Whilst the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread across the world, with the EU at risk of a second wave, four major uncertainties are hanging over Europe and the world to shapeour future and the place of public services and of services of general interest in this history-defining moment.
The first uncertainty is health: whilst the pandemic that hit Europe at the beginning of the year appears to be under control, health uncertainty remains crucial because there is no treatment or vaccine to date and no one knows how the virus will behave. We cannot take the risk of a second, more devastating health crisis, leading to new economic and social crises in addition to the first one. The first objective is therefore to rebuild and increase Europe’s short-term and long-term resilience. It is therefore all the organisations, businesses, associations and local authorities that have enabled Europe to overcome, sometimes in very difficult conditions, the first wave of the pandemic that must be helped to get back into a position to cope with a possible second wave. In concrete terms, this means investments to be realised, purchases to be made, stocks to be replenished and professionals to be recruited. The role of organisations in charge of services of general interest in the fight against the pandemic has been decisive: this is obvious for the carers, in the “first line” in the fight against the Covid-19; but the “second line” consisted in particular of those who ensure the continuity of energy supply, transport or telecommunication services, waste collection and treatment, water supply and sanitation, not forgetting funeral services, which are unfortunately overstretched. Services of general interest are one of the pillars of European resilience and must urgently be strengthened so that Europe does not collapse in the face of a second disaster, health or otherwise.
The second uncertainty is economic. Europe is facing a historic economic recession of which we are certainly only just beginning to feel the first effects: the recession is spreading to almost all sectors of the economy with the immediate consequence of a fall in employment and an impressive increase in unemployment and therefore insecurity, in a particularly difficult financial context and it will be difficult to avoid a major social crisis. Important supporting policies have already been put in place and strong recovery policies are being put in place. The sums involved are colossal, commensurate with the stakes. A major question remains: who will pay? This question is central; we can note a change in the opinions of experts and decision-makers who consider that part of this debt must be borne by central banks so as not to weigh excessively on the accounts of states and local authorities, businesses and individuals, the former being tempted to shift the burden to the latter via taxation. CEEP does not have the expertise to take part in the debate to determine which technical solution should be implemented, but it insists on the imperative need not to deteriorate the capacity to invest and consume of all economic actors for purely ideological reasons. The situation is exceptional, the solutions must be exceptional and the European Union and the Member States must show innovation and courage, far from ideology.
The third uncertainty is political. The scale of the crisis seems to have overshadowed major environmental issues such as climate change and the loss of biodiversity. It also seems to have relegated to the background the effort to modernise the European economy, spurred on by the development of digital technology. However, these two major challenges – the environment and the modernisation of the economy – did not disappear during the pandemic. A crucial issue then arises, which is also an uncertainty: will Europe be able to reconcile economic recovery with environmental and digital transition at an acceptable economic and social cost? There is a fine line between, on the one hand, a return to the world of the past through a generalised relaunch with the sole objective of restoring growth and employment and, on the other hand, a relaunch solely targeted at the sectors that are driving the ecological and digital transitions, some of which even see an opportunity to increase speed.. Yet the pandemic has not changed the inertia of our economies: everyone knows that accelerating transitions has a cost, whether in terms of stranded assets or destroyed jobs. And the dramatic rise in unemployment that has only just begun is the terrible realization of the price to be paid for accelerating transitions. Policy coherence is essential, not least in order to move towards the reindustrialisation that many are calling for. CEEP must support the idea of taking the difficult path which, whilst resolutely pursuing the transitions that have been initiated, will not pay the high price of the disappearance of entire sections of our economies with its unacceptable social consequences. At the heart of the environmental and digital transitions, CEEP can contribute to the reflection that must make it possible to reconcile the preservation of traditional economic sectors and the development of those that seem to respond to new societal and civic aspirations, through a coherent and reasoned approach, far from any ideology.
