Last Sunday, the European elections initiated the renewal of the EU institutions. With new Members of the European Parliament now elected by citizens, the process which will lead up to the composition of the new European Commission has been initiated.
The primary and most-welcome outcome of this election is the increased participation, reaching 50,5%, the highest in the last 20 years. Building up on the campaign This Time I’m Voting, which CEEP supported the emergence of issues articulated at European level such as the climate and the migration crises and the Spitzenkandidaten approach, the 2019 EU election achieved to capture the interest of voters who got involved in the process. It will now be up to the elected MEPs to deliver: increased participation will call for increased expectations.
Taking stock of the results, the European Parliament’s group leaders have already engaged in discussions to build a coalition and propose a single candidate for the post of President of the European Commission. The European Council, gathering heads of state and of the government of the 28 Member States, has started a similar process on its side. As the President of the European Commission needs to be approved by both institutions (European Parliament and European Council), an agreement will be needed.
These elections were an important test for the European project and delivered some important changes to the EU political landscape. Building up on the social movement for climate action, the group of the Greens-European Free Alliance emerged as the biggest winners, with 69 seats won (+17 compared with 2014). In coalition with the French Renaissance (La République en Marche), the Alliance of Democrats and Liberals for Europe (ALDE) has also achieved strong results across Europe, increasing their delegation by 41 seats (including the 23 French MEPs joining the group). Those two groups will play a central role in the negotiations with both the European People’s Party (EPP) and the Socialists and Democrats (S&D), which remain the two biggest groups. The center-right EPP has won 180 seats, while the center-left S&D won 146 seats.
The European Council met informally on Tuesday to take stock of the results and hold a first exchange on both the priorities for the next 5 years – to be translated into the EU Strategic Agenda 2019-2024 – and the future of the European Commission. A lengthy negotiation process lies ahead, with some officials calling for “democratic patience in the coming weeks”.
Going beyond this special newsletter, and continuing the work started months ago with our members, CEEP will raise its profile to ensure that the voice of providers of public services and SGIs is heard and our messages integrated in EU legislation.
The history of the European Union clearly shows that the European social model is one of the main successes of European integration.
Quality, accessible and affordable services of general interest are essential ingredients of this European Social Model. They offer constant opportunities to create good jobs, to reinforce the competitiveness of the European economy, to fight poverty and social exclusion.
The EU social policy plays a particular role in shaping the social dimension of Europe. For the next five years, CEEP believes that the European institutions should go beyond the EU social policy and explore two key conditions for Europe to further improve its social dimension.
The first is the need to combine social policy with sound economic policy. Particularly key topics such as investment in physical and social infrastructures and fully exploring the potential of human capital will be essential to reinforce the EU social dimension.
The second is the synergy between EU and national social policy and actions. Social policy must reflect the reality of how the EU functions, fully applying the principle of subsidiarity. This means taking action at the right level, respecting the fact that the EU’s role is to support and complement member states’ actions. Because the EU social model is based on different national models, which must be preserved.
In view of the uncertain political context marked by the rise of populism and increasing international tensions, Europe will need to act in line with its values in a way which safeguards our EU social model. Therefore, the main priorities should be:
- Improving the functioning and performance of labour markets, making them more flexible and secured;
- Improving the productivity of European enterprises, by improving investment in human capital and in infrastructures;
- Reinforcing the access to quality, accessible and affordable services of general interest for the benefit of European citizens;
- Embracing the potential of the future of work including digitalisation, climate change and demographic ageing;
- Tackling skills shortages and mismatches by ensuring the workforce has a relevant skillset;
- Strengthening social dialogue as a tool for adaptation to change and to develop and implement reforms;
We call on the Commission to focus its actions on improving the support to Member States and social partners, to help them learn from each other to progress towards more inclusive labour market policies.
We call on the EU to ensure that the initiatives it takes in this next political cycle respect the different levels of competence, whereby EU social policies and actions support and complement those of Member States. This is critical for Europe to move forward in unity.
CEEP and its members across Europe are committed to continuing to actively shape the EU Social Dimension with the next European Commission, European Parliament and Council.
The political climate has changed in Europe. On 26 May, people all over Europe voted for a fair, peaceful and most importantly a sustainable Europe.
