On 21st July 2020, EU heads of state and of governments agreed on the shape and size of both the Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 (MFF) and the Next Generation EU recovery instrument.
Commenting the agreement reached by the European Council, Valeria Ronzitti, CEEP General Secretary, said:
“As CEEP repeatedly called on EU leaders to maintain the ambition of the European Commission on the overall size of €750bln, we welcome the overall volume of the recovery instrument agreed. We however deeply regret that the innovative dimension of this instrument didn’t meet its highest potential level with the proposed game-changing EU4Health.
We now count on the National Recovery Plans to revive that ambition, to promote investment in social infrastructure, including healthcare, as well as in digital and green. This shall compensate the loss in ambition in the final deal for some programmes, including InvestEU or the Just transition Fund. In order to make sure that those Plans will promote a sustainable and inclusive growth, it will be essential to involve national, regional and local social partners in their preparation.”
On the MFF, we commend the negotiating capacities of President Charles Michel and the fact that an agreement was found; any further delay would have put citizens’ and markets’ confidence in the capacity for Member States to reach compromise in the name of the European project under threat. Important progress will still be needed to modernize the MFF. This can only be achieved thanks to an institutional framework that allows the efficient coordination among different levels of governance and enhances the leading role of the EU. This can spark the Union’s unique competitive advantages to face the challenges ahead. We count on the Conference on the Future of Europe to be the basis for this new framework.”
“Finally, we now look forward to the discussion and approval of this framework by the European Parliament, which is a key step to ensure the legitimacy of an instruments that is made to serve European citizens.”
Today [17th July 2020], CEEP took part in the informal meeting of employment and social affairs ministers (EPSCO) organised by the German Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Held via videoconference, the meeting was hosted from Berlin by Hubertus Heil, Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs of Germany, and also featured the participation of Nicolas Schmit, Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, the 27 ministers of employment and social affairs, and the prominent economist Mariana Mazzucato.
Addressing the plenary session on “The Social Dimension of Europe’s Recovery”, Valeria Ronzitti, CEEP General Secretary, said:
“There is a growing understanding about the business case for a stronger role of the public sector in ensuring an inclusive and sustainable growth. Public services are not only there to intervene in case of market failure.”
“The structural vulnerabilities highlighted by the pandemic are the result of years of under-investment in essential services. The recovery must be built on a new paradigm, recognising that investing in SGIs is the condition to efficiently combine sustainable economic growth and social welfare. This should be one of the main lessons from the COVID-19 crisis.”
“CEEP calls for stronger links between Employment and Finance Ministers at national and EU level when discussing the National Recovery Plans. Social partners are also an essential part of the equation to guarantee that those Recovery Plans are genuine “resilience plans” with a strong growth and job creation component, opposed to short-term “survival” and financial rescue plans.”
Today [1st July 2020], the European Commission has adopted its renewed European Skills Agenda, a proposal for a Council Recommendation on vocational education and training (VET) and a Youth Employment Support package including a proposal for a reinforced youth guarantee.
The proposed initiatives aim at stepping up the skills dimension by preparing young people for an increasingly digital and green world of work and to unlock public and private investment in educational and vocational training.
Following the publication of the packages, Valeria Ronzitti, CEEP General Secretary, said:
“Whilst the EU needs to address the fallout of the COVID-19 crisis and prepare for the green and digital twin transition, CEEP welcomes this set of proposals which keeps the long-term perspective in mind. The proposed Skills agenda for Europe should now be fully implemented and properly connected to the other initiatives such as the EU Green Deal, the digital industrial strategy and the action plan for the Pillar of social rights.”
“With its focus on “Strengthening skills intelligence”, the European Commission rightly provides pathways to address skills mismatch and shortages. The existing articulations between labour market and education and training programmes are insufficient at the moment. Developing a common understanding of future skills needs should support employers of public services and of services of general interest to address the shortages experienced in essential utilities such as transport, waste management, water, energy or housing.”
“CEEP welcomes the steps which are taken today by the EU to guarantee structural funds and to establish pan-European initiatives and programmes focused on equipping citizens with the skills they need. We call for Member States to make the best use of the EU funding to implement new youth employment support programmes and to equip everyone – especially the most vulnerable – for the jobs of tomorrow.”
Ahead of the publication of this package, CEEP and its sectoral member EFEE (European Federation of Education Employers) have been consulted by the European Commission, providing the following input.
Today [23 June 2020], Rainer Plassmann, CEEP President, and Valeria Ronzitti, General Secretary, represented CEEP at the Tripartite Social Summit organised via videoconference by the Croatian Presidency of the EU. In presence of Andrej Plenković, Croatian Prime Minister, Charles Michel, President of the European Council, and Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, Mr Plassmann and Mrs Ronzitti addressed the consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak on the activities of employers of public services and of services of general interest.
During the opening roundtable, President Rainer Plassmann said:
“While lockdown measures largely paralysed our single market, public services and services of general interest remained operational. The provision of water, energy, waste management, telecommunications, education, housing, transport and administration services has never been structurally questioned. However, years of underinvestment have led healthcare services in many Member States to struggle to cope with the crisis.”
