Since the COVID-19 crisis started to take over in Europe, bringing the economy and social life to a near standstill, the worries that the EU Green Deal and its related climate policies will increasingly become less important in the EU recovery plan are becoming more visible. CEEP calls out to EU institutions and Member States to continue the efforts to reach an EU wide climate neutrality by 2050 and to make the EU Green Deal the backbone of this recovery plan.
The COVID-19 crisis has not eradicated the challenges of climate change and further action must be made. For this reason, CEEP supports the recent call by 17 EU Climate and Environment Ministers to place the EU Green Deal at the heart of the EU’s recovery plan and the recent adopted Joint Resolution by the European Parliament on the COVID-19 Recovery plan making the EU Green Deal an essential part of it. However, with great concern CEEP sees some trying to use this crisis as an excuse to delay and hinder the necessary needed climate policies. The top priority of the EU Green Deal must not be overshadowed by this crisis and the momentum must be maintained to keep up the work to transform our economy, society and environment for a more resilient and sustainable future.
CEEP will continue to answer to the challenges of this challenging time both economically and environmentally. In particular, what matters the most is to continue the work on the right climate instruments and how to achieve our agreed objectives for energy efficiency, renewable energy as well as in the building and the transport sector. Concretely, the right investments and driving the funds in the Sustainable European Investment Plan, Taxonomy and the Just Transition Fund will be crucial to achieve our objectives for 2030 and beyond. However, as long as there is no final agreement on the Multi Financial Framework, it will be vital to ensure the discussion around the long-term sustainable development strategies is kept alive.
It is during moments of crisis like this that we cannot lose track of how important it is to work on a sustainable path that will serve our environment and the economy in the long term. At this point, it is important to highlight that Europe does not have to choose between the two. CEEP believes that the next steps should be to make use of this crisis and take a new chance to recreate the European economic development by pairing a recovery of the economy with strong climate and energy objectives across all sectors.
Europe can emerge stronger and more sustainable by taking the objectives of the new Circular Economy Action Plan as the main source for rebuilding the economy. SGIs and public services understand that the rules of our economy and our society will have to be re-defined and the importance of finding solutions that will protect the public wellbeing, our environment and the socioeconomic aspects will become more important than ever. The goal should be a sustainable recovery that is creating new jobs and prospects whilst enhancing the necessary climate action for more resilience. Only then will Europe truly recover the economy for all from this COVID-19 crisis.
The EU must play a fundamental role in coordinating the macro-economic response to the COVID-19 crisis, relying on a well-designed Multi-Financial Framework (MFF) allowing the materialisation of a fully-fledged unprecedented investment plan, as well as a dedicated Recovery Fund and related tools.
EU leaders gave to the Presidents of the European Council and of the European Commission the vital task to work on a Roadmap to recovery. CEEP believes that the EU must play a fundamental role in coordinating and guiding macroeconomic policy, stimulating the use of fiscal space and enhancing the necessary investments to tackle our main challenges whilst boosting economic growth across our Union – which has been considerably subdued even before the pandemic.
In times of crisis and uncertainness at Member State level, in businesses, in health and elderly-care, and other SGIs, and at the level of citizens, the EU should spread confidence in the economic and political future of the European Union. It is – as a result of the insights of the psychologic economy – widely accepted that psychological factors have an enormous influence on politics and markets. The creation of confidence as a mobilising element should accompany any recovery measure.
In order to do so, the EU must put forward a well-designed Multi Financial Framework (MFF) which will allow the materialisation of a fully-fledged unprecedented investment plan. The success of this initiative is paramount and must reinforce our engagement with the promotion of social fairness and environmental sustainability. Properly investing in schools, hospitals and digital infrastructure – in some Member States also energy, water and waste infrastructure – is indispensable, not only to ensure resilience against eventual shocks – as it has been demonstrated by the present crisis – but also for economic prosperity in the long-term.
The main tool for the recovery should be a revamped MFF 2021-2027, adapted to the challenge of the COVID-19 crisis, and relying on:
- A genuine rethinking of cohesion policy: Cohesion policy must help regions, and additional simplification and more flexibility is needed, whilst ensuring the funds are now directed more towards social infrastructures (healthcare in particular).