The EU election can also be seen as a climate election. As the European Parliament will vote and decide on the next European Commission, the protection of the environment and the sustainability of our economy and society as a whole will significantly shape the political EU agenda in the future.
At CEEP, we took notice of the results of the EU election, and now call for a successful EU climate strategy to be part of a sustainable development strategy, building up on the three pillars which lie at the heart of CEEP member’s action:
- The economic dimension: CEEP members promote economic growth and employment in Europe by providing essential services. Their contribution is crucial in the fight against climate change and their quality contributes to the competitiveness of European industry.
- The environmental dimension: the outcome of mitigation policies has been insufficient despite Europe’s vigorous efforts (which emits less than 10% of global CO2 emissions); it is therefore essential, while pursuing mitigation policies, to think about the adaptation of our economies and the resilience of infrastructure.
- The social dimension: the involvement of Europeans is a sine qua non condition for the success of climate policies, as it is based on changes in consumer behaviour that will prove essential. The implementation of effective and efficient climate policies and a fair sharing of the financial effort are essential to increase citizens’ support. With its historical proximity to citizens, CEEP members are particularly aware of this social dimension.
You can read here the full statement on CEEP’s “A Sustainable Climate Strategy for Europe: Acting Now”, highlighting our key priorities in the decarbonisation process for the next decades to come.
Furthermore, in the upcoming weeks, the Council is expected to prepare and adopt its priorities in its Strategic Agenda for 2019-2024. It is clear that after the results of this election, the concerns of climate change will have to be taken into account and the necessary attention is needed to ensure a strong European commitment to the Paris Agreements and beyond.
We therefore call out to all Member States to continue the implementation, take a comprehensive approach towards more resource efficiency and innovative decarbonisation strategies, and most importantly explain and promote awareness on the societal changes stemming from the adaptation to climate change.
In the preparation of the elections, CEEP and its members played a visible role, organizing events and engaging with candidates, EU stakeholders and institutions and citizens. You can find below a short summary of those activities:
21 February 2019: CEEP at the ‘Civil Society for rEUnaissance’ of the EESC
This event brought together, on the same stage, representatives of social partners, of civil society, inspirational figures, including climate activist Greta Thunberg, and institutional leaders such as Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, the lineup of the event was a clear signal that we are now not dealing with the classic “business as usual” in Europe. CEEP was represented by Valeria Ronzitti, General Secretary, and Milena Angelova, CEEP and EESC Vice-President, at this event, which served as a kick-off event for the campaign. More…
7 March 2019: CEEP event on the EU elections
Supporting the ‘This Time I’m Voting’ campaign, CEEP also organised its own first event on the EU elections. Focused on the importance of participation and engagement, the event featured as speakers Luca Jahier, President of the EESC, MEP Karine Gloanec-Maurin, chair of the European Parliament Intergroup on Public Services, MEP Jo Leinen, Honorary President of the European Movement International, Christian Mangold, Director for Campaigns at the European Parliament, Petros Fassoulas, Secretary General of the European Movement International, and Tellervo Kyla-Harraka-Rounala, Vice-President of the EESC Employers’ group, with opening and closing remarks by CEEP Vice-Presidents Tom Beattie and Milena Angelova. More…
11-13 April 2019: CEEP at the Democracy Alive festival
CEEP was present at the Democracy Alive Festival, hosted by the European Movement International in Den Burg, on the Dutch island of Texel. During the 3 days, CEEP took part in several discussions and events at the festival, highlighting its commitment to democracy, the importance of voting at the European Parliament elections on 23-26 May 2019, the key role public services and SGIs play for the EU socio-economic model and the need to further boost investment. It was also an opportunity to directly exchange with EU fellow citizens and present them CEEP priorities, stressing how strongly our members support social development and economic growth. More…
CEEP members’ activities
With the campaign moving to the ground and in the Member States, several CEEP national sections and members also organised events. Bvöd, the German section of CEEP, organised two debates on 25/03 and 23/05 with MEP candidates and members of national or regional parliament, to highlighting the place of SGIs in Europe. CEEP France organised a formal event with candidates from all French political parties. VNG, prominent Dutch member of the CEEP Benelux section, also held a high-level debate with MEP candidates from the whole political spectrum, and in Sweden, SALAR made good use of Europe Day on 9 May, holding events on the importance and the future priorities for of the European Union.
