Newsletter

At the 9th Subsidiarity Conference that took place in Rome on November 22nd, members of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) and of the Conference of European Regional Legislative Assemblies (CALRE) exchanged views on the role of local and regional level in EU decision- and policy-making. CEEP endorses a stronger voice for local and regional authorities within and towards the EU institutions in line with the subsidiarity principle, but also with the importance of carrying out public services missions in a way reflecting local needs and specificities, as provided for by Protocol 26 TFEU.

For several years already, widespread discussions have been taking place concerning the concrete shape and the impact of subsidiarity and proportionality. This debate first occurred within the “Task Force on Subsidiarity, Proportionality and Doing Less More Efficiently” and resulted in the Commission’s Communication on Subsidiarity and Proportionality. One of the discussion’s main conclusions is the recognition that regions and cities deserve a clearer say in EU policymaking. CEEP also joins the event’s organisers in stressing the need to ensure that regions and cities must have the effective capacity and the expertise to deliver their input in practical terms.

We thus clearly welcome the initiative “Input from political debates in regional parliaments” triggered by the CoR and CALRE aimed at strengthening the involvement of regional parliaments with legislative competences early on in the EU legislative process. The project may find useful synergies with the Regional Hubs project launched by the CoR in 2019, which enables 36 European regions to assess the effectiveness of a selected number of EU policies currently implemented, such as public procurement and air quality policies.

These projects, in CEEP’s eyes, also have the added value of paving the way towards more binding steps such as the “Conference on the Future of Europe” mentioned by President-elect Von der Leyen in her Political Guidelines. CEEP will closely follow and participate in this debate in the future.

In light of the past inter-institutional negotiations, CEEP has continued its efforts in promoting the messages of providers of public services and services of general interest (SGIs) on the recast of the Drinking Water Directive (DWD).

The Trilogue negotiations bring around the table the two EU co-legislators – EU Parliament and EU Council – as well as the European Commission, with negotiations progressing rather slowly so far.  The current state of play is that no agreement on any of the main topics of discussion (access to water, EDCs and microplastics, water leakage, information to consumers, materials in contact with drinking water) has been reached yet. On 27 November, COREPER I (Committee of Permanent Representatives in the European Union) discussed the item, ahead of the next Trilogue meeting on 3 December.

CEEP’s paper on the Trilogue recommendations on the Drinking Water Directive (DWD) summarises our position and identifies the main priorities and challenges yet to address. Both the European Parliament’s first reading position and the Council’s General Approach provide significant improvements that we support. We especially welcome the fact that the Parliament and Council substantially agree on a number of key points:

  • Strengthening the link with the Water Framework Directive – Art. 7-8
  • Introducing a risk-based approach with an appropriate division of responsibilities – Art. 7-10
  • The need for harmonised minimum hygiene requirements for materials and treatment chemicals in contact with water intended for human consumption – Art. 10a and 10b
  • Maintaining indicator parameters – Annex I
  • Maintaining the risk-based monitoring frequencies of the current Directive that were revised in 2015 – Annexe II
  • Maintaining the possibility for derogations – Art. 12a

CEEP’s overall stand favours the Council’s position, which presents more comprehensive proposals on three main topics of institutional trilogue discussion, with regard to the scope and focus of the Directive (Article 1, Article 14), the harmonised EU minimum hygiene requirements (Article 10 a, b) and the access to water (Article 13).

Should you require further information or would like to send your contributions, please contact Policy Officer Henriette Gleau (henriette.gleau@ceep.eu).

Dear readers,

On Wednesday 27 November, in its plenary sitting, the European Parliament expressed its support to the College of Commissioners presided over by Ursula von der Leyen, as well as to the political priorities identified. With 461 votes of support (which is 39 votes more than Jean-Claude Juncker in 2014), the von der Leyen Commission is now set for the new European Commission to start its activities on 1 December.

Building up on the outcomes of the Juncker Commission, the priorities identified by President von der Leyen in her Political Guidelines will support the EU to face the triple transition: decarbonised, global and digital. It is now time to effectively deliver on those promises and ensure that the EU remain a beacon for peace, prosperity and sustainability. This new EU institutional cycle should support bold ambitions for Europe, whilst ensuring the proper articulation between the EU, national, regional and local levels.

Setting up an EU Green Deal, ensuring that the economy works for the people, making Europe fit for the digital age: in this new institutional cycle, CEEP will make sure that employers and providers of public services and services of general interest are recognised as instrumental to bring to life those priorities.

