The European Commission proposed, on Wednesday 28 October, its proposal for a directive on minimum standards to ensure “adequate minimum wages” across the EU. Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, previously referred to this initiative as one of her top priorities. In the EU, minimum wage protection in Denmark, Italy, Cyprus, Austria, Finland and Sweden is provided exclusively through collective agreements, and the remaining 21 countries have statutory minimum wages set by governments.
The Commission asserts that the proposal fully respects the subsidiary principle: it sets a framework for minimum standards, respecting and reflecting Member States’ competences and social partners’ autonomy and contractual freedom in the field of wages. It does not oblige Member States to introduce statutory minimum wages, nor does it set a common minimum wage level. Nicolas Schmit, Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights added during the press conference that “promising the same minimum wage for all Europeans would not be realistic, would be impossible and irresponsible”.
A first reading of the directive allows to determine the following key points:
- The group of Member States that already have collective bargaining systems should ensure that 70 percent of their workers are covered by such a system.
- Those who do not reach this level of coverage would have to prepare an action plan and to inform the Commission about how their plan to reach that minimum target.
- Meanwhile, countries with statutory minimum wages are expected to put in place conditions for minimum wages to be set at adequate levels, including clear and stable criteria for setting, monitoring, and regularly updating the level.
- These criteria should take into account the cost of living and the contribution of taxes and social benefits, the general level of gross wages and their distribution, the growth rate of gross wages, as well as labour productivity.
- These Member States are also supposed to increase the engagement with social partners when setting and updating minimum wages.
- Additionally, these Member States will also have to justify the use of different rates of statutory minimum wage, ensuring that variations for specific groups of workers are “non-discriminatory, proportionate and justified”.
- All member states will have to inform the commission on developments annually.
The proposal must now be negotiated with the European Council and the European Parliament. Once adopted, Member States will have a short timeframe of two years to transpose it into national law.
Please find here the CEEP press release following the publication of the initiative.
On Wednesday 16 September 2020, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, presented her first State of the European Union (SOTEU) address to the European Parliament plenary. On this occasion, Mrs von der Leyen presented her vision and the ambitions of the European Commission for the EU moving forward, in the context of the COVID-19 and the social and economic recovery.
In her 90-minute long address, Mrs von der Leyen attempted to put forward prospects for an EU which emerges stronger from the COVID-19 crisis and leads the way also at global level. The recovery instrument Next Generation EU will be at the heart of the European Commission’s agenda, providing a unique opportunity to design changes.
This address provides key inputs and insights on upcoming key issues, such as initiatives to protect lives and livelihoods in Europe, the health of citizens and the stability of the economy, on implementing the EU Green Deal, leading the digital transformation, making the most of the single market and taking a new approach to migration.
Whilst focusing on the big picture, President von der Leyen touched upon several important issues for providers and employers of public services and services of general interest. Opening her speech by thanking healthcare providers and frontline workers and reinforcing the need for the post-COVID-19 to rely on a strong social market economy, CEEP supports the main lines presented by President von der Leyen to the European Parliament.
With a strong focus on the importance of the green and digital transitions for creating new growth and employment models, we now call for moving beyond the speeches and work on the details and the implementation of the Next Generation EU and its Recovery and Resilience Facility. The additional guidance published alongside the Annual Sustainable Growth Strategy will be key for our members, who are ready and willing to support EU, national, regional and local institutions to ensure that investments are made in the right infrastructures, either physical or social.
Pushing forward the development of the EU economic architecture should remain high on the agenda. Completing the Capitals Market Union and the Banking Union is more than necessary: progress on those two major tools needs to be completed and go hand in hand with an in-depth review and modernisation of the Stability and Growth Pact.
Finally, migration took a central stage, especially in the light of the events seen earlier in September in the refugee camp in Moria. Already translated into concrete proposals of the European Commission, CEEP supports the underlying rationale behind the proposals; as employers and SGI providers’ organisation, our members play a key role in the integration of migrants and refugees into labour market. The renewal of the Partnership for Integration is further proof of that commitment. However, social partners and service providers cannot make it alone. The successful integration requires a genuine EU migration policy, calling on all 27 Member States to also step up their efforts.
