Press

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Today [5th May 2020], Valeria Ronzitti, CEEP General Secretary, attended the informal meeting of employment and social policy ministers, organised by the Croatian Presidency of the EU and held online for the first time.

Addressing the “Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on European societies: demographic challenges and measures for economic recovery and social security”, the meeting brought together EU social partners and employment and social policy ministers of the 27, with a focus on the consequences of COVID-19 on labour markets and the economy and the measures to alleviate those.

Representing employers and providers of services of general interest, CEEP General Secretary Valeria Ronzitti said:

Appropriate investment into social infrastructure is indispensable to manage the demographic transition. The pandemic is now exposing the product of decades of underinvestment in our social infrastructure. We must learn from this experience and mobilize unprecedented efforts to close this investment gap.”

CEEP supports the call to EPSCO ministers issued by the European Commission to protect and invest in social services and social infrastructures: they are the ones ensuring the delivery of essential services to the vulnerable sectors of the population, including the most exposed to the impacts of the COVID-19. This momentum requires a new policy mix to be put forward, which must be able to not only promote the recovery, but to efficiently address our long-term structural challenges.”

CEEP also calls for the EU and the Member States to make full use of social dialogue, which has a proven track-record of generating effective, practical, and equitable solutions to the type of challenges now confronting the world of work. At EU level, social partners have been working actively and collectively with the institutions to face the crisis and intend to continue this work throughout the next phases, in which we should be consulted as the ones who can efficiently deliver.”

Today [15th April 2020], the Commission, in cooperation with the President of the European Council and responding to the call from the heads of state and of government for a coordinated exit strategy, has put forward a European roadmap to phase-out the containment measures put in place due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Welcoming the objectives of this roadmap aimed at promoting a pan-European cooperation whilst progressively lifting lockdowns across the continent, Valeria Ronzitti, CEEP General Secretary, commented:

When designing exit strategies, a one-size-fits-all approach is impossible to implement across the EU, as territories and sectors are unevenly affected. European guidance is however needed to promote solidarity and cooperation across the continent. Failing to implement a coordinated approach could prove contrary to the whole EU integration, which was aimed at increasing economic and social convergence between and within Member States.”

“We welcome the fact that the Roadmap stresses that public health remains at the top of the agenda and should prevail on the economy. Notwithstanding the importance of restarting the economy to mitigate the enormous economic and social impacts of the crisis, the protection of public health, combined with the serious evaluation of the capacity of each national healthcare system, should remain the first guiding principle.”

We now call upon Member States, as well as the EU, regional and local institutions to involve the social partners in the design of the de-containment process. By their nature and representativeness, employers and trade unions are the perfect interlocutors to prepare and issue guidelines on how to safely bring sectors, regions and Member States out of lockdowns.”

“SGI providers, which have maintained activities throughout the crisis, have implemented specific health and safety measures to protect workers. With its partners of the platform ‘SGI facing COVID-19’ and their joint expertise, CEEP can therefore contribute to shaping concrete guidelines.”

The European employer and trade union organisations’ sympathies are with the families of those who have already lost loved ones to COVID-19, and our gratitude is to the workers and enterprises who are already showing exceptional courage and resilience, both to treat the sick, and to maintain the vital goods and services upon which we all depend. We are closely following the developments of the dramatic emergency of the COVID-19 epidemic across Europe and are at the forefront, particularly within member states, of the design and implementation of the extraordinary measures to help enterprises and workers in facing this emergency.

The European social partners support the set of measures announced by the European Commission and the European Central Bank over the last days, and are in close contact with the Commission to help ensuring a swift and effective implementation, which shall come on top, and in support of, the national measures that have been, and are going to be discussed between national social partners and national governments.

The European social partners urge the European Council of Heads of State and Government to approve all the measures proposed by the European Commission so far, without any delay, nor with changes that could weaken their impact.

The social partners urge the governments to approve in particular measures envisaging:

  • the temporary full use of the built-in flexibility in the Stability and Growth Pact targets, including its temporary suspension by using the general escape clause;
  • avoiding single market distortions, including bans and export restrictions and especially for export of medical equipment and medicines, and stopping closing borders for goods; safeguarding all freight transport modes is a priority within the EU, also having an essential role to coordinate and inform regarding actions taken in Member States;
  • encouraging Member States’ spending and investment particularly to reinforce staff, equipment and means for national health services, social protection systems and other services of general interest;
  • mobilising unused structural funds and any other available EU funding to support Member States in ensuring financial and income support for workers affected by unemployment or suspension from work, including non-standard workers and self-employed;
  • ensuring credit access and financial support for enterprises, especially all types of SMEs, affected by lockdown and emergency measures, with a coordinated intervention from the EU budget, the ECB, the EIB, and national promotional banks;
  • activating the solidarity fund for natural disasters and any other available funding at EU level;
  • the efforts by the European Commission to deploy full flexibility within State Aid rules should also be acknowledged.