The fourth uncertainty is societal: in order to fight the virus, most citizens have fundamentally changed their behaviour; many have discovered teleworking, different lifestyles with regard to distribution channels or transport. A certain awareness seems to have formed around the idea that the development of the past was unsustainable. The crisis has provoked, especially in Europe, the return of citizens to values such as solidarity or social cohesion. Choices – such as, for example, overly accountable management of health systems – are clearly being called into question. Many citizens have discovered or confirmed their appetite for a more local organisation of their lives, in terms of work or trade. What will remain, once the crisis is over, of these new behaviours which have contrasting consequences on the objectives of the European Union: we should not underestimate the strength of the systems to return to their starting point. CEEP shall support and encourage this movement towards values that are moreover close to those of services of general interest. Through their proximity to citizens, CEEP members can play a decisive role in observing the behavioural changes that constitute one of the levers for a successful environmental and digital transition and in defining the responses to be provided.
On 8 July, the European Commission has published its long awaited new Smart Sector Integration Strategy as well as its new Strategy for Hydrogen. CEEP has welcomed the approach to publish such highly interlinked topics at the same time and therefore provide a potential to stimulate the development of energy efficient technologies and accelerate the decarbonisation process to reach for a climate neutral Europe by 2050.
It is also welcomed that many of our suggested proposals in CEEP’s Input to the Smart Sector Integration in regard to use of electricity, renewable and decarbonised gases, buildings, industry, flexibility option, such as smart grids, and local operators have been considered in this proposal. Before the publication of the strategies, CEEP organised two online meetings with Kitti Nyitrai, member of the cabinet of Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson, and with Stefaan Vergote, Head of Unit Strategy and economic Assessment at DG CLIMA, who are both responsible in the development of the strategies. The meetings were led by CEEP Energy Task Force chair Elmar Thyen and vice-chair Alain Taccoen: CEEP was able to advocate our calls for a holistic concept that includes both electricity, renewable and decarbonised gases as well as innovative heating and cooling solutions for the industry, energy and transport sector.
CEEP believes that a one technology solution will not solve the complex challenges to reduce emissions whilst remaining energy efficient, affordable and secure, but through a significant increase of cross-sectoral cooperation to maximise the true potential of each sector and application.
The Smart Sector Integration Strategy is now planned to be the foundational layout of the green energy transition and is based on three main pillars. First, a ‘circular’ energy system with a higher energy efficiency goal will promote the ‘energy efficiency first’ principle in practice, local energy sources, waste to energy as well as the principles of the Renovation wave. Secondly, a greater direct electrification of end-use sectors using more directly electricity produced from local renewable energy sources. And thirdly, promotion for clean fuels, including renewable hydrogen and sustainable biofuels and biogas. The Commission proposes a new classification and certification system for renewable and low-carbon fuels. Under these three pillar, the Commission put together a concrete action plan divided into six chapters with 38 concrete policy proposals and guidelines for Member States. These include the revision of existing legislation, financial support, research and deployment of new technologies and digital tools, guidance to Member States on fiscal measures and phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies, market governance reform and infrastructure planning, and improved information to consumers. The aim is that the strategy will serve as a compass that supports Member States to direct them in their efforts to decarbonise in the same direction.
The Hydrogen Strategy is the first EU wide strategy promoting the use of hydrogen in the energy system and addresses how to transform this potential into the existing sectors, through investments, regulation, market creation and research and innovation. It explains that the main priority on how to produce hydrogen is the use of solar and wind energy, but also considers for the short- and medium-term low-carbon hydrogen. The aim of this strategy is to set out a gradual scheme to slowly and effectively introduce hydrogen as a storage and energy production option into the energy system:
From 2020 to 2024, the aim is to install at least 6 gigawatts of renewable hydrogen electrolysers in the EU, and the production of up to one million tonnes of renewable hydrogen.
From 2025 to 2030, the aim is to make hydrogen an intrinsic part of the integrated energy system, with at least 40 gigawatts of renewable hydrogen electrolysers and the production of up to ten million tonnes of renewable hydrogen in the EU.