- A focus on the agreed priorities: the MFF must be fit for the future challenges, such as developing the right mitigation and adaptation strategies in the fight against climate change and the fast digitalisation development of our economy and society.
- New approaches to address the immediate priorities: temporarily lifting the maximum budget cap in the MFF could give the Commission extra capacity to borrow on financial markets to help underwrite spending and investments over the first three years of the MFF.
Additional tools, such as a Recovery Fund, should help the EU in setting up an effective set of measures oriented to future-proof and sustainable investment. This approach is the only way to allow a genuine capacity of sharing the burden of the crisis, via either “Recovery bonds” or “European Health Bonds”, with a clear and defined common objective and subject to jointly-agreed guidelines.
Finally, counter-cyclical investment will be the key element to build resilience and re-instate growth, in consonance with promoting climate neutrality and enhancing social fairness. Investment in research and innovation, as well as in social infrastructure must be a priority. The EU’s ability to boost and coordinate these investments will largely define our competitiveness and leadership in the post-crisis world.
You can consult the full CEEP Paper “The Path to Recovery: a Strong MFF and an Unprecedented Investment Plan” here.
The COVID-19 outbreak has already provoked multiple economic impacts for European countries, and its future developments – both in terms of timing and intensity – are hardly anticipable. The institutional responses against the virus and its effects are being designed and/or amended on a daily basis, across different levels of governance, and are largely affected by a fast-changing and unpredictable reality.
As consumption, private investment and international exchanges of goods and services are already highly compromised, governments must play a strategic role, which should consist in:
- Guaranteeing the necessary provisions to contain the spread of the virus and providing effective healthcare infrastructures, including the provisioning of sufficient medical and care capacities, the stocking of medical, sanitary and hygienic material, the acquisition of reliable data concerning infection rates etc allowing reliable forecasts and a well-functioning co-operation between the health care sector, virologic institutes and governments.
- Protecting economic structures in order to avoid their collapse and, in the near future, foment their full rehabilitation and the consequent re-establishment of growth.
Whilst the economic and social impact of the COVID-19 outbreak remains difficult to precisely estimate, we urgently need measures aimed at protecting economic structures in order to avoid their collapse and, in the near future, enable their full rehabilitation and the consequent re-establishment of growth.
In its paper, CEEP argues in support of an immediate economic response and dedicated instruments, highlighting the institutional constraints that must be tackled in order to build an efficient and unified approach at the EU level, and focusing on the following:
- The European Stability Mechanism: The use of the ESM to face symmetric shocks can only be effective if its provisions are adapted to the specific challenge, including in this case a long duration and a commitment by Member States to full transparency.
- The European Instrument for Temporary Support to Mitigate Unemployment Risks in an Emergency (SURE): SURE funding must effectively be dedicated to measures protecting employees and self-employed against the risk of unemployment and loss of income, and should therefore be transparent and monitored in the context of the European Semester, in cooperation with the social partners.
- The Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative and the suspension of the SGP: It is essential that these new resources properly address the urgent needs of the actors fighting the COVID-19 outbreak and CEEP welcomes the commitment of the EU institutions to a fast track approach for adoption and implementation. Beyond the immediate emergency, the challenge ahead lies in dealing more constructively with fiscal consolidation whilst keeping debt levels at sustainable levels.
- The role of the European Central Bank: The ECB is providing a comprehensive financial protection shield for Europe and the Euro area in this sense. However, the ECB cannot act alone and there is an urgent need for an EU fiscal policy and a solidarity between Member States to further materialise in order to properly tackle this crisis.
You can consult the full CEEP Paper “The Design of an Efficient and Unified Economic Response” here.
The crisis triggered by the COVID-19 outbreak is expected to be amongst the most violent ever, with social consequences aggravated by its very health-based nature. This outbreak has also clearly highlighted how crucial the provision of public services and SGIs, such as healthcare, water, energy, waste management, telecommunications, education and transport, is to the well-being of citizens and the economic resilience of the EU.