Member States should involve national Social Partners in the designing and implementation of national measures.

All efforts need to be undertaken to help workers, enterprises, economic activities and public services to survive the crisis, so they will be able to come back to their activities when the crisis ends, to keep workers in their jobs meanwhile, to protect from unemployment and loss of income, and to alleviate financial losses.

The Commission and Member States must ensure that financial support reaches enterprises, especially all types of SMEs, and all workers, including the self-employed and those with precarious jobs who are most vulnerable.

The Commission’s plan to apply flexibility regarding the application of its fiscal and State Aid rules is essential to supporting public services, which are stretched to the limit, as well as companies and workers hit by the crisis.

EU funding invested in protecting workers and enterprises from the worst effects of the crisis should be additional to member states’ spending.

Europe must show responsibility, solidarity and efficiency in facing this emergency, by protecting all its affected citizens, workers and enterprises.

The European employer and trade union organisations’ sympathies are with the families of those who have already lost loved ones to COVID-19, and our gratitude is to the workers and enterprises who are already showing exceptional courage and resilience, both to treat the sick, and to maintain the vital goods and services upon which we all depend. We are closely following the developments of the dramatic emergency of the COVID-19 epidemic across Europe and are at the forefront, particularly within member states, of the design and implementation of the extraordinary measures to help enterprises and workers in facing this emergency.

The European social partners support the set of measures announced by the European Commission on 13 March and the European Central Bank over the last days, and are in close contact with the Commission to help ensuring a swift and effective implementation, which shall come on top, and in support of, the national measures that have been, and are going to be discussed between national social partners and national governments.

The European social partners urge the Eurogroup and the Council of Economic and Finance Ministers (ECOFIN), meeting on 16-17 March, to approve all the measures proposed by the European Commission so far, without any delay, nor with changes that could weaken their impact.

The social partners urge the governments to approve in particular measures envisaging:

  • the temporary full use of the built-in flexibility in the Stability and Growth Pact targets, including considering its temporary suspension by using the general escape clause;
  • avoiding single market distortions, including bans and export restrictions and especially for export of medical equipment and medicines, and stopping closing borders for goods; safeguarding all freight transport modes is a priority within the EU, also having an essential role to coordinate and inform regarding actions taken in Member States;
  • encouraging Member States’ spending and investment particularly to reinforce staff, equipment and means for national health services, social protection systems and other services of general interest;
  • mobilising unused structural funds and other EU funds to support Member States in ensuring financial and income support for workers affected by unemployment or suspension from work, including non-standard workers and self-employed;
  • ensuring credit access and financial support for enterprises, especially all types of SMEs, affected by lockdown and emergency measures, with a coordinated intervention from the EU budget, the ECB, the EIB, and national promotional banks;
  • activating the solidarity fund for natural disasters and any other available funding at EU level;
  • the efforts by the European Commission to deploy full flexibility within State Aid rules should also be acknowledged.

Member States should involve national Social Partners in the designing and implementation of national measures.

All efforts need to be undertaken to help workers, enterprises, economic activities and public services to survive the crisis, so they will be able to come back to their activities when the crisis ends, to keep workers in their jobs meanwhile, to protect from unemployment and loss of income, and to alleviate financial losses.

The Commission and Member States must ensure that financial support reaches enterprises, especially all types of SMEs, and all workers, including the self-employed and those with precarious jobs who are most vulnerable.

The Commission’s plan to apply flexibility regarding the application of its fiscal and State Aid rules is essential to supporting public services, which are stretched to the limit, as well as companies and workers hit by the crisis.

EU funds invested in protecting workers and enterprises from the worst effects of the crisis should be additional to member states’ spending.

Europe must show responsibility, solidarity and efficiency in facing this emergency, by protecting all its affected citizens, workers and enterprises.

This Friday [13 March 2020], the European Commission has presented its guidelines in order to provide a prompt and efficient European response to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the EU economy.

Reacting to this package of measures, Valeria Ronzitti, CEEP General Secretary, said:

“We highly welcome the Commission’s effort to put in place a set of actions to mitigate the economic and social impacts of COVID-19. In particular, the flexibility-driven approach to the state aid regime and to the Stability and Growth pact will surely contribute to improve Member States’ margins of maneuver to offer relief to enterprises and workers.”