During the first months of the European Parliament’s ninth Legislature, CEEP will be able to build on previous achievements and already established contacts. CEEP has cooperated with many MEPs over the last years to support the European public services and SGI providers’ legitimate interests.
Amongst them, several can continue their political activity on key political files. Those include, inter alia:
- Frans TIMMERMANS (S&D, LN), Commission First Vice-President
- Valdis DOMBROVSKIS (EPP, LT), Commission Vice-President for Social Dialogue and the Euro
- Andrus ANSIP (EPP, EE), Commission Vice-President for the Digital Single Market
- Corina CRETU (S&D, RO), Commissioner for Regional Policy
- Mariya GABRIEL (EPP, BG), Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society
- David CASA (EPP, MT), rapporteur on the Work-Life Balance
- Jose Manuel FERNANDES (EPP, PT), rapporteur on InvestEU
- Konstanze KREHL (S&D, DE), rapporteur on the Cohesion Policy
- Bernd LANGE (S&D, DE), chair of the INTA Committee
- Javi LÓPEZ (S&D, ES), rapporteur on the fight against inequalities and growth
- Markus PIEPER (EPP, DE), SME Definition
- Frédérique RIES (ALDE, BE), rapporteur on the Single Used Plastic Strategy
- Dominique RIQUET (ALDE, FR), chair of the Intergroup on Long-Term Investment
- Simona BONAFE (S&D, IT), rapporteur on the Circular Economy and vice-chair of the Intergroup on Long-Term Investment
- Karima DELLI (VERTS, France), Transport and Long-Term Economic and Investment Policy
Moreover, the European elections of 26 May have marked a broad renewal within the EU’s co-legislator body. As a consequence, new (and possibly less experienced) MEPs will have to take over the work of departed MEPs dealing with some important legislative files or areas, including:
- Karine GLOANEC-MAURIN (S&D, FR), chair of the intergroup on Public Services
- Michel DANTIN (EPP, FR), rapporteur on the Drinking Water Directive
- José BLANCO LÓPEZ (S&D, ES), rapporteur on the Electricity Market Design Directive and Regulation
- Miroslav POCHE (S&D, CZ), rapporteur on the Energy Efficiency Directive
- Andrzej GRZYB (EPP, PL), rapporteur on the Clean Vehicle Directive
- Enrique CALVET CHAMBON (ALDE, Spain), rapporteur on the European Labour Authority
- Jean LAMBERT (Greens/EFA, United Kingdom), rapporteur on Green Jobs
- Maria JOAO RODRIGUES (S&D, Portugal), rapporteur on the European Pillar of Social Rights
Five weeks ahead of the European elections of 26 May, the European Parliament held its final plenary session from 15 April to 18 April and thus concluded its activities for this eighth legislature. On top of the list is the so-called InvestEU programme – a key element of EU policies for the short- and long-term future. InvestEU builds on the success of EFSI, more well-known as the “Juncker Plan”. CEEP endorses the new programme’s architecture and particularly its policy focus on funding sustainable infrastructure, innovation and digitalisation or the development of social investment and skills. This result, in some respect, mirrors the priorities and input of the High Level task Force on Investing in Infrastructures (to which CEEP contributed), as expressed in its final report “Boosting Investment in social infrastructure in Europe”. However, CEEP warns, InvestEU should at all cost avoid certain shortcomings from the Juncker Plan, e.g. in closing the persistent investment gap in Europe, as mentioned in the European Court of Auditors’ own and very recent concluding report.
InvestEU is but one of many important texts recently adopted by the European co-legislating body, several being highly relevant to the ongoing budgetary (“MFF 2021-2027”) negotiations: the so-called ESF+ on 4 April or the “Common Provisions“ Regulation on 27 March… The latter is particularly important in defining functioning rules for almost every EU public policy relevant to Cohesion Policy. For the European Parliament to take a clear stance on such an important issue only a few weeks before EU ministers responsible for Cohesion Policy gather informally is a welcomed signal : no time can be wasted. The European Parliament is moving in the right direction during this legislature’s final phase, taking over several principle keys to the ambitious Cohesion Policy that CEEP has been advocating for several years (cf. here and here). This is also the result of efforts from the Committee of the Regions’ “Cohesion Alliance”, which CEEP joined. It is now up to the European Council and the next political majority to swiftly act in concluding negotiations as soon as possible after the European elections of May 2019.
