Now coming to an end, 2019 has been, as expected, a year of change and new beginnings. The European elections, held in May, reshuffled the cards, with a new European Parliament and a new European Commission. A new leadership across the institutions, which now calls for building new connections.
When it comes to our main partner at institutional level, namely the European Commission, we look forward to working with President Ursula von der Leyen and her College of Commissioners on the 6 key overarching priorities clearly identified. In this context, it will be of outmost importance that the structure within the European Commission organised around those issues genuinely delivers a holistic and integrated approach to policy making.
The EU Green Deal, which is the flagship initiative of this new European Commission and was presented last Wednesday (11 December), is a clear example of this approach, putting forward proposals for environmental targets in a broad range of policy fields, as well as financial tools and instruments to smoothen the social consequences of the transition. Coordinated by Frans Timmermans, European Commission Executive Vice-President, the Green Deal will occupy a central place also in CEEP’s agenda.
Amongst the other initiatives to be rolled out by the European Commission in the weeks and months ahead, CEEP will also scrutinise the proposal for the Sustainable Investment Plan, the initiative on Fair Minimum Wages, the Industrial Strategy, and the Commission’s paper on the format for the Conference on the Future of Europe. On the CoFeE, CEEP is following the preparatory work carried by the join action of the European Commission, European Parliament and European Council, which will soon set up an Action Plan and agenda. Conceived as an open platform, the Conference aims to engage with different actors from the European and national levels. CEEP will insist that we, together with the other European cross-sector Social Partners, have an important voice in this project as we believe that the future of Europe cannot be built without a strong social dialogue.
All those topics were already on the agenda of our fourth Public Services Summit, which was held on 12 December at the European Economic and Social Committee. The whole-day event took place in Brussels, at the European Economic and Social Committee. On this occasion, CEEP welcomed, amongst others, Karl-Heinz Lambertz, President of the Committee of the Regions (CoR), Luca Jahier, President of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), MEPs Katrin Langensiepen and Anna Cavazzini, as well as various speakers from the European Commission, European Parliament, trade unions and civil society.
Ahead of the event, David Maria Sassoli, President of the European Parliament, prepared a statement for the Public Services Summit. Emphasising that “public services are the backbone of our societies”, President Sassoli highlighted that “we need to ensure that everyone has access to affordable and high quality public services, that both provide for our individual needs and make our communities stronger”, calling for proper funding and investment, as well as recalling the principle of “access to services” from the European Pillar of Social Rights: it will be a priority for CEEP to make sure that the European Parliament in its entirety stands behind this very encouraging and right message from its President.
Four panels, addressing “A Fair, Competitive and Sustainable Social Partnership”, “Public Services and SGIs for a Green Deal”, “Public Services, SGIs and the EU Industrial Strategy” and “The State of Democracy in Europe”, provided the opportunity to engage on the burning questions of the EU agenda and prepare us to face 2020.
Meanwhile, it is also time to take stock of the achievements of 2019, which was a year of transition. CEEP contributed to this transition, with pre-election activities both at national and at European level. After the elections, we built bridges with the new European Parliament to set up an Interest Group on Public Services and Services of General Interest, whilst contributing to the hearings of candidate-commissioners and engaging with the new College of Commissioners.
All those activities proved to be important opportunities to present our vision for public services and SGIs, and to highlight the contributions of our members to the EU socio-economic and democratic model.
We intend to continue to work along those lines in 2020. In the meanwhile, enjoy your reading, and we wish you all the best for the festive season. We will be back with a CEEP newsflash on 10 January 2020.