Our members, providers of public services and services of general interest, are highly affected, such as the healthcare sector – which clearly must be given ultimate priority right now – as well as transport and education. Additionally, public banks and financial institutions will suffer the pressure to adequately respond to this emergency and must have the proper tools and incentives at their disposal to safeguard liquidity ratios across Member States.”

Giving the appropriate support to those essential services is indispensable. Nevertheless, we are concerned that, apart from the tailored measures that are rightfully designed to assist the healthcare system, the Commission’s action plan announced today lacks a well-defined approach to public services and services of general interest, especially local public services enterprises with structures, staffing and budgetary capacities of SMEs.”

“Finally, the challenge we face today must be a lesson for the future. The EU must finally set up an institutional framework that allows for the efficient coordination among different levels of governance and enhances the EU’s leading role. Without such skeleton, our capacity to respond to shocks will remain short-termist and marginal.”

Today [10th March 2020], the European Commission put forward its proposal for a new Industrial Strategy. The Strategy comprises a communication for A New Industrial Strategy for Europe, An SME Strategy for a sustainable and digital Europe, an Action Plan for better implementation and enforcement of the single market rules and the Single Market Barriers Report.

Reacting to this proposal, Valeria Ronzitti, CEEP General Secretary, said:

“CEEP considers the Package published today as a central element for the realization of the EU’s ambition to support the environmental and digital transitions of economic actors, on equal footing with the EU Green Deal, the European Sustainable Investment Plan and the Digital Package.”

“Services of general interest are at the heart of those strategies and are essential actors of the competitiveness and adaptability of the EU industrial base. SGIs are responsible for the provision of the infrastructure without which most, if not all, of our economies’ value chains would collapse: We call in this context for a balanced approach, fully taking into account the specificities and achievements of employers and enterprises of services of general interest.”

“CEEP welcomes the inclusion of the SME strategy in this Industrial Package. The new Commission’s framework has rightly identified the measures necessary to assist SMEs while recognizing that SMEs are very diverse. In this context we insist on the role of local public services SMEs for achieving our sustainability and competitiveness objectives and call for the strategy to also address their needs in the assessment of the SME definition.”

“The Circular Economy Action Plan is a key component of the EU industrial architecture. EU industries must fully embrace the ways of the circular economy or risk failing to meet with the EU’s environmental objectives. SGIs are at the key players in driving this new economic strategy and will pave the way of other economic actors to follow.”

We encourage the EU, national, regional and local authorities as well as social partners, to further build on this new strategy for concrete actions to reinforce the legal framework of the EU industry, R&D, financing, intellectual property, skilling and reskilling of workers, climate action measures, circular economy, as well as adapting competition rules and fight unfair practices.”

Today [5 March 2020], Věra Jourová, European Commission Vice-President for Values and Transparency, and Helena Dalli, Commissioner for Equality, presented the Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025 of the European Commission. This initiative is designed around three main pillars: gender-based violence, gender pay gaps and the disproportionality between men and women occupying decision-making positions.

Reacting to this proposal, Valeria Ronzitti, CEEP General Secretary, said:

“CEEP welcomes the Commission’s holistic approach and consistent articulation among the proposals: policy coordination within and between different levels of governance is indispensable for the achievement of effective gender equality policies. We encourage the EU, national and regional institutions to go even farther on that track, namely by adopting a sound and systemic approach to gender-budgeting.”

“Guaranteeing equal opportunities and ensuring the fair and further inclusion of women in the labour market will have a substantial impact on the productivity of the EU. That is why, as CEEP, we strongly welcome integration measures and the de-construction of gender-based stereotypes within the labour market.”

“We will contribute to the future consultations of Social Partners on pay transparency, calling for a balanced approach fully taking into account the specificities and achievements of employers and enterprises of services of general interest.”

You can find more about CEEP position on gender equality in our response to the roadmap for the Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025 here.

Today [22nd January 2020], the European Commission presented its communication “Shaping the Conference on the Future of Europe”, laying out the contribution of the institution to the debate. This communication is a direct answer to the resolution adopted by the European Parliament on 15th January 2020.

One of the flagship proposals of the 2019-2024 legislative term, this Conference on the Future of Europe aims at giving a new impulse to the European construction and bring the EU closer to citizens. Running for two years, the Conference should lead to proposals for institutional reforms to make Europe stronger, more democratic, more efficient more transparent and with a greater capacity to act.