From 2030 to 2050, the aim is to have renewable hydrogen technologies which are well matured in the energy system and can be deployed at large scale across all hard-to-decarbonise sectors.
In support of this strategy, the Commission has launched the European Clean Hydrogen Alliance with industry leaders, civil society, national and regional ministers and the European Investment Bank. The Alliance will build up an investment pipeline for scaled-up production and will support demand for clean hydrogen in the EU.
The next step for the Commission is the evaluation of the planned Sustainable and Smart Mobility strategy, regarding which an open consultation has already been published. This will additionally strengthen the sector integration development in Europe. Also, the Commission intends to invite interested parties to debate in a large dedicated public event at the end of this year and to contribute to the public consultations and impact assessments that will inform the preparation of the follow-up proposals envisaged for 2021 and beyond as mentioned in the key action of the documents. (see original document in the links above).
After the summer break, CEEP will kick off the discussion again and invites its members to join its Smart Sector Integration Webinar on 15 September from 10h00 to 11h00 with confirmed Panel speaker Antonio Lopez-Nicolas, Deputy Head of the Renewable Energy Unit at DG ENER. Further information on how to log in and the draft agenda will be shared with you in due course.
The outbreak of COVID-19 has already led to multiple social and economic consequences. In recent weeks, the European Commission has launched numerous packages of measures and legal initiatives to combat this crisis. CEEP played an active role in this process and provided input on various occasions.
In addition to numerous position papers, discussions and initiatives – such as the “SGIs facing COVID-19” platform – CEEP has expressed concrete positions on individual topics. In this context, we had addressed to the European Commission, and particularly to Executive Vice-President Vestager and Commissioner Breton our interrogations regarding the scope of the Temporary Framework of State aid for Services of General (Economic) Interest and the need to reconsider the current SME definition, which are particular urgency for the Public Service Board.
The particular problem that Services of General (Economic) Interest are facing in this crisis is recognized by the European Commission and our general concerns are shared. With regard to the scope of the Temporary Framework on State aid, we meanwhile have certainty that all aid schemes of the European Commission apply to both the public and private sectors. This is a great success, as no distinction is made in the ownership structure. Instead, the aid measures are focused on the respective sector that needs aid.
As the service sector was and is particularly affected by the crisis, we are pleased that the European Commission has set the right priorities. Aid programmes such as the Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme by the European Central Bank and the measures of the Temporary Framework of State aid can be mentioned in this context. Regarding the current SME definition, the Commission has taken note of our concerns. However, the SME aid already in place will not be extended to public SMEs facing the current crises. There is, nonetheless, the possibility for Member States to include LPSEs in their national aid schemes for targeted SME aid. The Public Service Board is currently collecting examples of companies affected by the SME definition in order to address this issue specifically to the Commission. You are invited to send your examples to email@example.com.
On 1 July, Germany will start its Presidency of the Council of the EU for the next six month, taking over from Croatia. In its first presentation of the upcoming priorities, and despite the COVID-19 crisis, the German government remains committed to important priorities such as climate protection and the digitalisation.
Amongst those, one of the ambitions of the German Presidency will be to make mobility in Europe more modern, more innovative and more sustainable, building up on the lessons from the COVID-19 crisis. Federal Minister Andreas Scheuer, responsible for transport, outlined the priorities for the mobility sector, building up on the work of the Croatian Presidency and the Commission’s adjusted work programme. The approach to mobility of the German presidency will be relying on three pillars: sustainability, mobility and digital transformation. A focus will be put on three main initiatives scheduled for release in the last quarter of the 2020: the Strategy for sustainable and smart mobility, ReFuelEUAviation -Sustainable Aviation Fuels, and FuelEU Maritime-Green European Maritime Space.