As the cross-sectoral social partner representing providers of public services and SGIs, CEEP supports the proposed approach to better bridge EU decision-making and the reality of enterprises, workers and citizens. Social partners should be natural partners in that exercise, building up on the frequent consultation on any initiative having an impact on growth and jobs’ creation and their integration into the debates to shape the future of Europe. The Conference on the Future of Europe will play a central role, and we will engage with President von der Leyen and her College of Commissioners to ensure that the social partners are a part of that initiative.

One golden opportunity for CEEP to highlight its commitments to the EU integration and place its members at the heart of the discussions, will be the Public Services Summit 2019, which will be held on 12 December at the European Economic and Social Committee (Rue Belliard 99-101, in Brussels). Besides CEEP members, the event will bring together EU institutional leaders and decision makers, as well as representatives of EU associations. CEEP will welcome, amongst others, Karl-Heinz Lambert, President of the Committee of the Regions, Luca Jahier, President of the European Economic and Social Committee and Katrin Langensiepen, vice-chair of the Employment committee of the European Parliament. Now that the European Commission has officially been confirmed to enter into office on 1 December 2019, the event’s agenda will quickly find its final form and the names of the other confirmed guests will be announced soon.

We are now entering a crucial phase, during which CEEP has the opportunity to build a stable relationship with the new European leadership, starting with the European Commission President and Executive Vice-Presidents and the President of the Council of the EU.

Kind regards,

Valeria Ronzitti

Following its official inauguration and launch on 16 October 2019, the European Labour Authority has started its activities. The European Labour Authority management board will meet on 3 December 2020. It is planned for the group to adopt the work programme 2020 and further define the key activities that should be implemented for 2020.

Over 17.5 million Europeans live or work in a Member State other than that of their nationality. This figure has almost doubled compared to a decade ago. At the same time, businesses benefit from the Internal Market and operate across borders on a daily basis. Cross-border activity is an inherent feature of the EU, which benefits individuals, economies and societies as a whole. To facilitate free movement of workers within the Union, the EU has developed an extensive body of legislation pertaining to EU-level labour mobility, which keeps evolving to ensure the effectiveness and completeness of the acquis. The upcoming period will see the stabilisation of the new rules on labour mobility and a reinforced focus on their correct implementation, along with a strengthened enforcement. This will need to be complemented with a sustained effort to support free movement of workers as one of the pillars of the internal market, and to combat misperceptions surrounding it. The key new tool for strengthening enforcement of the labour mobility rules is the European Labour Authority. Inaugurated in October 2019, the Authority must now deliver on its tasks and respond to the ambitions which underpinned its creation. The Work Programme 2020 foresees a number of operational and preparatory actions spanning across the full range of the Authority’s seven tasks, including in view of the transfer of the European Platform tackling undeclared work and the EURES network.

In addition, the Authority will consolidate its administrative and governance structure, which will prepare for even more ambitious activities for the year 2021. The two tasks of “Facilitating access to information on labour mobility” and “Coordination and support of concerted and joint inspections” represent priorities of action for the Authority. Facilitating access to information on labour mobility is seen as a priority task of the Authority to bring important added value as soon as possible, and to provide a basis for other tasks. The Authority is set to improve the availability, quality and accessibility of information offered to individuals, employers and social partner organisations regarding the rights and obligations stemming from EU legislation on labour mobility and social security coordination. The Authority will set up the necessary arrangements to carry out concerted or joint inspections, with the aim of supporting at least one pilot inspection during the year 2020 to test the adequacy and effectiveness of the procedures and tools developed for common initiatives. At the same time, it will start providing learning and training opportunities for national inspectorates.

CEEP will participate in the management board on 3 December and will be represented by the chair of the CEEP Social Affairs Board, Jeanette Grenfors, who will highlight key priorities for employers in the context of quality information sharing and will further provide inputs on how joint inspections should be conducted.

Last Thursday 21 November 2019 CEEP held the final dissemination conference for its project “Social services in European cross-industry social dialogue: towards a strong and deeper involvement”. Co-funded by the European Commission, this CEEP project was co-organised with the following national social services’ organisations from across Europe: UDES – French association of social enterprises, UNISOC – Belgian national employer organisation for non-profit organisations, and ALAL – Lithuanian association of local authorities. It aimed at providing a better understanding of how social dialogue is organised in social services, focusing on the situation in Bulgaria, Cyprus, Hungary, Lithuania, Malta and Romania.

In her opening remarks, Valeria Ronzitti, CEEP General Secretary, emphasised the importance of social services and of social dialogue, and how they can support each other. “The aim of this project is three-fold: it raises political awareness about the key role played by your services to ensure the stability of the EU economy and citizens’ participation in the social and economic life”, said Ms Ronzitti. She continued: “It is also a major contribution to further raise the involvement of social services in cross-industry social dialogue. Social dialogue provides means and solutions to cooperate with institutions, both at EU and at national level. And social services have their place at the table, when the EU must strive for more balance between economic and social.”