Reacting to those first contributions, Valeria Ronzitti, CEEP General Secretary, said:

“We welcome the joint ambition of the European Parliament and of the European Commission to organise a broad and far-reaching Conference on the Future of Europe. Building up on the record participation at the 2019 EU elections, this Conference should further give back ownership and trust about the EU project to citizens by involving them directly.

“Following the publication of the European Commission’s proposal, the European Council should now also put forward its own position. Only a genuine inter-institutional approach, involving all institutions, consultative bodies, social partners and the civil society across Europe, could fulfil the ambitions and expectations put in this initiative. The Conference on the Future of Europe should not be an exercise ‘by the EU Bubble for the EU Bubble’.”

“CEEP will closely monitor the upcoming discussions setting up the format and organisation of the Conference. With our representativity and the mandate it brings us, social partners have a legitimate place in the Conference. We therefore call on the genuine and proper participation of social partners in the governance of the Conference, as well as in the events organised in this context at national, regional and local levels.

Today [14th January 2020] the European Commission released the first proposals under the “100 days priorities”, notably the investment pillar of the Green deal and the 1st phase consultation of the social partners on minimum wage as an integral part of the Communication on building a strong social Europe for just transitions.

As a first reaction to those initiatives CEEP General Secretary Valeria Ronzitti commented:

“We welcome that the European Green deal investment plan and the EU just transition mechanism were published on the same day. To hope achieving the high level of ambition of the green deal we need the right funding attached to it, both in terms of support to infrastructures with the Investment Plan and in terms of investment in people with the Just transition Fund. For all this to be sustainable we also need a clear social roadmap as employers cannot be left alone in anticipating and managing transitions. In this regard, we strongly welcome the fact that the communication on social Europe also addresses transitions because employers and workers will face many of them beyond the environmental one. Everything is interlinked and we hope to keep seeing this comprehensive approach also in the future concrete proposals. Not only at EU but also at national and local level.

Apart from this general support, however, we can already express concerns:

“While welcoming the proposal for a just transition fund we wish to issue an early warning as to make sure local and regional actors have the capacity on the ground to benefit from these new 3 pillars architecture and to avoid complexity. To further improve the outreach of the new fund we call on the Commission to rely on National Public Investment banks and on their unique knowledge of structural needs and possibilities for investing at National level.”

“We also believe that Social dialogue and collective bargaining should have been identified, in the first stage consultation on minimum wage, as the first and foremost solution to foster adequate and fair minimum wages in Europe. We believe social dialogue is insufficiently identified as the key solution for all Member States and CEEP will make sure this important role is highlighted in its response to the consultation.”

Today [11 December 2019], the European Commission has presented the long-awaited Green Deal for Europe. CEEP welcomes this proposal: as climate change is happening, Europe needs to act now.

CEEP particularly highlights the necessity to recognize the vital role of Public Services and Services of General Interest (SGIs) as key actors in this climate transition, addressing the challenges of digitalisation, the social and the economic aspects. Valeria Ronzitti, General Secretary, commented on the proposal: “The success of the Green Deal is Europe’s last chance to fight Climate Change, and its success will depend on the integration of a well-balanced approach towards a sustainable development. Placing at the very heart of the policy-making the economic, social and environmental dimensions is precisely where services of general interest are located.”

In the framework of the EU Green Deal, CEEP calls more specifically for:

  • The need for strong and well-balanced climate policy-making: in light of the new Climate Law, and supporting the ambition to achieve climate neutrality by 2050, CEEP highlights the wide-ranging challenges of climate change across different sectors and countries, affecting each differently. It should be therefore understood that “one size does not fit all”: it will be crucial to ensure legislations from different sectors do not conflict with previous existing policies and are in harmony to achieve efficiently our climate goals.
  • Successful integration of mitigation and adaptation policies in the EU Green Deal: it is vital to consider the adaptation of our economies and the resilience of our infrastructures. Action must simultaneously handle other environmental challenges such as water availability or biodiversity, and CEEP welcomes the new EU Biodiversity Strategy and the Zero Pollution Action Plan.
  • The key role of Public Services and SGIs in safeguarding social infrastructures in Europe: in this highly intensive climate transition, we welcome in the EU Green Deal the attention given to citizens and communities. Public Services and SGIs are in direct contact with their users and understand the importance to leave no one behind in this transition.
  • A sustainable financing plan with a long-term vision: Boosting financing to climate-friendly solutions and transforming the European Investment Bank towards the first Climate Bank is a vital step to accelerate the climate transition. Public Services and SGIs promote economic growth and employment in Europe by providing essential services (communications, water, energy, waste treatment, transport, etc.) and their contribution is crucial to support the competitiveness of our industries.
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