Ahead of the hearings of the European Commissioners proposed by President-elect Ursula von der Leyen, CEEP recently circulated its questions on gender equality to MEPs, with a focus on the Women on Boards Directive. The questions were addressed to the hearings of Ms Helena Dalli, proposed for the ‘Equality’ portfolio, and building up on the proposal of President-elect Ursula von der Leyen to emphasis in particular the importance of working in cooperation with the Member States to unblock the Directive.
The discussion on the persistent inequality in this area, and the need to reinforce the women and men balance in leadership is backed up by EIGE’s unique data collection on women and men in decision-making, that has recently expanded beyond the EU and now covers the EU candidate countries and potential candidates: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey.
EIGE recent ‘Data Talks’ shows how close the EU candidate countries and potential candidates are to reaching gender-balance in decision-making. You can also see the situation in different areas and compare the performance with the EU average. EIGE’s data collection is available through its Gender Statistics Database. Data are updated quarterly for political decision-making at European and national level, biannually for largest listed companies and annually for most other topics.
Data collection from the EU candidate countries and potential candidates is part of EIGE’s project to support their efforts to monitor and foster gender equality in the region and is funded by the Directorate-General for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations of the European Commission under its Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) programme.
*This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence.
Through its two rulings on 24 September, the European Court of Justice (CJEU) gave differentiated signals on its interpretation of EU regulation on State Aid and Taxation around two decisions by which the European Commission invalidated so-called “tax rulings”.
Whilst confirming the Commission’s tough position in the case of a tax ruling granted to Fiat Chrysler by Luxembourg, the Court rejected the Commission’s position regarding another similar ruling to Starbucks by the Netherlands. These steps shed light on the compatibility of a fair taxation policy, respectful of Competition policy in general and State Aid regulation in particular. It also provides useful guidance on the distribution of tasks between EU and Member States’ levels.
Going beyond this issue, this development and decision of the CJEU also shows the debate’s progress. A fair and effective taxation system, ensuring that everybody contributes their due share, is amongst European citizens’ increasingly important expectations. As such, and on top of the files linked with the EU Competition policy on State Aid, European Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen put a specific emphasis on the need for a “Fair and Effective Taxation” in the portfolio of Mr Gentiloni, Commissioner-designate for Economy.
One of the focuses on the future European Commission will be to “ensure that tax policies are fair, fit for the digital economy and make it easier for businesses and people to work across borders”, calling for the adaptation of the “tax systems to a changing labour market and new and emerging business models”. These over-arching priorities should be translated into proposals for an international and agreed approach on digital taxation, the review of the Energy Taxation Directive, as well as the proposal of a Carbon Border Tax. It will also involve progress in the fight against tax fraud, tax evasion and tax avoidance, as well as the development of measures to combat harmful tax regimes around the world.
CEEP wholeheartedly supports Commissioner Vestager’s exhaustive approach, aiming at investigating and addressing the issue of “aggressive tax measures” by combining “legislative changes, [enforcement of] State aid rules and a change in corporate philosophies”, and will keep monitoring the developments by the new European Commission on this issue in the coming months.
This week, the United Nations organised its 2019 Climate Summit in New York, gathering leaders from government, business and civil society to discuss and deliver pathways and practical actions to shift global response in the face of worsening climate crisis – highlighted in the most Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report “The Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate, which further emphasise the risks and dangers of climate change for the planet.
Beyond the pressing necessity to act quickly and to address climate change, the conclusions of the UN “Climate Action Summit 2019” and the from the “TTE Council” (Transport, Telecommunications and Energy, held on 24 September) both converge: many non-state actors play an increasingly central part in fighting climate change and taking on board this struggle wherever and whenever governments do not. States and countries might therefore no longer be the central actors in tackling climate change.
This by no means implies that state authorities could or should find themselves at the margins of this “cross-border struggle par excellence”. In that sense, CEEP welcomes the progressing implementation of the Energy Union, e.g. through debates in the Council concerning the National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs). But their action now complements that of the society at large.