Adam Rogalewski, who opened the session on behalf of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) together with Ms Ronzitti, insisted very much on the key role of social dialogue to ensure Social Services of General Interest (SSGIs) are prepared to face the future challenges ahead. On this point, Sven Matzke, the appointed European Commission’s contact point for the project for the past two years, underlined that one of the aims of the project was to give more attention to SSGIs in cross-industry social dialogue, looking at what this European Commission has achieved in this field, and the projects of the incoming European Commission. To this purpose, it was important to benefit from Eckhard Voss’s presentation of the study that was conducted by Wilke Maack Partners (WMP)  over the two years of the project, since the introductory remarks were corroborated by the findings of the research that highlighted the importance of developing cross-industry social dialogue in the 6 countries targeted by the study, since there has hardly been any collective bargaining in those countries during the past decades, due to the inexistence of providers and employers in these sectors.

A first panel discussion in the morning gave the audience an in-depth insight of the situation of SSGI providers in the 6 EU Member States targeted by the project research, especially in terms of the challenges faced by SSGIs in each of the countries and the level of preparedness in each national context to tackle and address them.

The afternoon session was opened by a panel featuring the project partners and EUROFOUND that provided relevant examples of countries and SSGI employers that have had the time and resources to develop social dialogue at the cross-industry level, and shared with the audience the process of how they managed to do it.

The conclusions were positive since the best achievement of this two-years project was indeed the creation of a long-standing networks of providers and actors at the national level through which CEEP intends to continue promoting the importance of social dialogue, now that they are better equipped to know the difficulties such actors face at the national level. The aim of this project was to do more capacity building and raise at the EU level the importance of addressing the SSGI challenges at the cross-industry level of social dialogue, since the diversity of sectors can only be addressed in this context.

Alongside other priorities in this path-setting moment of European politics, CEEP’s efforts and time in favour of continuing the activities of the Intergroup on Public Services are so far successful. It is now official that MEPs of four different political groups (PPE, S&D, Renew Europe and Greens) will have the opportunity to vote on whether or not the current Intergroup on Public Services should be maintained with an updated mandate, political basis and setting. Each parliamentary group will vote in the upcoming weeks over the (limited) number of Intergroups it chooses to endorse officially, ensuring their activities continue in the five years ahead.

Not every projected Intergroup has made it to this crucial step. This shows, on one hand, the considerable political potential of this Intergroup in pushing forward the European public services’ providers’ needs to the new Parliament and the European Commission. Despite certain shortcomings within its design during the past legislature, it succeeded in stimulating exchange of views on relevant matters of public services across a wealth of areas, both inside and outside the European Parliament, filling an important gap. On the other side, however, it also shows that we are not “there” yet, as many other Intergroup projects will be competing.

As we are gathering as much support as possible within the European Parliament, we call upon all CEEP members to approach their respective representatives amongst the Members of the European Parliament and raise awareness about the re-establishment of the Intergroup, to make sure the Intergroup will receive a positive vote from the different political groups and, therefore, be established. Please contact CEEP Project Manager Carlotta Astori, if you can support our call or have any questions.

With its freshly released Renewables 2019 report, the International Energy Agency (IEA) provided an exhaustive state-of-play and forecast of the global market for renewable energy providers. The findings of this broad market analysis exercise could be summarised in the words of IEA CEO, Dr Fatih Birol: “Renewables are already the world’s second largest source of electricity, but their deployment still needs to accelerate if we are to achieve long-term climate, air quality and energy access goals”. Renewable energy production capacity, looks set to increase by 50% until year 2024, meaning an increase from currently 26% to 30% within the global energy mix. It is also expected to be increasingly structured by photovoltaic energy production, followed by onshore wind and hydropower.

Interested members may access, as background documents, the IEA’s press release and the PowerPoint presentation used for the report’s introduction.

After agreeing on a new Brexit deal (though broadly similar to the old one) on 17 October, the EU and UK side finally agreed this week on the principle of a third extension of the Brexit process, postponing Brexit as such until 31 January 2020. In parallel, the House of Commons massively voted in favour of a new General Election, set to take place on 12 December. This should hopefully allow for a firmer majority to emerge within the next UK parliament, creating the political conditions to adopt the new agreement negotiated at high speed by both sides.

Meanwhile, assessment of Brexit’s impact on the UK progressed recently through this report released by the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions. According to its findings, by leaving the EU, the UK will lose over 13 billion euros of regional development funding under Cohesion Policy, as well as 698 million euros for European Territorial Cooperation for the 2021-2027 period, to which it would be entitled.

