and regions at different times.
Evaluation of the Guidance on Public Procurement
The Guidance on Public Procurement that was published by the Commission on 1 April summarised the flexibilities available under the Directives on Public Procurement. As regards the flexibility in public procurement legislation, the respondents of a survey indicate that they were well aware (85%) of this already before the Commission issued its guidance on flexible public procurement under the COVID-19 crisis. A majority (65%) have also used these flexibilities and indicate that to their knowledge these flexibilities were used both at national level (55%) and regional level (60%). An overwhelming majority stressed that the current crisis showed that simplification is feasible, and that it should therefore be implemented.
Evaluation of the Temporary Framework on State Aid as an answer to the pandemic
Turning to state aid, a vast majority of the respondents were aware of the Temporary Framework (85%) and 75% had themselves implemented measures under the Temporary Framework. The most common measure was aid in the form of direct grants (55%), followed by aid in the form of guarantees and loans channelled through credit institutions (35%). In general, the respondents had a favourable view of the Temporary Framework, with 75% agreeing, or strongly agreeing, that the Temporary Framework facilitated an appropriate response to the challenges posed by covid-19. The majority took the view that the Temporary Framework enabled the Member States to offer support measures at short notice and without complications to companies that had experienced liquidity bottlenecks and payment difficulties because of the pandemic.
The impact of the pandemic on the economy and employment
As a result of the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, over 90 percent of local and regional authorities within the EU expect a sharp drop in their revenues. On the other hand, the pandemic has also brought about positive developments to a lesser extent. For example, the information and communication sector has grown steadily since the beginning of the crisis and more attention is now being paid to broadband development. In addition, there has been an increase in the acceptance of new forms of work and the provision of online services for interaction between citizens, authorities, and companies.
Acceptability of EU measures at regional and local level
A survey found that EU citizens trusted local and regional authorities (52%) more than the EU (47%) and their national governments (43%) to mitigate the effects of the crisis. Most respondents feel that the influence of local authorities on policy decisions at EU level is too limited. At the same time, more than half of respondents call for the EU to be given greater powers to deal with crises. In future, policy measures should therefore be better coordinated between all levels of government and the regional and local level should be more involved.
The impact on the environment
The pandemic had a positive but temporary effect on air quality within the EU. Whilst the effect was clearly measurable in conurbations, it was significantly lower in rural areas. However, the interaction between the coronavirus, the climate and the environment are very complex and multi-dimensional: For example, there are indications of higher infection rates in areas with higher air pollution.
Concluding recommendations and proposals
Capacities of health and emergency systems in all regions of Europe will be enhanced to better respond to future crises. Financial resources for reconstruction and recovery should be distributed amongst regions according to the intensity of the crisis impact. In addition, the local and regional level should be more closely involved in the design and management of reconstruction and resilience plans, which is currently insufficiently done. A priority should also be to support small and medium-sized enterprises and the cultural sector, which have been particularly weakened by the pandemic. Despite the coronavirus crisis, the implementation of the European Green Deal and the generally desired structural change should not be jeopardised. Furthermore, the partnership and multi-level governance principle in cohesion policy is to be maintained in any case and the internal market strengthened. Finally, the Committee calls to secure the financial position and investment capacity of local and regional authorities in the future and to strengthen democracy both inside and outside the EU.