Meanwhile in Germany, whilst Brussels is still waiting for the new Hydrogen Strategy (to be published on 8 July), the German government published its National Hydrogen Strategy, with a financial support of 7 billion Euros. The German presidency is also expected to finalise the discussions on the ongoing legislative files, including the measures to speed up the completion of the Trans-European transport network (TEN-T), the Connecting Europe Facility, rail passengers’ rights, the Eurovignette proposal and many other priorities outlined by the Croatian Presidency. The German government also put forward the intention to develop a European pandemic contingency plan for freight transport. Lacking so far Europe-wide arrangements for key transport infrastructures and modes of transport in the event of pandemics, introducing uniform standards and procedures has been identified by the German government as a priority.
CEEP believes that managing the consequences of the COVID-19 crisis whilst handling climate change will ask for strong commitments from EU Member States. Increasing the share of public transport is in our views the best decarbonisation and e-mobility strategy for urban areas and cities. Public transport is sustainable, clean, and reliable. During the COVID-19 lockdowns, public transport operators maintained their services and were vital for facilitating the transport of staff and patients to healthcare facilities.
In the aftermath of COVID-19, public transport operators will require a considerable financial input. These investments will be vital as the public transport sector is a key driver for employment. Public transport is also a basic requirement for successful economic structures. To safeguard the development and the decarbonised transition of this sector, CEEP calls for a continued and strong political environment and long-term legal security, as well as better access to European funding for urban transport. CEEP intends in the upcoming months to strengthen the image of public transport as expressed in our position to the Year of Rail 2021 and on the upcoming EU Strategy for smart and sustainable mobility.
On Thursday 25 June 2020, CEEP took part in the European Commission’s hearing of the EU Social Partners’ consultation meeting on the “Pay Transparency Initiative”.
Continuing the discussions started during a bilateral meeting between CEEP and Commissioner Dalli on 9 June 2020, this consultation is paving the way to the implementation of President von der Leyen’s political guidelines, where binding pay transparency measures are one of the flagship initiatives. It also follows the evaluation of the Recast Directive in March 2020, which stated that limited progress had been made on enforcing the right to equal pay and increasing pay transparency by Member States, and started a public and a social partner consultation on new measures to achieve pay transparency in Europe.
This issue is very high on the agenda of the social partners as this initiative is likely to have an important impact at work place level.
Equal pay between women and men has been a founding principle of the European Union since the Treaty of Rome in 1957. In 2006, a number of existing directives on gender equality in the field of employment were ‘recast’ and consolidated, together with case-law of the Court of Justice of the European Union, into a single Directive 2006/54 (the Recast Directive). The Recast Directive provides the right to equal pay for the same work or work of equal value, i.e. the comparison between different occupations of equal value. The Directive was complemented in 2014 by a Commission Recommendation on Pay Transparency (2014/124/EU).
Considering the persistent gender pay gap, and the scarce progresses in enforcing the right to equal pay, a forthcoming initiative is now being discussed, building on previous work by the Commission. It will complement other Commission initiatives focused on tackling the root causes of the gender pay gap, such as the adoption and implementation of the Work-Life Balance Directive 2019/1158, sectoral initiatives fighting stereotypes and ensuring better gender balance and the proposed Directive on improving gender balance on company boards of the large EU listed companies.
CEEP stressed during this meeting that the only effective way to tackle wage differences between women and men is to address the root causes, in particular gender stereotypes and gender segregation on labour markets, education systems and in society in general. It was also emphasized that these underlying causes to the gender pay gap are to be taken into account following a holistic approach when analysing, as well as addressing, the gender pay gap. CEEP also reiterated in this sense that employers do not believe that more regulation on pay transparency is the solution.
The meeting started with a morning session of separate employers/trade unions discussions, followed by a joint session in preparation of the official hearing sessions with the Commission. The afternoon session was welcomed by the chair, Mr Jörg Tagger, Head of Unit of the Social Dialogue Unit in the DG EMPL, followed by a presentation from the Commission (delivered by Ms Irena Moozova, Director Equality and Union citizenship in the DG JUST) of the planned initiative.
Should you wish to receive any information regarding the inputs employers shared with the Commission, or a general overview of the initiative, do not hesitate to contact CEEP Project Manager Carlotta Astori.