This central address, and the issues highlighted, will remain at the core of our activities for the coming months. Together with our members in the relevant boards and task forces, we intend to be the voice of SGIs and of public services, pushing forward the reflection on the future of SGIs in the post-COVID-19 world.
Benchmark report “eGovernment that works for people”
The eGovernment Benchmark is a yearly monitoring instrument of the EC to provide insight into the use of digital technologies in the public sector. The eGovernment Benchmark report evaluates progress on key components of the eGovernment Action Plan 2016-2020, the Tallinn Declaration and the accomplishment of a European Digital Single Market. The eGovernment Benchmark uses eight life events, measured every two years to capture the landscape of public services. According to the 2020 eGovernment Benchmark report, every one of the 36 countries measured has improved the digital delivery of public services over the last two years. The European frontrunners in eGovernment are Malta (overall score of 97%), Estonia (92%), Austria (87%) and Latvia (87%). These countries score highest across all four top-level benchmarks, followed closely by Denmark (84%), Lithuania (83%) and Finland (83%).
Study “Shaping the digital transformation in Europe”
The study “Shaping the digital transformation in Europe” outlines four objectives for Europe’s digital transformation: building and deploying digital solutions for societal challenges and climate; reinvigorating democracy, trust and diversity; securing Europe’s digital technological sovereignty and cybersecurity; and boosting the economy and competitiveness. The study discusses potential signature initiatives for Europe, such as developing and scaling EU tech ecosystems to match the global best and position Europe as a leader in key new frontier digital technologies around Centres of Excellence enabled by the collaboration between Super-Universities, Public Authorities, established Industries and vibrant Start-ups. The study also aims at creating a Digital leadership instrument for innovation procurement of digital technologies of European strategic importance, combining innovation funding and public procurement as well as building EU data platforms for strategic B2B sectors, enabling as an example, the Europe-wide sharing of health data (or similarly utilities or transport data) to improve healthcare outcomes, research and fuel innovation whilst respecting privacy and citizen trust. Furthermore, the study wants to empower cities and communities across Europe by promoting and enabling development and equal access to citizen-centric smart city technologies for better public and private services across transport, health, energy, social and community services.
Report “Application Programming Interfaces in Governments: Why, What and How”
The JRC report “Application Programming Interfaces in Governments: Why, What and How” proposes a framework of practical recommendations for their adoption in the public sector and the development of new applications for citizens. According to the report, the chief advantage of application programming interfaces (APIs) lies in their modularity: digital processes and datasets can easily be packaged into modules, which can be re-used and recombined for different applications. Moreover, APIs cannot be bypassed if public services want to move from eGovernment – the digital replication of a paper-based bureaucracy – to smart government, which makes full use of the opportunities provided by digitalisation. The JRC’s Science for Policy report analyses in detail the relevance of APIs in governments and suggests the way to adopt them. Additionally, the JRC technical report provides a detailed practical framework that organisations can use to improve their API infrastructure. It contains advice on API strategy, tactics, and operations related to policy support, platform and ecosystems, developers, and processes. Finally, the recommendations for governments include in the report, amongst others, prioritising key areas for API deployment such as the health sector; raising awareness of the importance of API culture among decision-makers; and ironing out the legal ownership issues that using foreign datasets entails.
Commission calls on Member States to boost fast network connectivity and develop joint approach to 5G rollout
Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager presented this week in the context of the Digital Package two proposals to advance the Commissions digital agenda. The first proposal is a new Regulation for the European High Performance Computing Joint Undertaking to maintain and advance Europe’s leading role in supercomputing technology to underpin the entire digital strategy and to ensure the Union’s competitiveness in the global setting. This new regulation sets out an ambitious mission and a substantially larger budget of €8 billion, for the period 2021-2033 in order to federate European supercomputing and quantum computing resources. Closely linked to this Regulation, is the second proposal which is a Recommendation calling Member States to boost investment in very high-capacity broadband connectivity infrastructure, including 5G. The timely deployment of 5G networks will offer significant economic opportunities for the years to come, as a crucial asset for European competitiveness, sustainability, and a major enabler for future digital services. Member States are expected to develop a toolbox with best practices to invest in connectivity.
