Since its creation in 2010, the European Semester is a cycle of economic and fiscal policy coordination within the EU and is now an integral part of the European Union’s economic governance framework. It provides Member States with recommendations on structural reforms, on fiscal policies and on the prevention of excessive macroeconomic imbalances.
In this context, on 27 February, The European Commission released a new set of country reports. The reports provide the analytical basis for the country-specific recommendations in the European Semester.
One novelty in this year’s reports is the inclusion, for the first time, of a specific Annex on ‘Investment guidance for cohesion policy 2021/2027’. This analysis on investment needs is expected to be included again in the country reports in five years’ time. The objective is to ensure greater coherence between the coordination of economic policies and the use of EU funds, which represent a significant part of public investment in several Member States (cohesion policy funds alone in the next programming period correspond to 0.5 % of EU GDP). To that end, country reports identify priority areas for policy action regarding public and private investment in Member States, and therefore provide the analytical basis for a successful programming of cohesion policy funds and use of related EU funds in 2021-2027. This annex is of particular importance for CEEP’s members. Indeed, many public services are referred to as key investment targets. Health, education and other public services’ infrastructures are referred to prominently when addressing the need to create a low carbon economy and reinforce energy efficiency. For instance, housing features also prominently in the analysis of many Member States. But more interestingly, and to some extent more than in previous years, the European Commission highlights in several cases how the lack of social housing calls for stronger investment in the sector as well as in energy efficiency of (residential) buildings, especially with regard to the next ESIF programming period. The Pillar of Social rights is also abundantly referred to as well as the objective of improving the quality, effectiveness and labour market relevance of education and training, equal access to, and completion of, quality and inclusive education and training, particularly for disadvantaged groups, and lifelong learning, notably flexible upskilling and reskilling.
It will be important to follow the implementation of the MFF through the prism of this new guidance made available by the European Commission. The Pillar of social rights, with its emphasis on essential services, should also contribute to assessing our services as a priority target for investments.