Whilst most of the EU Member States have lifted the lockdown measures implemented to slow down and limit the spread of the COVID-19, and with EU internal borders slowly reopening, a sense of normalcy is coming back in the life of EU citizens.
However, this impression should not overtake the EU decision-making process: the COVID-19 outbreak, as well as its continuous and accelerating spread around the world, will have dramatic economic and social consequences. Building up on the proposals of the European Commission for an adapted Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for 2021-2027 and the Next Generation EU recovery instrument, EU leaders need to take quick and decisive actions to put Europe on the path to recovery. The upcoming Summit of the European Council on 17 and 18 July might end up as ‘make-it or break-it’ for responding to the COVID-19 challenge and, ultimately, will be the starting bloc for the future of the EU.
This message was at the heart of CEEP key messages at the Tripartite Social Summit on 23 June. In presence of Andrej Plenković, Croatian Prime Minister, the Ministers of Labour of the incoming German and Portuguese Presidencies, Charles Michel, President of the European Council, and Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, CEEP delegation highlighted its expectations, for EU leaders to find a quick agreement on the MFF 2021-20207 and the Next Generation EU, and to anchor a long-term and forward-looking EU recovery. CEEP also emphasises the importance of putting employers and providers of public services and services of general interest at the heart of the recovery.
Anticipating the future is also at the heart of the EU social partners’ framework agreement on digitalisation which was officially signed on Monday 22 June by EU Social Partners. Supporting the digital transformation of Europe’s economy and its implications for labour markets, the world of work and society at large, this agreement supports the successful integration of digital technologies at the workplace, investment in digital skills, skills updating and the continuous employability of the workforce. The agreement enables employers and unions to introduce digital transformation strategies in partnership in a human oriented approach at national, sectoral, and workplace levels, including on the modalities of connecting and disconnecting and respect of working time rules and appropriate measures to ensure compliance.
And, in the week of the UN Public Service Day, which was celebrated on 23 June, all those issues are resonating in a different way. Throughout the COVID-19 outbreak, public services and services of general interest remained operational. At no point was the provision of water, energy, education, housing, transport, telecommunications, administration services and waste management structurally questioned. The only exception, which is a result of years of underinvestment in several Member States, was the healthcare services which struggled to cope with the scope of the crisis.
Our lobby efforts are now concentrated on making sure that the next MFF 2021-2027, as well as the Next Generation EU recovery instrument, will support boosting strategic counter-cyclical investment to promote upward convergence and foster a resilient social market economy, ensuring that all social and physical infrastructures provided by CEEP members will be properly funded.
The coming weeks will, in any case, be more decisive than ever for the future of the EU.
I wish you a good read.
In its communication “The EU budget powering the recovery plan for Europe”, the European Commission emphasised the importance of public investment for a balanced and sustainable recovery. More than 80 per cent of the funding from Next Generation EU will be used to support investment and reforms in the Member States.
The main instrument of recovery will be a new Recovery and Resilience Facility, specifically designed to fund investments and reforms aligned with European priorities. This instrument will be temporary and targeted solely and strictly at addressing the economic impact of the pandemic. It will be complemented by longer-term support under programmes such as InvestEU, cohesion policy and the single market programme.
Beyond the immediate crisis response, cohesion policy will be crucial for the European Commission to ensuring a balanced recovery in the longer term, avoiding asymmetries and divergences of growth between and within Member States. Therefore, the new cohesion policy programmes will be launched on 1 January 2021, in parallel with additional funds made available for the current programmes until the end of 2022.
According to the European Commission, cohesion policy will play an essential role in supporting a balanced and sustainable recovery through a new REACT-EU initiative to tackle the most pressing economic and social needs and to bridge the gap between first response measures and longer-term recovery.
Through REACT-EU, the Commission proposes to provide 55 billion euros of additional cohesion policy funding between now and 2022, 50 billion euros from Next Generation EU in 2021 and 2022 and 5 billion euros already in 2020 by adapting the current financial framework. Additional funding will be provided in 2020-2022 for the current cohesion programmes as well as the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived, allowing funding for key crisis repair measures and support to the most deprived to continue without interruption.