On 9 September, the European Commission published its first ever “Foresight Report for a Resilient Europe”. This cross-sectoral initiative aims to identify emerging challenges and opportunities and support the European Union in steering existing and future EU policy choices. The report should act as a future-proof tool considering EU resilience in four dimensions: social and economic, geopolitical, green and digital and are part of the EU Recovery Strategy. For each dimension, the report identifies the capacities, vulnerabilities and opportunities revealed by the COVID-19 crisis, which need to be addressed in the medium-and long-term. These should stimulate the discussions amongst Member States and other key stakeholders on how to best monitor resilience.
The report looks at several different aspects for resilience within its green dimension. As first example, the report looks ahead to build resilience with regard to Europe’s resources. For example, secure supply of materials that are adding to the green approach by using batteries in electric cars. Here, the JRC already published its report on the latest raw material for Europe’s green and digital agenda.
Moreover, it focuses on Member States’ relative vulnerabilities and capacities with regards to climate change mitigation and adaptation and a range of other indicators for environmental degradation as well as biodiversity protection. The vulnerability aspects that the report focuses on includes indicators for environmental threats like biodiversity loss (through the common farmland bird index), the pressure on the renewable freshwater resources (water exploitation index), soil erosion by water, the impact of air pollution (years of life lost attributable to PM 2.5 pollution), and GHG emissions per capita. Furthermore, it also looks more closely at other vulnerabilities within Member States such as energy poverty and reskilling of work forces from energy intensive coal industries sectors.
In the resilience capacity aspect of the report, there are government-related dimensions (aspects of institutional quality and regulation like public expenditures on environmental protection, citizen involvement, the size of protected areas), and factors from the economic and environmental domain.
Public expenditures on environmental protection provide insights on the efforts of public actions to environmental protection. The engagement of people and communities are also included as essential elements for the green transition (population covered by the Covenant of Mayors initiative and citizen involvement).
Finally, the share of insured losses due to climate related extreme events is also included, as insurance is a major tool to transfer the losses to a party that is better prepared to absorb them.
What this report means for future EU policy making is that the 2020 Strategic Foresight Report will inform President von der Leyen’s annual State of the Union addresses and the Commission’s Work Programmes. It will also contribute to supporting the Commission to set up the overall EU priorities as well as in cross-cutting issues such as the future potential of green jobs and required skills, and the intersections of the green and digital transitions across policies.
Without a doubt, the crisis of COVID-19, which has more or less triggered the Commission to write this Foresight Report, has brought Europe and the world to the limits of their capacities. Access to the essential resources such as clean water, energy supply, waste management, a functional public transport system and needless to say a reliable health care system, have shown once more the work of public service providers and Services of General interest were relentlessly continuing their service to the public without a break. Undoubtedly, Services of General interest are one of the pillars of European resilience and our highest interest at CEEP is to continue strengthening their work on the European level.
The report will be at the heart of the discussions of CEEP Sustainability Board meeting, on 13 October 2020.
On Wednesday 23 September 2020, the European Commission published the much awaited New Pact on Migration and Asylum. The package covers all the elements that are needed for a comprehensive European approach to migration and it includes:
- More effective asylum procedures
- A modern external border management
- An effective solidarity in managing migration
- An accent on skills and complementary pathways
- Deepened international partnerships with key countries of origin and transit
- Flexibility and resilience in response to unexpected crisis
The package proposals deliver on President von der Leyen’s commitment in her Political Guidelines to present a new Pact on Migration and Asylum. The Pact is based on in-depth consultations with the European Parliament, all Member States, civil society and social partners. This is a major step in the European Commission’s efforts to rebuild trust between Member States, and to consolidate a cooperative migration-management EU.
CEEP is looking forward to the next steps ahead, and especially the adoption of a new comprehensive Action Plan on integration and inclusion for 2021-2024, and the political agreement that the European Parliament and the Council are expected to reach in their process to examine and adopt the full set of legislation necessary to make a truly common EU asylum and migration policy a reality.