The costs of crisis management are now growing exponentially, implying that any delay in the provision of the necessary funds on the ground will create even further expenses in the future. Short and long-term answers are intrinsically intertwined, and the EU must promptly mobilize every effort in order to prevent a domino effect from setting in and affecting an even larger range of economic activities.
CEEP highlights the need for emergency planning to ensure the continuity of public services and SGIs, addressing both the challenges related to the supply and the demand sides of the provision of services. Many issues are currently faced by our members on the ground across Europe.
Whilst most SGIs have indeed been working properly throughout the crisis up to now, many are dealing with several constraints that must immediately be addressed in order to ensure their continuity. On the one hand, the supply-side shortages are the consequences of the international supply chains disturbances underway, which will produce multiple impacts on SGIs provision due to the global economy we are all living in. Supply-side shortages such as, amongst others, the overall issues linked to the management and protection of workers, are now threatening the proper operationalization of SGI activities.
On the other hand, users have shifted their consumption habits. Those demand-related shifts are asymmetrical amidst SGIs, with some sectors facing a sharp increase in their usage and others an unprecedented drop. Those disruptions will soon exercise strong pressure – both in nominal and real terms – on indispensable resources to keep those activities running.
The coordination at EU level must be ensured and an appropriate framework put forward. Important steps have already been taken by the European Commission. Nevertheless, some aspects have not been integrated yet into the EU emergency response:
- A level-playing field on State aid: it is necessary to clarify that all public undertakings may also be subject to Article 107 TFEU in the case of financial problems.
- Addressees of State aid in the crisis: one of the main challenges for SGIs is to maintain financial management, with the support of the banks. An additional support on the preparation of a recovery plan is necessary in the form of aid to enterprises, to ensure that advance payments are recoverable over a long period.
- Supporting Public Services SMEs: The COVID-19 outbreak is affecting small and medium sized public services enterprises, calling for special support based on a general problem of SMEs in such times of crisis, independently of the ownership structure.
You can consult the full CEEP Paper “Contribution to sharpening Emergency Measures” here.
The COVID-19 outbreak, and the response to safeguard public health by limiting social life, has been one of the most violent shocks of the EU history. Century-defining, the current crisis has already provoked multiple impacts for European societies, and its future developments are unexpected and impossible to foresee.
The spread of the virus across Europe has caused tens of thousands of deaths, and many still fighting in ICU. Hundreds of millions of Europeans are currently in lockdown. The economy is in slowdown, and the impact is expected to be as violent as the Great Depression or the 2008 Financial Crisis.
SGI employers and providers at the heart of the crisis
In a context where the threat is economic, social and health-driven, the provision of services of general interest (SGIs) is even more crucial to the well-being of citizens, businesses and the overall economic resilience of the EU. Services such as healthcare, water, energy, waste management, telecommunications, education and transport must remain fully operational, regardless of the challenges faced.
SGI employers must ensure that a sufficient number of workers is available to maintain operations. Additional measures to protect health and safety also have to be put forward, requiring further management efforts and financial costs.
Many SGIs also face significant changes in their usage. Some sectors, such as healthcare, are faced with a sharp upward turn in demand. Managing the life-threatening emergencies, many healthcare structures already anticipate medium-term financial difficulties due to the cancellation of most of the services which constitute a significant source of income. Telecommunication services are also increasing in demand and have been mobilizing great efforts to ensure their stability and quality. On the other hand, the transport sector, and more specifically public transport, had to continue operations and run with adapted services, such as limiting the number of users per vehicle, inducing additional costs and limited incomes.
Crisis-motivated disruptions, such as the difficulties to access supplies or the sudden drop of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) price, exercise strong pressure on resources to keep activities running. Price fluctuations must be closely monitored, and no efforts should be spared to guarantee that they remain at sustainable levels, for the preservation of high-quality efficient SGIs.