CEEP welcomed the ambition of the European Commission to make the dual-transition for a more sustainable and digitalised recovery plan the key tool to repair and prepare the EU.
The EU needs a climate appropriate, resilient and resource-efficient infrastructure that exploits the full potential of the digital development and the elements of a circular economy approach. Central in providing the direct response to the COVID-19 outbreak, our members, representing employers and providers of services of general interest at the frontline of the crisis, should be placed at the very heart of the recovery and the future of the EU project.
With its proposals for a dedicated recovery instrument, the European Commission intends to secure the long-term recovery and planning of the EU Green Deal amongst others. Borrowing from financial markets, the European Commission is planning to repay the expenses contracted by this tool through new own resources, which could include the Emission Trading Scheme, a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism as well as a new digital tax. This could also stand in addition to the simplified value tax, a non-recycled plastic taxation as well as a new Energy taxation scheme.
Part of the Next Generation EU, the Recovery and Resilience facility plan with a budget of €560 billion should support Member States to implement investments and reforms that are essential for a sustainable recovery. Member States will design their own tailored national recovery plans, based on the investment and reform priorities identified as part of the European Semester, in line with National Climate and Energy Plans (NECP), Just Transition Plans and Partnership Agreements and Operational Programmes under EU funds.
The Commission is also planning on strengthening the Just Transition Fund with an additional €32.5 billion. This funding will be used to alleviate the socio-economic impacts of the transition, supporting re-skilling, helping SMEs to create new economic opportunities, and investing in the clean energy transition.
Fortunately, the EU Green Deal’s climate policies didn’t take a severe hit from the original process, and were not heavily delayed as feared. The policy files that will see some delay according to the revised European Commission 2020 Work Programme are the 8th Environmental Action Programme (Q4 2020), the Smart Mobility Strategy (Q4 2020) and the Climate Adaptation Strategy (Q1 2021). However, important files are planned to continue such as the Smart Sector Integration Strategy (publish date 24 June), the EU Climate Law, Just Transition Fund, the Biodiversity Strategy and the EU Climate Emission Targets for 2030.
The unique opportunity to reach for a better and more sustainable Europe is now. SGIs and public services are at the forefront in turning this vision into a reality. With their expertise and their proximity to society they will provide Europe with the necessary tools to achieve its ambitious goals. To say the least, SGIs and public services have shown immense resilience during this crisis, providing essential supplies to the public such as energy, water supply and disposal of waste and transportation. It is exactly at this point, where Europe has to shift its focus and recognize its true potential for a sustainable and resilient Europe by mobilizing and supporting its most essential assets: the services of general interest.
On 27 May, the European Commission put forward its proposals regarding the new Multiannual Financial Framework as well as the highly anticipated COVID-19 recovery instrument, the Next Generation EU. The general guidelines of this new instrument – which are remarkably green and digital-oriented – have been presented by Commission’s President Ursula von der Leyen before the EU Parliament this Wednesday afternoon.
The Next Generation EU aims to destine 500 billion in grants and 250 billion in loans to Member States and will not involve the mutualization of pre-existing debts. The amounts presented by the Commission can still be modified, depending on the next steps of the decision-making processes within the European Parliament and Council. CEEP welcomes the fact that the initiative will be, according to the proposal, closely steered by the European Semester and enhances the need to guarantee that those funds are allocated in consonance with the established criteria – which generally targets the crisis management and the materialization of the Green Deal and digitalization.
Furthermore, the proposal aims to trigger EU resources’ full potential, which will be enabled, according to the EC, by “targeted reinforcements to the long-term EU budget”. Within the discussion that followed von der Leyen’s speech, a considerable number of MEPs expressed the need to design an appropriate EU taxation framework – particularly when it comes to digital taxes – in order to ensure that additional sources of revenue can further support the recovery process.
