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.