Yesterday the European Commission presented the Spring Package of the European Semester 2019. The country-specific recommendations (CSRs) have been published to give economic and social policy guidance to EU Member States for the upcoming 12 to 18 months. The Council will now need to adopt the country-specific recommendations bringing the recommendations to the Member States level, where they need to be implemented through their national policies. The recommendations and the country reports will also serve as basis for the programming of the EU Cohesion Policy funds in 2021-2027.
SOLIDAR acknowledges that the recommendations have been increasingly ‘socialised’, but have not sufficiently tackled the asymmetry and discrepancy between some economic and social goals. Many of the social policy recommendations in the European Semester 2019 relate in some way or another to (labour) market relevance or fiscal consolidation. This is problematic as the prioritisation of economic goals often results in a situation where fiscal consolidation implies the deterioration of social standards or social security systems. SOLIDAR therefore advocates for a major shift from macroeconomic to social priorities.
At the same time, SOLIDAR welcomes the increased focus on sustainability, investment in low carbon and renewable energy as well as low emission transport. This highlighted priority is reflected in variety of countries such as Belgium, Croatia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Sweden, amongst others, and corresponds to the reform needs to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. This is a positive development of the Semester process reflecting the multidimensional interaction of economic, social and ecological factors.
The focus on the provision of social or affordable housing reflected in the country-specific recommendations for Germany; Slovakia; Ireland and Latvia is positive development. SOLIDAR furthermore welcomes the focus on equal opportunities and access to education and training with a special focus on marginalised groups aiding social inclusion and the fight against poverty.
Moreover, SOLIDAR encourages the importance given to the support of full-time employment for women also improving childcare services mentioned in the CSR for Austria, Italy and Poland with the addition of affordable quality childcare for Slovakia, Czech Republic and Ireland.
SOLIDAR stresses the need to adapt the recommendations with an increased emphasis on decent wages, working conditions and social protection. Moreover, social dialogue and involvement of workers must be given more emphasis as the importance of the role of social partners it is only reflected in a few selected countries such as Austria, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, The Netherlands, Poland and Romania.
To follow up more closely the socio-economic situation in the individual countries and its country-specific recommendations, SOLIDAR publishes its Social Rights Monitor in the autumn of this year. This report will provide an in-analysis of recent developments and the state of play of Social Europe.