President von der Leyen strongly emphasized how this unprecedented historical moment requires a bold, forward-looking and collective action. She stressed that this crisis is triggering multiple cross-border spill overs, which implies that cohesion, convergence, and investment must remain at the core of European endeavours.
As CEEP, we believe that the promotion of strategically designed investment is the key element to guarantee our recovery, boost upward convergence and, therefore, foster a stronger and more resilient Economic and Monetary Union. In this spirit, we support the reinforcement made by the Commission of our long-term commitments to the green and digital transitions and its attempt to conceive a future-proof and sustainable recovery package.
The Commission’s Directorate-General for Economic and Financial affairs (DG ECFIN) has invited the EU Social Partners to have a preliminary discussion on the proposals at an informal Macroeconomic Dialogue at the Technical Level held remotely on Friday 29 May. CEEP was represented by the Chair of our Macroeconomic Taskforce, Mr Tor Hatlevoll, who reiterated the importance of the green and digital features of the package, as well as its emphasis on skilling, re-skilling and up-skilling initiatives, which are crucial for the accomplishment of the Commission’s targets.
Furthermore, Mr Hatlevoll stressed that, beyond the discussion regarding the amount of funds or its balance between grants and loans, we must focus on the procedures that will enable the raising of these funds on the financial markets – and its impacts on different macroeconomic variables, notably, on interest rates –, as well as its distribution amongst different levels of governance.
Given the urgency and magnitude of the pandemic and its impacts, CEEP believes unprecedented action must, indeed, take place. In this context, however, we must particularly be attentive to guaranteeing that the Next Generation EU properly tackles its purposes. In order to do so, multiple channels of articulation must be activated to connect different stakeholders and ensure a transparent and efficient implementation process, in which the active involvement of Social Partners is vital.
On Wednesday 27 May, during an exceptional plenary setting of the European Parliament, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, presented the proposals for the EU post-COVID-19 recovery. Three months after the beginning of the outbreak in Europe, those proposals have kick-started the discussions on the recovery path to be followed by the EU and its 27 Member States.
Coming on top of the already agreed European instrument for temporary Support to mitigate Unemployment Risks in an Emergency (SURE), the ESM Pandemic Crisis Support, the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative and the EIB guarantees, the plan of the European Commission relies on a dedicated recovery instrument, the Next Generation EU, a proposal for an updated Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 and an adapted Commission Work Programme for 2020.
Whilst welcoming the intent of the European Commission to put forward a proposal for an EU recovery aimed at balancing burden-sharing, solidarity and sovereignty across the EU, we now call on the EU institutions – European Council and European Parliament – to agree on a recovery strategy which will fix the damages caused by the COVID-19 outbreak whilst preparing for the future. A particular attention must be brought on finding the right balance between grants and loans, as well as the short and long-term perspectives. However, first and foremost, the EU should address the most urgent priorities.
Aimed at supporting the EU recovery, the Next Generation EU will now serve as a negotiating starting point for the European Council, which will need the unanimous support of the 27 Member States to become a reality, as well as the approval of the European Parliament. Relying on grants loans to Member States, the proposal is an exceptional measure, and does not involve the mutualisation of pre-existing debts. The European Semester, which includes CEEP and the Social partners in the process, must be at the heart of the implementation to ensure the proper usage of the funds.
With its focus on priorities for building a forward-looking EU model, the EU recovery will have to put the green and digital twin transitions at the centre of the new EU growth strategy, embracing a resource-efficient, sustainable and resilient infrastructure. Preparing the future, and ensuring the central place of the EU in the new geopolitical order, should be the main focus.
Central in providing the direct response to the COVID-19 outbreak, our members, representing employers and providers of services of general interest at the frontline of the crisis, should be placed at the very heart of the recovery and the future of the EU project.
Together with the boards and task forces, CEEP will proceed to the in-depth analysis of the package of proposals, which will be further discussed by the European Council on 18-19 June 2020, and will focus on ensuring that the voice of employers and providers of services of general interest are taken into account in the relaunch of the EU.