A call for actions at EU level
After the outbreak of the crisis, EU institutions quickly acted to allow a genuine response to the challenges. The temporary suspension of the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP), the adoption of the European instrument for temporary support to mitigate unemployment risks in an emergency (SURE), the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative, as well as the temporary framework for State aid, should help to partly absorb the shock. Building up on this initial response, Member States should now step up to support economic actors, including employers and providers of SGIs.
To support this call for specific support to frontline actors, CEEP has reached out to SGI organisations active at EU level to set up a dedicated ‘SGIs facing COVID-19’ platform. Featuring practices collected all over the EU, this platform, as well as the network of associations supporting it, will highlight to institutions the impacts of the crisis on the ground, and serve to contribute to a coordinated exit strategy and a comprehensive recovery plan.
The way forward
Going beyond the immediate emergency, EU institutions and Member States have rightly engaged in talks aimed at fostering the recovery on the medium-term. This recovery must rely on 2 main pillars:
- The EU must put forward a well-designed multiannual financial framework (MFF), relying on a strong Cohesion Policy to help regions most severely hit, on an effective Digital agenda and on a sustainable growth agenda based on the ambition to make Europe the first climate neutral continent by 2050, as well as on the setting-up of an investment strategy,
- A New Dedicated Recovery Fund and an Investment-led Recovery Plan based on joint instruments, such as Recovery Bonds that would allow for a genuine capacity of sharing the burden of the crisis without implying mutualization of existing debts.
The COVID-19 outbreak calls for genuine EU cooperation to overcome its social and economic consequences across the continent. EU institutions, Member States, social partners and the civil society should come together to provide answers to this challenge and bring answers to the expectation of the citizens.
This April 2020 Newsletter intends to bring forward our key messages to address this crisis. I hope they will inspire you, and that we will be able, together, to come out of the crisis stronger.
Over the last weeks, the colleagues from FIERI, the International and European Forum on Migration Research, working with CEEP in LABOUR INT 2’s Expert Group on Skills and Migration (EGSM) published several articles on the European Web Site on Integration (EWSI). The website, launched by the European Commission to share good practices on migrants integration, and to support national, regional and local authorities and civil society organisations in their efforts to integrate third-country nationals through mutual learning activities and through funding, is today focusing on the way the pandemic has been affecting the migrant communities across the EU.
One crucial part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic is to make sure that all members of society have the information they need to stay healthy and follow quarantine guidelines, the Commission is setting up a migrant community outreach strategy. To ensure that migrants are not overlooked in the response, civil society organisations have been busy translating and communicating vital information to their communities. Authorities have also made an effort to communicate critical information in multiple languages.
At our level, FIERI’s Director, Ferruccio Pastore, recently published the following articles to reply to some of the questions that emerge when reflecting about how to implement social distancing rules and guidelines within some of the most vulnerable communities in the society:
- Migrant integration and marginalisation in times of lockdown: some reflections from Italy
- Overcrowded reception centres and informal settlements make migrants vulnerable to COVID-19
- Italy – Associations and authorities providing COVID-19 information in different languages
- Migrants in Italian town translate ministerial guidelines on COVID-19
Should you wish to get more information on COVID-19 and migration, do not hesitate to contact CEEP Project Manager, Carlotta Astori.
The spread of the corona virus has meanwhile paralysed all public events and social life across Europe and the world. The effects of this virus have far reaching consequences, creating difficult challenges to our physical and mental health, work and environment.
On top of this, there is currently the fear that due to the pandemic outbreak the political will to tighten the EU’s carbon market in the future will be weakened. The carbon prices in the EU’s Emission Trading System (ETS) is drastically falling by more than 40% over the last month. This is due to a decline in the electricity demand and the shutting down of factories across Europe. Additionally the industry is selling off excess permits in order to ensure a financial back-up to the upcoming economic crisis. The ETS has previously suffered from a major price fall during the 2008 financial crisis that undermined the ETS for another decade. The problem this time is, there are no indicators of when this COVID-19 crisis will slow down or even stop, making it difficult to start the recovery of the economy. The last update of the price of an emission permit was by 14.74 EUR on 23 March falling down from a previous price of 25.50 EUR on 21 February. (Please find here a website that is following and recording the prices of ETS) According to this data platform, the prices will continue to fall but it is unlikely we will see single digits for the emission permits.