CEEP members are kindly invited to attend a conference co-organised by Employers of Poland (CEEP Polish section) and the European Economic and Social Committee addressing the question of “business perspectives on the transition to a climate-neutral future by 2050”. The event will take place next week, on Wednesday 6 November from 9h00 to 13h00. Interested members can access additional information from the draft agenda and this background note.

Whilst Mr Malinowski will open the debates as President of Employers of Poland, Mr Jean-Eudes Moncomble will represent CEEP as one of the guest speakers, bringing forward the key messages of the CEEP Opinion on “A Sustainable Climate Strategy for Europe”. By participating in this event, CEEP members can express their needs but also their vision on concrete steps towards a more balanced and sustainable climate policy, at EU as well as at international level. It is an opportunity for public services’ providers to establish their added value by combining business dynamics with their approach based on care for the common interest.

Due to security imperatives at the entrance of the EESC, CEEP members should please confirm their participation to rachel.dewouters@ceep.eu by Monday 4 November at the very latest.

CEEP was invited to speak at an event in Lisbon “Time to end stress: Professionals and Managers in the frontline”. CEEP was represented for this occasion by Kate Ling from the NHS UK and long-standing member of the CEEP Social Affairs Board.

The event was organised by Eurocadres, the Council of European Professional and Managerial Staff, and the participants were trade unionists from a wide swathe of European countries, from the north (Finland, Sweden and Norway) to the south (Malta, Spain, Switzerland, Italy), the east (Romania, Croatia, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Serbia) and west (Ireland, Portugal, France, Belgium, UK). All shared the concerns across a range of sectors about the ever-rising burden on employers, individuals and their families and wider society of mental ill-health arising from psycho-social risks (stress) at work.

Current EU legislation on occupational health and safety includes around 60 directives, none of which specifically cover stress at the workplace, though arguably employers’ duty to assess risks in the workplace and take appropriate action to safeguard workers’ health, encompasses duty of care towards employees’ mental as well as physical health. Also, unlike the many directives dealing with specific hazards and (for example) setting evidence-based EU-wide limits on workers’ exposure, occupational stress is less easy to measure and remedy.

There are examples from other European countries of public and private sector organisations who have taken the initiative to tackle stress at work, a couple of which (from Spain and Portugal) were showcased at the conference. Kate Ling spoke and debated in a panel session asking what policy makers can do to address the “stress epidemic”.

She asserted that according to a survey by UNISON, stress is the biggest reason behind sickness absence in the UK, costing an estimated 105 million working days and 1.67 billion euros, and affecting 30% of NHS staff every year.  The German trade union Verdi reports that mental ill-health accounts for about 13% of total days off work and will become the most common cause of early retirement in the near future. The picture across Europe is similar: an opinion poll conducted by EU-OSHA (the EU’s health and safety agency) showed that 51% of workers report that stress is common in their workplace, and 4 in 10 think it is not handled well.

From the perspective of an employer providing public services – in this case healthcare services – this scenario is especially challenging, as healthcare sector employers already experience significant difficulty recruiting and retaining staff. Whilst it can be very rewarding (and there is plenty of evidence that working per se is good for people), healthcare work can be perceived as unattractive. It is often physically and emotionally stressful, and existing workforce shortages are likely to be exacerbated as the European population ages. Greater numbers of older and sicker people, new technologies requiring constant upskilling, and more demanding patient expectations combine to result in high rates of turnover and burnout. Staff caring for other people are at risk of not being looked after themselves.

So what is or can be done to tackle this? Take-home messages were that success depended upon a genuinely participatory approach involving staff in identifying risk factors and developing and implementing strategies to manage (prevent and/or mitigate) those risks. Successful strategies vary according to the context but a common factor was giving teams and individuals a greater sense of control and autonomy, for example in developing more flexible working patterns where possible, offering opportunities for training and development to all staff, young and old, and upskilling staff to help them cope with the new digital skills they require. For these changes to happen, there needed to be a recognition of “burnout” as an occupational hazard, and good human resource management including a willingness to address safe staffing levels. Above all there needs to be on the one hand, committed and proactive leadership, and on the other hand staff prepared to take responsibility to address the problems and take up the opportunities offered.

In Kate Ling’s final remarks to conference colleagues, she suggested that more legislation was not the answer. The current directives oblige employers to conduct risk assessments and take appropriate action, but despite being in place for a long time legislation has not stemmed the rising tide of work-related stress. EU law is often not effectively transposed and implemented at national level. Experience from CEEP and HOSPEEM and their trade union partners shows that what really makes a difference in the workplace is employers and trade unions getting together at local level to effect real, concrete changes. Compliance with the law incentivises employers, but much more compelling are the sound economic arguments for investing in a healthy and productive workforce, resulting in better staff retention and motivation and a better service to patients or customers. 

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