The Pact is high on the agenda of the European Social and Economic Partners, that were called upon in the past months to renew their commitment in integrating refugees in the economic recovery phase from COVID-19. On 7 September 2020, Commissioners Johansson and Schmit and representatives of the five Social and Economic Partners organisations (CEEP, ETUC, Business Europe, SMEUnited, Eurochambres) reached an agreement and renewed their commitment to the European Partnership for Integration through a Joint Statement. On that occasion, the Commission published a press release with statements by Commissioners Johansson and Schmit as well as Vice-Presidents Schinas and Dombrovskis. CEEP also published a Press Release on 8 September 2020, with a statement by the General Secretary Valeria Ronzitti.
CEEP is currently responding to the European Commission’s DG Home EU-wide public consultation to gather views on new actions that could be taken at EU level to promote the integration and social inclusion of migrants and people with a migrant background. The Commission seeks to gather input from a broad range of stakeholders including national, regional and local authorities, civil society organisations, social and economic partners, businesses, education and training providers, academia, cultural and sport organisations, migrant organisations and private individuals. The results of the consultation will contribute to the development of the Action Plan on integration and inclusion announced in the Commission’s work programme.
Finally, the new Greek Pilot Action video was published yesterday in the framework of the Labour-INT 2 project that CEEP is carrying out together with the ETUC and the other social and economic partners, thanks to the DG Home co-financing.
Should you wish to receive any information regarding CEEP activities in the field of migration and integration, to contribute to the public consultation, or to get a general overview of the Commission’s Pact on Migration and Asylum, do not hesitate to contact CEEP Project Manager Carlotta Astori.
Restarting European economies in the aftermath of Covid-19 on a more sustainable basis through the newly launched EU-wide recovery fund is the next step in addressing the repercussions of the health crisis, the European Commission said last week whilst presenting its 2021 Annual Sustainable Growth Strategy (ASGS).
The new ASGS includes a set of goals to be met with the 672.5 billion euros from the COVID-19 recovery package. As part of its NextGenerationEU initiative, the funds are aimed at helping the EU emerge stronger and more resilient from the current crisis through investments and reforms in seven flagship areas focused on environmental sustainability, productivity, fairness, and macroeconomic stability. More specifically, Member States can tap into the funds provided they submit draft plans outlining national investment and reform agendas in line with the aforementioned criteria.
EU Member States should submit final plans by 30 April 2021 and are encouraged to submit preliminary draft plans as of 15 October 2020. Plans should also focus on economic growth, job creation and economic and social resilience, as well as to meet the green and digital transitions. Under its current guidance for proposals, the Commission encourages Member States to include in their plans investment and reforms in the following areas:
- Future-proof clean technologies and acceleration of the development and use of renewables,
- The improvement of energy efficiency of public and private buildings,
- The promotion of future-proof clean technologies to accelerate the use of sustainable, accessible, and smart transport, charging and refuelling stations and extension of public transport,
- The fast rollout of rapid broadband services to all regions and households, including fibre and 5G networks,
- The digitalisation of public administration and services, including judicial and healthcare systems,
- The increase in European industrial data cloud capacities and the development of the most powerful, cutting edge, and sustainable processors,
- The adaptation of education systems to support digital skills and educational and vocational training for all ages.
The Commission is urging the European Parliament and the Council to approve the aid facility so that it goes into effect on 1 January 2021. This publication is extremely important for CEEP members as there are new possibilities for funding projects and plans to support Public services and SGIs across Europe. Furthermore, the Commission encourages Member States to engage as soon as possible in a broad policy dialogue including all relevant stakeholders to prepare their recovery and resilience plans.
Public services and services of general interest are key in fostering the resilience of our social and economic systems and will be the supporting force for our recovery. Putting forward flagship initiatives along the lines of the conditions specified in the Guidance and template provided by the Commission presents a unique opportunity for providers of public services and SGIs to increase their resilience, and reinforce the EU social-economic model.
On Wednesday 22 July 2020, the European Commission’s DG Home launched an EU-wide public consultation to gather views on new actions that could be taken at EU level to promote the integration and social inclusion of migrants and people with a migrant background. The Commission also launched in parallel a call for applications to set up an expert group composed of persons with a migrant background to participate in the development and implementation of migration, asylum and integration policies.