As such, public services and services of general interest belong to the key stakeholders in tackling climate change. This has been CEEP’s conviction since long, as our members in key sectors such as energy, public transport, social housing or waste management have a concrete and direct influence on the fight against climate change. Those messages were clearly stated in our opinion “A Sustainable Climate Strategy for Europe: Acting Now! – Statement on Climate “For Sibiu and Beyond”, adopted by our General Assembly in June. Our key messages are the following ones:
- Global warming is a major risk and climate policies must be developed as part of a sustainable approach.
- A prerequisite for success is the social acceptability of these policies, which requires greater equity and democracy, particularly at the local level.
- CEEP members manage essential infrastructure and provide SGIs that contribute to well-being and competitiveness; their proximity to economic actors makes them key players in climate policies.
- The EU Strategic Agenda 2019-2024 needs to recognise that role and put “enablers” of sustainable climate policies at its centre.
CEEP will now engage with the Commissioners-designate for the future von der Leyen’s European Commission who will address climate change, such as Frans Timmermans (Executive Vice-President in charge of the EU Green Deal), Valdis Dombrovskis (Executive Vice-President in charge of an Economy that Works for the People, and who will develop a “green financing strategy”), Kadri Simson (Commissioner for Energy), as well as Rovana Plumb (proposed Commissioner for Transport), and continue to highlight the key role of our members in that process, both addressing its adaptation and mitigation aspects.
On 27 September, the European Commission organised, in close cooperation with the European Economic and Social Committee, a high-level conference to discuss the main findings of the 2019 Employment and Social Developments in Europe (ESDE) review.
The European Commission develops in this report that the transition to a sustainable Europe with a circular, low-carbon economy has positive effects on growth, employment and well-being, including net job gains of up to 2 million jobs by 2050. The Commission however asserts that the transition is not inclusive by default. It should lead to fundamental changes in production patterns, consumption behaviour and skills needs, and it will require an important reallocation of labour across sectors and regions. It could also aggravate energy poverty.
In the ESDE, the EU Commission renews its commitment to implement the EU 2020 strategy and the Sustainable Development Agenda guided by the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs). The ESDE report points out to several important points for CEEP to consider, including that, today, almost one household out of ten in the EU cannot afford to keep their house adequately warm or pay on time their utility bill. This affects both low-income and middle-income households, notably when energy costs increase faster than total disposable household income. Access to quality services is a major factor in granting citizens access to the labour market and ensuring their well-being. The ESDE consecrates this idea after repeated calls from CEEP to properly implement the principle 20 of the European Pillar of Social Rights on the access to essential services which concerns many important sectors within CEEP’s membership including water, energy, housing, transport and energy. The Commission points out several instruments to foster an enabling framework of policies and programmes in support of a just transition to an environmentally sustainable and climate neutral economy. In particular:
- the InvestEU programme which provides an EU Budget guarantee to support investment and access to finance in the EU for sustainable infrastructure, research, innovation and digitalization, SMEs, social investments and skills.
- The European Structural and investment funds, notably the ESF, which offers financial support to meet investment needs for reskilling and retraining and transition support.
- The modernisation fund of the EU emission Trading system which promotes just transition in carbon-dependent regions in the beneficiary Member States.
- The involvement of social partners in the design and implementation of these policies.
- The Pillar of Social Rights and its principle on access to essential services.
The new European Commission, and in particular Nicolas Schmit, proposed as Commissioner for Jobs by European Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen, will take up this issue, and CEEP will keep on pushing for the proper implementation of the Principle 20 of the European Pillar of Social Rights to the new EU leadership, in line with the recommendations of the ESDE.
The announcement, on 10 September, of the composition and of the structure of the European Commission by President-elect Ursula von der Leyen has triggered many activities, both for the other EU institutions and for CEEP.