After the shock of the financial crisis and when the economy had mostly recovered from it, EU policy makers agreed on several reforms to bring the ETS back to life again, including an introduction of the Market Stability Reserve (MRS) that ramped up the price to almost up to 30 EUR a ton. With the MRS in place, there is hope that it will be easier to deal with the corona virus crisis. Also the EU Green Deal leads to the hope that with the goal to become carbon neutral by 2050 will eventually push ETS prices back up, as environmental requirements will become more stringent in the future. According to the draft Climate Law Regulation, the European Commission is required to come forward with proposals by June 2021 to amend EU climate and energy regulation such as the ETS and national emission targets, in line with a higher 2030 goal. The MSR might also be reviewed.
CEEP stressed, in its response to the roadmap on the Climate Law Regulation, that the ETS is an important tool to provide a robust EU-wide price signal for investment in low-carbon technologies and to ensure the cost-efficient decarbonisation of the EU economy. We promoted for stronger carbon price signals that are meaningful and predictable to spur sustainable investments. Additionally, to increase the emission reductions, all sectors including the building and transport sectors have to tackle their emissions and should be included in the ETS, yet the impacts of this development must still be very carefully analysed.
However, with the economic crisis caused by the corona virus many countries in Europe will start to questions whether it is sensible to continue this expensive strategy to reduce our emissions. Indeed, if many Member States have economic struggles, the willingness to raise the ambitions and to impose higher carbon prices to reduce our emissions will be at stake.
Since the very beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, CEEP has been actively in contact with its members all across Europe in order to obtain feedback, understand the particular as well as the overall challenges that public services and SGI providers have been facing lately.
Our diversity, on the one hand, gives us the unique ability to have a very broad and complete perspective when it comes to the impact of the current crisis. On the other hand, the essentiality of our services unites us, since the vast majority of our membership is still efficiently providing services, even amidst a continental lockdown. CEEP members are now on the front line, not only in fighting the virus itself – which is notably the case of healthcare providers –, but in keeping our economy running, as they run the few essential activities that are still operating at full-capacity, such as water and energy supplies or waste management.
When it comes to the multiple economic impacts of this pandemic, it is still quite difficult to foresee their magnitude, as well as to predict how long they will last. This uncertainty has been one of the crucial difficulties brought up by CEEP members, since, without a minimally reliable economic outlook, it becomes quite hard for service providers to determine their levels of activity, cash flows, additional costs, as well as the extent of debt increase they will have to incur and eventually have to deal with.
Even amongst this blurry scenario – which is also subject to particular fast-changing conditions – it is possible to identify some of the main bottlenecks for public services’ suppliers that must be timely and efficiently addressed.
Given disruptions in international supply chains, many providers are suffering with shortages of the necessary factors to continue the delivery of their services. Those shortages range from their day-to-day supplies to those that correspond to the new crisis-oriented hygienical requirements. Furthermore, and most importantly, increasing labour shortages are imposing a serious constraint on the supply side.
Crisis-management – from the local to the EU level – must concretely consider those cases of vital public services and SGIs as a priority, not only when it comes to the eventual provision of financial support, but also operationally speaking. Guaranteeing those providers all the fundamental tools to delivery their services is indispensable to overcome this outbreak.
Additionally, demand-driven constraints – which are in close interaction with the supply dynamics – are also a major concern for CEEP members. It is evident that the healthcare system is the one facing the most dramatic demand shifts amongst public services’ providers and they must be given specific assistance. Unfortunately, despite their unequivocal priority, they are not the only ones struggling and requiring tailored support.
Policy makers must address those who are dealing with major demand fluctuations, such as the telecommunication sector (without which every economic activity is highly compromised) that is facing an unprecedented rise in demand, or the transport sector, which is, on the contrary, greatly suffering from a dramatic demand downfall.
CEEP strongly believes that the EU must play a central role when it comes to coordinating economic policy and orchestrating a united approach in order to harmoniously re-stabilize our social market economy and, hopefully, in the near future, restore growth and resilience.