“CEEP is convinced that the EU institutions should now shepherd us out of the crisis. We fully support the Next Generation EU and the revised MFF as the right tools. The EU answer must rely on both strategic investment to promote upward convergence and foster a resilient social market economy, as well as additional resources channeled towards healthcare, just transition and digital infrastructures, targeting all social and physical infrastructures. The provision of funding must be combined with ambitious targets to make an economically strong, green and digitally best-equipped EU.”
Taking the floor during the opening discussion, General Secretary Valeria Ronzitti said:
“Today is the UN Public Service Day, and it is a wise moment to take in the first lessons from the COVID-19 crisis. First, we must consider EU recommendations on minimum standards in times of crisis in vital sectors, such as SGIs, the healthcare sector or essential services and products. Also, we believe that EU procedures must be put in place in case internal borders have to be closed again, and avoid endangering the achievements of our Internal Market.”
Today, the European Social Partners Framework Agreement on Digitalisation was signed by BusinessEurope, ETUC, CEEP and SMEunited to support the successful digital transformation of Europe’s economy and to manage its large implications for labour markets, the world of work and society at large.
The 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, company and workplace levels, including on the modalities of connecting and disconnecting and respect of working time rules and appropriate measures to ensure compliance.
See the agreement here.
BusinessEurope Director General Markus J. Beyrer said:
“This agreement paves the way for a consensual digital transition of our economies and for more resilience of our enterprises. The relevance of this agreement becomes clear at a time when many workers need to use digital technologies to work distantly. Investment in digital skills is particularly important for Europe’s future. It is now up to the national social partners to implement this agreement at the national level. The European Commission should respect the autonomy of the EU Social Partners.”
ETUC General Secretary Luca Visentini said:
“Unions and employers at European level have signed an agreement that says digital change should not be imposed by management but managed in partnership with workers and their trade unions. It supports negotiations between unions and employers in each EU country, in different sectors, companies and workplaces.”
CEEP General Secretary Valeria Ronzitti said:
“This framework agreement addresses an issue which will be on the agenda of social partners for decades, and should become the basis for joint activities to adapt to the fast-paced evolution brought by digitalisation. Public services and SGI employers need to keep on delivering high-quality essential services no matter the circumstances. Digitalisation should help to achieve this crucial mission. This agreement also sets out a joint process that can be tailored to different industrial relations systems and national, local, sectoral and enterprise situations, while offering a model for social partners to anticipate, discuss, negotiate and monitor concrete solutions to the many impacts of digitalisation.”
SMEunited Secretary General Véronique Willems said:
“We concluded the agreement on digitalisation just ahead of a time spurring the use of digital tools during the COVID-19 crisis. Our joint dynamic approach covers all the core areas of social partners’ competence, such as training, health and safety, connecting and disconnecting. The recognition of the direct relationship between employers and workers in small businesses and SMEs specificities should facilitate a smooth introduction and continuous adaptation of digital technologies in SMEs and the necessary dialogue for the benefits of both sides.”
Today [8 June 2020], Valdis Dombrovskis, European Commission Executive Vice-President for an Economy that Works for People, and Nicolas Schmit, Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, organised a hearing with the EU social partners on the upcoming Action Plan on the EU Pillar of Social Rights.
Speaking on behalf of CEEP in the opening roundtable, Valeria Ronzitti, General Secretary, said:
“CEEP strongly supports the objective of building a resilient, sustainable and fair Union, while fostering upward convergence. In order for the Action Plan on the Pillar of Social Rights to reach that objective, its principle 8 on social dialogue needs to be further developed to ensure that national, regional and local social partners have full ownership of initiatives taken. The Pillar should be less about new EU legislation, but more about fostering national ownership and implementation of its principles via the European Semester.”
“This consultation, and the upcoming ones on the priorities for the Action Plan, are very timely as they will allow to operationalise the principles in a way that fully takes into account the COVID-19 outbreak and its economic and social consequences. For our members, this should translate into full and effective implementation of the principle on access to services: that would be the only way to create coherence between the Action Plan, the revised MFF and the Next Generation EU which identify essential services such as long term care, healthcare and housing as matters of priority for the social dimension.”
“An integrated approach is needed, with policy coherence to mainstream those investments through all stages of the recovery. For this to happen, the Action Plan must be connected to the future national recovery plans to be drafted by Member States in the context of the new Recovery and Resilience Facility. SGIs employers and providers stand ready to support European and national institutions in prioritising those investment needs.”
At this hearing, CEEP delegation included members from the Swedish Association of Local and Regional Authorities (SALAR), the Bulgarian Industrial Capital Association (BICA), the German Vereinigung der kommunalen Arbeitgeberverbände (VKA), the French Union Social pour l’Habitat (USH), the European Federation of Education Employers (EFEE) and the European Healthcare and Hospitals’ Employers Association (HOSPEEM).
CEEP General Secretary Valeria Ronzitti signed an opinion piece for the magazine “Our World – Struck by the Pandemic” edition:
Other contributors to the this edition of the magazine include, amongst others, Stella Kyriakides, European Commissioner for Health, António Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations, Margaritis Schinas, Vice President of The European Commission for Promoting Our European Way of Life or Gianni Pittella, Member of the Italian Senate, Former Vice President of the European Parliament & former Leader of the S&D Group in the European Parliament. You can consult the full edition here.
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.