Gender-balanced for the first time, and building up on the evolution proposed by Jean-Claude Juncker in 2014, the proposed College of Commissioners includes further novelties in the structure. The most notable change is the creation of 3 “Executive Vice-President” positions who will both coordinate actions on a policy priority and act as Commissioners (Frans Timmermans “for the European Green Deal” and Climate Change, Margrethe Vestager “for a Europe Fit for Digital Age” and Competition, and Valdis Dombrovskis “for An Economy that Works for the People” and Financial Services). Moreover, five additional Vice-Presidents (for “A Stronger Europe in the World”, for “Interinstitutional Relations and Foresight”, for “Values and Transparency”, for “Democracy and Demography” and for “Protecting our European Way of Life”) will fulfil coordinating missions, with all those over-arching priorities reflecting the Political Guidelines presented by President-elect Ursula von der Leyen at the European Parliament on 2 July.
Starting next Monday (on 30 September), the 25 proposed Commissioners will be grilled by MEPs. Each of them will therefore face the EP committees relevant for their future fields of expertise and will aim to demonstrate that they are fit for job. In 2014, those hearings had led to the replacement of Alenka Bratušek, rejected by the MEPs, by Violeta Bulc, as well as an amendment of the portfolio of Tibor Navracsics (proposed as Commissioner for Education, Culture and Citizenship, and eventually landing the portfolio for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport).
Building up on the contributions of our members, CEEP has engaged with MEPs in order to place our issues and questions into those hearings, preparing a set of more than 60 questions addressed to 17 proposed Commissioners. Following those hearings, a vote of the plenary of the European Parliament is expected on 23 October, confirming that the College of Commissioners presided over by Ursula von der Leyen will be ready to take office on 1 November.
Whilst the new EU landscape is taking a definitive shape, CEEP has also been engaging with the European Parliament, in order to renew the Intergroup on Public Services and SGIs. Together with the bureau of the Intergroup, we intend to make it an open and pluralist platform. Public services and SGIs can only be discussed with a transversal perspective by this Intergroup, which is the only body within the EU institutions specifically dedicated to addressing, at a transversal level, services of general interest. This goal should remain central in the new term, with an increasingly broader support amongst all political groups.
Finally, preparations for the Public Services Summit 2019, to be held on 12 December in Brussels, are now underway. This event will bring together high-level EU institutional leaders, representatives of EU associations, CEEP members and a broad range of external stakeholders. It will aim at positioning CEEP as THE representative of public services’ employers and providers for the new EU institutional leaders, as well as placing our topics and our vision for the future of public services and SGIs in debate. More information will be circulated in the coming weeks and months, and we hope to see and meet many of you during that period.
In the meanwhile, I wish you a good read of this September newsletter.
CEEP invites you to add an important event to your agendas: the “Social services in EU cross-industry Social dialogue: towards a strong and deeper involvement” Final Dissemination Conference, organised in cooperation with UDES (Union des employeurs de l’économie sociale et solidaire, FR), UNISOC (Employers’ organisation for the Social Services of General Interest, BE) and ALAL (Association of Local Authorities in Lithuania, LT), and with the financial support of the European Commission, DG Employment. The event will be held in the European Economic and Social Committee in Brussels (Meeting Room VM3 – VMA Building – Rue Van Maerlant 2, 1000 Bruxelles) on 21 November 2019, from 9:00 to 16:00.
This conference will conclude a two-years project that CEEP initiated in November 2017, to map the social services’ providers in 6 EU Member States (Bulgaria, Cyprus, Hungary, Malta, Lithuania and Romania) and assess and enhance their involvement in the European cross-industry social dialogue. This final event will be the opportunity to have a first glance at the Final consolidated Expert Report, that will be disseminated on this occasion.
Travel and accommodation will be reimbursed. Interpretation will be available (active languages: English and French; passive languages: Bulgarian, Hungarian, Lithuanian and Romanian).
Additional information on the conference, as well as invitations, will be circulated soon after the summer break. Should you have any questions regarding the conference or the project, please contact CEEP Project Manager Carlotta Astori.