On behalf of CEEP, I would first like to convey our sympathies to the families of those who have already lost loved ones to COVID-19, and our gratitude to those showing exceptional courage and resilience, both to treat the sick, and to maintain the vital goods and services upon which we all depend. Services of general interest are indeed at the forefront of this challenge, and our members are the first respondents to mitigate the public health impacts of the crisis, and to provide essential services to citizens in lockdown across Europe.
As a cross sectoral social partner and as representative at EU level of those SGI providers, CEEP is closely following the developments of the dramatic emergency of the COVID-19 epidemic across Europe and is at the forefront, with its constituents in Member States, of the design and implementation of the extraordinary measures needed to help citizens, enterprises and workers in facing this emergency.
We are also influencing the debate on the measures necessary to get back to a normal functioning of our societies and economies and to a sustainable growth. In that respect, we commend the joint statement of the Members of the European Council from 26 March, calling for a “coordinated exit strategy”, a “comprehensive recovery plan” and “unprecedented investment”. We also believe, as the heads of state and government declared yesterday, that “we must draw lessons from the present crisis and start reflecting on the resilience of societies when confronted with such events”, and that it is “time to put into place a more ambitious and wide-ranging crisis management system within the EU”.
In a nutshell, we are facing the historical opportunity to show unity and solidarity and to speed up the construction of the European project: we are honoured to be able to take part into that process and we will do our utmost best to bring the proactive contribution of SGI providers and employers to it. We decided not to do this alone: this unprecedented crisis needs new alliances and that is why we launched the new platform “Services of General Interest facing COVID-19”, which intends to highlight examples, practices and messages of the partner associations from across sectors and Europe. The challenges faced by members of like-minded organisations are indeed similar, and the role of SGI providers in defeating COVID-19 and mitigating the societal fallouts will be of prime importance.
We will also do it with the other EU cross-sectoral social partners – ETUC, BusinessEurope, SMEunited. CEEP already issued a joint statement on the COVID-19 emergency both for the meeting of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council on 16 March, and in view of the Council meeting of 26 March.
As always in times of crisis, CEEP and its members, together with allies at EU level, remains on the front line for the benefit of citizens, and we intend to highlight this contribution at the highest level.
What is the EU Skills Profile Tool?
The EU Skills Profile Tool for Third Country Nationals was developed by the European Commission to support early identification of the skills of asylum seekers, refugees and other third country nationals in order to facilitate their integration into the labour market and wider society. It is intended for use by any organisation or service that might be offering assistance to third country nationals and aims to get to know individuals, their skills and experiences and provide recommendations on next steps.
The Skills Profile Tool is a free of charge online questionnaire that a migrant can fill in together with an adviser or volunteer. It’s available in all EU-languages as well as Arabic, Farsi, Pashto, Sorani, Somali, Tigrinya and Turkish; two languages are displayed on screen at the same time to make it easier for people who have limited command of the EU language you use. The Tool has existed since 2017 and the European Commission has recently improved it based on user feedback, to make it more flexible and easier to use.
What are the recent improvements to the Tool?
- Organisations are now able to create their own tailor-made questionnaire, by hiding certain parts, via the configuration button/function.
- Organisations can easily merge profiles of refugees they have been supporting locally, by downloading and editing profiles in Excel format.
- Organisations can make fundamental changes or build entirely new tools using the Open Source Code (the Open Source code is here).
Where can I find more information about the Tool:
- Two one-page leaflets (available here and here) give an at-a-glance overview of the Tool: a general information leaflet; and a more technical leaflet on how the functionalities of the Tool can be combined with other systems.
- A brochure here with background information on the Tool is available in eight languages (English, Italian, Spanish, Greek, French, German, Arabic, and Farsi).
- A three-minute video here shows how some organisations are using the Tool. A shorter version for distribution in social media channels can be found here.
- You can access the Tool itself and a user manual, which explains the key features step-by-step via http://ec.europa.eu/migrantskills.
The Tool is entirely free of cost and has been developed as part of the Commission’s public service mission.