Please get in touch with Alexis Le Coutour, CEEP Policy Officer on Public Services (firstname.lastname@example.org) should you have any questions on this subject.
On 9 April, the fourth report of the Energy Union was published by the European Commission showcasing the progress that has been made over the last five years since the start of the Juncker Commission, and setting new ambitious energy and climate policies for the future. CEEP particularly supported the Commission on its path to create a resilient Energy Union that also takes the deeply intertwined economic, social and climate European policies in its scope. The report rightly re-assesses the prospects of bringing more attention to the consumer activities within the energy market. With the recent approval by the European Parliament of the last files of the Clean Energy Package from 2016, the Commission wants to commit to becoming a world leader in deploying renewable energy and setting energy efficiency strategies to effectively combat climate change in the long run.
However, there is still a long way to go to bring a European answer to the current and rising energy challenges. CEEP welcomes this fourth ‘Energy Union report’ and its overall efforts for a well-rounded energy and climate policy strategy in its European framework. Europe has indeed been progressing over the last 5 years towards a modern and climate friendly European Energy market, but there is still a lot to be accomplished in the energy transition to guarantee affordable, secure and sustainable energy for all Europeans. Realizing this vision will require concrete steps to reach the new targets of 32% renewable share by 2030 anchored in the Renewable Energy Directive. It is still unclear how this target can be achieved as it is binding at EU level without concrete national plans.
The State of the Energy Union rightly emphasizes that the national energy and climate plans are a very important tool to increase the reliability of the European climate and energy policies. CEEP appreciates the Energy Union’s efforts for a coherent approach towards its renewable and energy efficiency targets whilst avoiding to limit Member States in the choice for their way towards decarbonisation. At the same time, we need to encourage smaller investment projects in the field of energy as well as in the transport and heating and cooling sector. Such projects should also include cross-sectoral projects to ensure skills in the labour market can be smoothly transformed and facilitate a sustainable innovation in the public sectors. It also remains just as important to avoid future plans in this report being too bureaucratic and taking away the necessary freedom of Member States to choose their individual decarbonisation path. The national energy and climate plans must not be a tool to impose certain technologies to Member States.
Additionally, five more documents have been published along with the fourth report on the progress of the national energy efficiency targets and the renewable energy implementations in Europe as well as the strategic action plan on batteries and a communication paper for more efficient and democratic decision-making in EU energy and climate policy.
For further information, please contact our policy officer Henriette Gleau (email@example.com).
On 16 April, the Commission launched a discussion on how to render decision-making at EU level more efficient in the social field. As a result, three Communications have already been adopted and a fourth one, on social policy, is now being published. With this Communication, the Commission is launching a debate on an enhanced use of qualified majority voting in social policy, hoping to make decision-making more “timely, flexible and efficient”. This possibility is provided for in the EU Treaties for several specific areas through so-called passerelle clauses. These clauses allow for a shift from unanimity to qualified majority voting under certain circumstances. As a first step, the Commission proposes to consider the use of the passerelle to facilitate decision-making on non-discrimination. The use of the passerelle clause could also be considered in the near future to adopt recommendations in the area of social security and social protection of workers. To activate this passerelle clause, according to Article 48(7) of the Treaty on European Union, the European Council would have to decide by unanimity, with no objection from national parliaments, and with the European Parliament’s consent.
The Commission invites the European Parliament, the European Council, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions, social partners and all stakeholders to engage in an open debate on an enhanced use of qualified majority voting and the ordinary legislative procedure in social policy on the basis of the Communication. CEEP commitment to this debate is based on its role as an organisation which, together with its employers and trade-union counterparts, contributed to the very definition and constitution of Europe’s social dimension and its legislative and non-legislative tools, through constant negotiations, debates and cooperation with the EU institutions. CEEP believes that a stronger potential lies in the EU bringing support to Member States in developing further initiatives and actions which would ensure a stronger refocus of EU instruments for social policy purposes. Instruments like the European Semester were built to ensure progressive convergence between the Member States through debates, mutual-learning and peer pressure on issues often exclusively in the remit of Member States such as social protection and education and training policies. CEEP supported the inclusion of the Pillar of social rights in the EU Semester as an effort to making it more balanced with the economic dimension whilst respecting the strict repartition of competence in the European Union.