The G20 Labour and Employment Ministers’ Meeting is due to take place on 1 September 2019 in Matsuyama, Japan. Several stakeholders working groups of employers, trade unions and civil society organisations have already met and produced sets of recommendations to influence the outcomes of the ministerial meeting.
The topic of the new forms of work and gender equality are very high on the agenda with the issues of digitalisation, decarbonisation, discrimination and inequalities figuring prominently.
As a follow-up to the G20 Employment held in Argentina in February, the future G20 employment Japan will likely pursue the same line of thoughts. Amongst others, leaders of the G20 should emphasise that the future of work is likely to see changes to jobs and tasks which will bring about deep and rapid shifts in the skills requirements. It is therefore vital that G20 countries work to ensure broad access to quality skills training to address skills mismatches and skills gaps. There should be more support for workers to develop the relevant skills through re-skilling and up-skilling strategies in order to increase their employability.
The development and implementation of comprehensive skills anticipation mechanisms for better identification of future skills needs should be further encouraged. Countries should also commit to fostering international cooperation and to improving our labour market information systems to deliver internationally comparable data. The building of sound skills policies also requires a whole-of-government approach and effective social dialogue. Moreover, multi-stakeholder dialogue with employers, workers, governments, and education and training institutions in order to promote continuous information exchange and improve policy design and implementation will be essential to ensure these policies’ success.
For Gender equality: In order to prevent the widening of existing gender gaps and the creation of new ones in the Future of Work, the focus should also be on enabling women to participate equally in the digital economy, increasing the participation of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematic (STEM) related skills training and enter STEM-related occupations.
The promotion of lifelong learning policies should also be accompanied by a more equal distribution of care responsibilities between men and women. Finally the issue of making social protection more sustainable, adaptable and responsive to the new social and labour market dynamics should also be a key topic of discussions of labour ministers, recalling that strong, equitable and well-functioning social protection systems play a crucial role in fostering employment, reducing labour market insecurity and promoting social justice and inclusive growth.
Responding to a Recommendation of the European Commission of 14 May, the European Council adopted on 15 July this Directive providing the European Commission with a detailed negotiating mandate concerning the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT).
The ECT is an international agreement providing a regulatory framework to trade and investment protection in the energy field, with a total number of 55 signatory states, including the EU, Euratom and most EU Member States. It was signed in December 1994 and entered into force in April 1998. The ECT’s key provisions concern the protection of investment, trade in energy materials and products, transit and dispute settlement.
Most of the ECT provisions have not been revised since the 1990s. Whereas its initial role consisted in providing an international cooperation framework and securing energy supply, it is clear that this falls short of today’s challenges, of the pace of climate change, technological innovation or the development of international trade. Problems arose especially in the area of investment protection, which no longer matches the current standards, inter alia regarding the possibility for foreign investors to sue signatory governments at international arbitration tribunals over measures considered harmful to their business. The topics for modernisation that will be negotiated were approved in November 2018 by the Energy Charter Ministerial Conference and include investment protection, sustainable development and corporate social responsibility, regional economic integration organisation (“REIO”), pre-investment and transit.
The upcoming negotiation phase illustrates well the ambiguity of economic development. On the one side, investment protection under the future ECT can make a real contribution in tackling climate change by fostering the development of clean energy and putting pressure on the parties to maintain support for renewable energy projects. On the other side, it also presents the risk of making investments in environmentally harmful economic activities durable.
CEEP supports the EU negotiating position as defined by the Council for recognising the conditions to an effective and socially fair energy transition, for example in aiming to embed EU environment protection standards in the revised ECT (in line with European engagement in ensuring the full implementation of the Paris agreement).