With both the consultation and the expert group, the Commission seeks to gather input from a broad range of stakeholders including national, regional and local authorities, civil society organisations, social and economic partners, businesses, education and training providers, academia, cultural and sport organisations, migrant organisations and private individuals. The results of the consultation will contribute to the development of the Action Plan on integration and inclusion announced in the Commission’s work programme.
The public consultation will be available in all EU official languages until 21 October 2020. The call for applications to become a member of the Commission expert group on the views of migrants will be open until 21 September .
Involving migrants, asylum applicants and refugees is essential to make the policies more effective and better tailored to needs on the ground. Well-managed migration to Europe contributes to our societies, culture and economy. The integration and social inclusion of people with migrant background is crucial for cultural exchange and community cohesion. It also helps address skills gaps, labour shortages, and to boost economic performance overall. Currently in the EU, too many migrants face challenges in terms of unemployment, lack of educational and training opportunities, and limited social interaction within their broader communities – challenges which adequate public policies could turn into opportunities. The responsibility for integration policies lies primarily with the Member States. However, the EU has established a large variety of measures to incentivise and support national authorities but also local and regional authorities and civil society in their efforts to promote integration. This includes dedicated funding and instruments addressing social and economic cohesion across Member States. In 2016, the Commission launched an Action Plan on the integration of third country nationals, which included fifty actions to promote integration. The von der Leyen Commission will put forward an Action Plan on integration and inclusion by the end of October 2020, whose content will be based on the results of both the consultation and the expert group. This topic is high on the agenda of the European Social and Economic Partners, that were called upon in the past months to start defining a strategy to renew their commitment in integrating refugees in the economic recovery phase from COVID-19.
The Statement that was published last 6 May 2020 following the meeting with Commissioner Johansson on the role of migrants in the way out of the pandemic will soon be followed by further joint actions in the field of economic migration, on which the EU social and economic partners expressed their mutual will to cooperate in the months to come. In this sense, a follow-up discussion amongst the EU economic and social partners and the European Commission on the renewal of the partnership for integration is foreseen for the 7 September 2020.
Should you wish to receive any information regarding CEEP activities in the field of migration and integration, or a general overview of the Commission’s initiative, do not hesitate to contact CEEP Project Manager Carlotta Astori.
In 2006, a number of existing directives on gender equality in the field of employment were ‘recast’ and consolidated, in the Recast Directive, also called Equal Pay Directive. The Directive was complemented in 2014 by a Commission Recommendation on Pay Transparency (2014/124/EU). At the beginning of 2019, the Commission ran two public consultations on equal pay and gender equality at large in the EU.
CEEP took part in these consultations and stressed that there was no need to revise the Equal Pay Directive or to introduce binding pay transparency measures at the European level. Nevertheless, European Commission President von der Leyen announced that she will table binding measures on pay transparency in her political guidelines in September 2019 as well as in the Commission Work Programme. CEEP welcomed the Commission’s choice to address the problems with unequal pay through the 2014 Pay Transparency Recommendation.
The Member States and the national social partners should choose themselves to incorporate the proposed actions they find appropriate in their ongoing work on equal pay, with full respect to the specific national regulation and practice. CEEP stresses that the proposed actions, such as pay audits, job evaluations and classification criteria of work of equal value falls in the remit of the Member States’ and the national social partners’ competence and are not issues to address at the EU level. Pay should be transparent but CEEP wants to emphasise that all policies that touch upon wage setting are and must remain national policies and hence a competence of the Member States and the national social partners.
There is a broad variety of wage systems in the Member States, ranging from strict salary scale in some Member States and/or sectors to individually differentiated pay in others. The Commission can in this regard provide guidelines and follow-up the actions taken at the national level as a voluntary support to Member States and the national social partners. CEEP acknowledges that further progress in some cases might be needed when it comes to the application of the legislative framework. To tackle the gender pay gap, the Commission can continue to monitor Member States compliance with the equal pay principle in the context of the annual European Semester exercise as well as contribute to tackling the root causes, in particular gender stereotypes and segregation on labour markets. It is also essential to increase the availability, the quality, and the affordability of care, in particular childcare infrastructures to encourage higher levels of female employment.