CEEP members believe that respecting the principle of subsidiarity and proportionality is a condition sine qua non to the success and widespread acceptance of further development of the EU Social Dimension. It is also critical to recall that a unique model that would work for every country does not exist and that only Member States can anticipate the implications of policy initiatives at national, regional and local level. Full harmonization of EU social rights is presently neither desirable nor politically feasible in the present state of the EU since divergences between Member States are too important in terms of social and industrial relation systems. There could also be strong political risks created by exploring the use of the passerelle clause. Before the European elections and the risk of seeing the rise of euroskepticism in Europe and in the European Parliament, the use of the passerelle clause may send the wrong signal that Member States are being overruled. The progressive integration of national policies, by which Member States are asked to give up part of their sovereignty, is a long term and far-reaching process, which requires long-term and consistent support from EU governments and citizens. Unanimous decision-making may take longer and require more patience from all involved in the process, but it offers better guarantees for a broad support for integration.
The European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) recently published a new report “Gender budgeting: Mainstreaming gender into the EU budget and macroeconomic policy framework”, which states that less than 1% of the EU’s Structural and Investment Funds has been set aside for the promotion of gender equality. This despite the EU’s legal obligations and political commitments to close the gender gap, which persists across all Member States. The issue was also addressed during the Informal EPSCO, during which CEEP and the EU cross-industry social partners exchanged views with EU Ministers of Employment and Social Affairs on the state of gender equality in the EU.
As the EU is preparing its ‘budget for the future’, EIGE put forward proposals on how to ensure the budget serves the future of the whole population. Currently women earn less, spend more time on caring and housework, and end up with significantly lower pensions than men. The report outlines in detail how the EU institutions and Member States can help realise the goal of gender equality through improved gender budgeting, which identifies the different needs of women and men and allocates resources accordingly.
Recommendations made by EIGE in the report include:
- The setting of gender equality as a priority across the entire EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF);
- The institutionalisation of gender mainstreaming methods and the monitoring of its impact in all funds;
- The setting of budgetary targets for gender equality;
- The introduction of a system to track funding for gender equality in all funding programmes.
During the Informal EPSCO in Bucharest (10-11 April), CEEP General Secretary Valeria Ronzitti addressed the issue, highlighting the importance of using non-legislative measures such as gender budgeting to foster gender equality. She added that fiscal policies and administrative procedures can be structured to address gender inequalities. This will promote accountability and transparency in fiscal planning, increase gender responsive participation in budget processes and advance gender equality.
Should you wish to know more about EIGE’s joint activities with the EU Social Partners, do not hesitate to contact CEEP Project Manager, Carlotta Astori.
With now less than one month to go before the European elections, the campaign is now in full motion with ‘Spitzenkandidaten’ from the different political groups hitting the road across the EU. As this is the last newsletter before this important milestone, I would like to restate the importance of this election for the Future of Europe, and how CEEP became and will remain active on the ground through its members.
In the light of rising Euroscepticism, fake news and various other threats to democracy in Europe, CEEP joined a chorus of European organisations which took a stand to promote active participation in the elections. Amongst others, CEEP played an active role in the Alliance for Democracy set up in 2017, joined the Democracy Festival in Texel on 11-13 April 2019 and supported the ‘This Time I’m Voting’ campaign of the European Parliament. Being active at this level allowed us to put CEEP and its key messages at the heart of the debate, highlighting the importance of the link between the European Union, public services and SGIs, and citizens.
In parallel to our activities at EU level, several CEEP members also took up the opportunity to set the agenda in their constituencies, by engaging with candidates and organizing various events in Germany, The Netherlands, France and Italy: the activities of CEEP members in the lead-up to the elections have been and will be various, facilitating the contact with future elected MEPs and Commissioners.
By engaging with citizens and candidates, CEEP is preparing the ground for the post-elections’ activities, which will be concluded by the Public Services Summit, to be held on 11 December 2019, and will serve as the first important ‘rendez-vous’ between CEEP and the new institutional leaders of the EU. More information on the event will be circulated in the coming months, but we invite you to already save the date.
In the meanwhile, we encourage all of you to go and vote on 23-26 May, to contribute to the European democracy and have a say on the future direction for the EU.