Moreover, the Council’s ambition to combine high standards of investment protection and up-to-date state-investor relationships with the parties’ reaffirmed right to regulate on basis of environment protection or public health and safety is particularly welcome. This provision is very consistent with CEEP’s approach, namely that economic competitiveness should be fostered in full respect of the general (economic) interest. This negotiation process represents a first opportunity to judge the soon-to-start von der Leyen Commission by its acts and beyond its words.
Through its Communication adopted on 22 July, the European Commission delivered a helpful “Notice on the implementation of Commission decisions ordering Member States to recover unlawful and incompatible State aid”, or State Aid Recovery Notice. This technical document addresses national authorities in charge of implementing recovery measures of illegally granted State Aid ordered by the Commission, providing support on applicable rules and procedures and on cooperation between the EU and the national-level authorities in complying with their obligations in such cases.
With this new act, which replaces the previous Recovery Notice of 2007, the Commission takes stock of evolutions in practice and judiciary case law. It explains in greater detail how the Commission may assist Member States during the recovery phase, for instance by organising kick-off meetings, as well as by sharing documents and working method plans. It also provides specific guidance to national administrations i.e. on the quantification of sums to be recovered and on the identification of the companies that benefitted from the illegal State aid. Finally, it also includes specific sections with detailed explanations on how to implement recovery in case of tax reliefs, insolvency proceedings and restructuring.
This updated Notice should be considered as part of a long stocktaking and review process of European practice and legislation of competition policy over the last decade. About a year ago now, the European Commission launched several initiatives aiming at collecting grassroot feedback on the concrete impact of competition policy in general and state aid legislation in particular. This took the shape amongst other things of public consultations, to which CEEP responded, passing on its members’ experience: prolongation of the so-called SGEI De Minimis Regulation or “fitness check” of the 2012 State Aid Modernisation Package. Other similar consultations are planned in the near future, aiming at an evaluation of State subsidy rules for health and social services of general economic interest or Government Aid to regions over the 2014-2020 period.
Moreover, direct contacts by CEEP General Secretariat with EU officials already provided further opportunities to express European public services providers’ concerns and specific needs as the next generation of European political leadership has just been put in place or shall be soon.
Following the vote of the European Parliament on 16 July 2019, Ursula von der Leyen is guaranteed to become the next President of the European Commission, and the first woman to reach that position.
Pledging a gender-balanced College of Commissioners, Ms von der Leyen has now engaged with Heads of state and of government to compose her team, who will have to convince and receive the confidence of the European Parliament. If all goes as scheduled, the new European Commission is expected to enter into function on 1 November 2019, taking over from Jean-Claude Juncker and his team.
After the election of Davide Sassoli as President of the European Parliament, and before Charles Michel takes over the Presidency of the European Council on 1 December, the renewal of the leadership of EU institutions is now in full swing. Just as for most EU associations, this moment is capital for CEEP. It is indeed an important opportunity to position our agenda, our members, our questions and positions. It is now up to CEEP and its members to make the best use of this moment.
The relaunch of Public Services Employers Forum, the efforts to set up a modernised European Parliament Intergroup on Public Services and SGIs, the high-level conferences of the Finnish Presidency and the Tripartite Social Summit, will all give CEEP the opportunity to shine.
The Public Services Summit, on 12 December 2019, will be the occasion for CEEP to close this exercise. We invite you to already save the day. For its 4th edition, the PSS will aim at:
- Positioning CEEP as THE cross-sectoral representative of public services’ employers and providers;
- Placing our topics and our vision for the future of public services and SGI in the discussions, including our contribution to decarbonisation and digitalisation;
- Highlighting the outcomes of social dialogue;
- Taking stock of the EU elections, and how we could move forward and further promote the democratic values.
All the preparatory work engaged in the past few weeks and months should now bring its fruits and provide us with a valuable spot in the EU institutional landscape.
Those activities will keep both the CEEP General Secretariat and the members active, calling for proactivity and reactivity, immediately after the summer break. In the meanwhile, CEEP Newsletter and Newsflashes will take a one-month recess and will be back in September.
I wish you a good read, and a great summer!