Thus, CEEP welcomes the Commission announcement that it will revise the Barcelona targets. The Commission should work together with Member States to ensure that the targets are fully reached. We also suggest that the Barcelona targets consider the affordability and quality of childcare facilities.
One of the main focuses of the Public Service Board’s work is to change the so-called “SME definition”. For reasons of proportionality, a large number of EU legislative regulations provide for facilitations or support for SMEs. Small and medium-sized enterprises in which public authorities have a direct or indirect holding of more than 25 percent are not considered as SMEs according to the European Commission’s definition of ownership. This has far-reaching consequences, for example in the allocation of subsidies, so that these companies cannot take advantage of the planned administrative relief. In addition, the Corona crisis has shown that such an exclusion can cause major problems for small and medium-sized enterprises in particular and requires urgent reform.
For this reason, CEEP has repeatedly and very vehemently addressed the problem of this definition to the Commission in the context of the Corona crisis. In the coming weeks, we will continue to address this problem in the Public Service Board by preparing a modified version of the position paper on the definition of SMEs and by continuing to maintain a close exchange with stakeholders. In this context, all members are invited to submit concrete examples where public SMEs have been disadvantaged under the current SME definition.
CEEP has also focused strongly on Commission initiatives in the field of competition law and will continue to intensify its work in the coming months. This mainly concerned initiatives on the revision of State aid rules and on the use and re-use of data – especially from the public sector. Legal clarity in State aid regulations is vital concerning the high level of investment needed for SGEI providers to fulfil their mission at the public’s satisfaction in the long term. The revision of State aid rules will therefore remain a key competition law priority in the coming months.
One line of conflict for the public sector that has arisen relatively recently in the context of competition policy is the digitisation initiatives of the Commission. It is precisely these most recent initiatives that are intended to (re)regulate the transfer and use of data, particularly in view of the conditions created by digitisation. Consequently, they may have a far-reaching negative impact on the public economy.
The subject does not only concern competition law, however, but is of great relevance beyond the individual Boards of CEEP. For this reason, we have discussed and commented on competition-relevant areas of digitisation in a working group which is not attached to a Board. In the coming weeks, we will continue this work, particularly with regard to the consultations on the New Competition Tool and the Digital Services Act. You can find here CEEP’s response to the roadmap on European Data Spaces.
After months of intense debates to shape the appropriate EU answer to the COVID-19 crisis, EU leaders have taken significant steps during the last 2 weeks, agreeing last Tuesday (21st July) on the upcoming 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework and the dedicated recovery instrument to support the Member States most hit by the ongoing pandemic.
However, further interinstitutional negotiations will be needed to bring to life the EU budget and the recovery instrument. In a resolution voted on 23 July, the European Parliament expressed its readiness to withhold its consent if the deal agreed by EU leaders is not improved upon, on issues such as the lack of clarity regarding the future repayment plan for the Next Generation EU, the need for an immediate introduction of “a basket of new own resources which must enter the Union budget as of 1 January 2021”, a call for “ending all rebates and corrective mechanisms”, and the weakened tie between EU funding and the respect of the rule of law. The European Parliament wants to engage immediately in constructive negotiations with the Council to improve the proposal.
Once this interinstitutional agreement will be found, it will be up to Member States to prepare and present their respective national recovery plans, which will then be assessed by the European Commission and the European Council.
Just as we did intensively contribute to the path leading to the MFF and Recovery Plan as currently agreed by the EU institutions, CEEP will engage with its national sections and members across Europe and its partners from the ‘SGI facing COVID-19’ Platform to jointly call for the proper presence of public services and SGI in those plans, as well as the genuine involvement of social partners in the process.
In parallel, CEEP and its members are reflecting on a longer-term vision and, to highlight and push forward this refection, we publish today the contribution of Jean-Eudes Moncomble, Chair of CEEP’s Sustainability Board.
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 safe summer!