On Thursday 12 December 2019, CEEP held the fourth edition of its Public Services Summit. 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.
The event was opened by Rainer Plassmann, CEEP President, and Karl-Heinz Lambertz, who highlighted together the EU institutional renewal, the need to act on the key priorities for citizens, as well as the role of public services and services of general interest in this process.
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 highlights 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. You can read the whole statement here.
Panel 1: A Fair, Competitive and Sustainable Social Partnership
The first morning panel of the Public Services Summit dealt with the important issues of Social Dialogue and the EU social agenda. The panel was composed of Milena Angelova, CEEP Vice-president, of Jörg Tagger, Head of Unit for Social Dialogue of the European Commission’s DG Employement, MEP Katrin Langensiepen, vice-chair of the EMPL committee and Lina Carr, ETUC confederal secretary.
Milena Angelova insisted on the need to design policies and reforms that are able to bring together competitiveness, the transition to a climate neutral economy and fairness in the labour market. She welcomed the work of the Juncker European Commission to strengthen social dialogue, and called for Ms von der Leyen to further strengthen social dialogue through fundings, by the ESF and for joint actions of social partners.
Jörg Tagger presented the achievements of the Juncker commission to support social dialogue, including the initiative on the new start for social dialogue. He also presented the major new initiatives of the EU commission including the EU framework for minimum wages, the binding measures for pay transparency and the future work on unemployment benefit schemes. He concluded by reiterating the commitment of the European Commission to support social dialogue.
MEP Katrin Langensiepen addressed the importance of agreeing on a Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) that would help address poverty and social exclusion in Europe. She expressed how important public services are in Europe to help address exclusion and tackle inequalities.
Finally, Lina Carr expressed the strong attachment of ETUC to the implementation of the Pillar of Social Rights and mentioned that the new Commission should work on the implementation of the remaining principles, putting a specific emphasis on the principle for fair wages in Europe. She called for a ‘socialisation’ of the European Semester and for further reinforcing the social policy aspects of the EU economic governance.
Panel 2: Public Services and SGIs for a Green Deal
In light of the European Commission’s freshly published Green Deal on 11 December, keynote speaker Stephen White, policy analyst at DG ENV, explained the Commission’s full engagement and focus to deliver the expectation of the Green Deal agenda over the next four years. In this discussion, the panel highlighted the vital role of Public Services and SGIs in achieving a climate-neutral Europe by 2050 in a sustainable way.
Mr Brandolini, Vice Chair of CEEP stressed the importance of ensuring that the new Green Deal respects the economic, social and environmental dimensions, and that these are placed at the very heart of European policy making, across all sectors. In particular, the discussion raised the issue of social acceptance for this climate transition and the danger of civil upheavals if this new deal is not just and feasible for all EU citizens.
Mr. White concluded that the only way to meet this challenge is for all actors, institutions, cities and communities to engage. As representatives of public organisations, we stand ready to ensure that this transition leaves no one behind.
Panel 3: Public Services, SGIs and the EU Industrial Strategy
The 2019 Public Services Summit’s first afternoon panel welcomed Ruth Paserman, General Advisor in the Cabinet of Valdis Dombrovskis, Luca Jahier, President of the European Economic and Social Committee and MEP Anna Cavazzini (Greens, DE). The debate was extremely constructive, and panellists accurately brought to the table the key aspects that must be reflected upon when discussing a joint industrial strategy for Europe.
Ms Paserman kicked off the discussion bringing a strong message regarding the importance of cooperation amongst Member States. She highlighted the fact that given the challenges we are about to face – such as digitalisation, demographic transition and climate change – we must join efforts towards the strengthening of the European industry as a whole. In this context, she pinpointed that to make a successful transition towards a circular economy and to establish a well-functioning European single market, public services are indispensable.
President Luca Jahier opened his intervention welcoming the new Commission’s strong beginning and progressive agenda. Mr Jahier believes that we are facing enormous challenges and that the only way to overcome those is to seek for the opportunities that they will bring alongside them. Furthermore, he stated that Europe must take the lead in this process and be pioneers since the very conception of innovative products all the way until their production and distribution.
Finally, MEP Anna Cavazzini delivered a very consistent contribution, emphasizing the centrality of public services and services of general interest for the successful implementation of an industrial strategy as well as the Green Deal, which are inseparable processes. Ms Cavazzini said that in order to properly undergo the industrial transition ahead, citizens must be able to conceive a long term-vision and for that they need to rely on a stable political framework as well as have access to high-quality affordable public services.
Panel 4: The State of Democracy in Europe
The concluding panel of the day addressed the state of democracy in the EU, and brought around the table Jacek Krawczyk, President of the Employers’ Group of the EESC, Petros Fassoulas, General Secretary of the European Movement International (EMI), and Tanja Rudolf, Advisor to the Director-General for Communication at the European Parliament.
Opening the session, Ms Rudolf presented the campaign of the European Parliament ahead of the May 2019 elections, which focused on 3 principles: a clear vision and narrative, the financial constraints, as well as the need to build connections.
Mr Krawczyk addressed the specific contribution of the EESC and of its Employers’ Group, highlighting both the actions undertaken (at EU and at local level) and the need to make the ‘business case’ for the EU, as a stable environment to boost support and democratic participation, including from businesses and entrepreneurs.
Finally, Mr Fassoulas presented the activities that were undertaken by the EMI in 2019, specifically highlighting the Democracy Alive Festival, as well as some key outcomes ‘Listen to Europe’ survey. This survey, conducted by the EMI in 2019, highlights a widespread lack of support for democracy, as well as a sense of disempowerment and alienation regarding the future. Mr Fassoulas also highlighted the need for pro-democratic forces to join forces to counter negative perceptions and drive changes.