On 21 November 2018, Commission
Vice-President Dombrovskis and Commissioners Moscovici and Thyssen presented
the Autumn Package of the European Semester. The economic and fiscal situation
in the euro area is the best it has been since 2014. In the middle of the year,
238 million people were employed in the EU, the best figures ever recorded, and
there is a good chance of reaching 75% employment by 2020. At the same time,
unemployment is at a 10-year low.
The poverty rate is now lower than it was immediately
prior to the financial crisis. However, there is still room for income and
wages to improve. Household incomes have risen more slowly than gross domestic
product, and real wages are growing slower than productivity.
None of the national euro area budgets will
exceed the 3% deficit threshold this year or next, and ten of them are expected
to see a plus next year. There are certain risks in only five countries in the
euro area, including France and Spain; Spain is set to exit the Excessive
Italy does not want to explicitly comply with the guarantees made in
Brussels by the previous government. If its current budgetary plans remain the
same, Italy’s public debt, which is almost the highest in Europe, will not be
reduced in the coming two years either. Therefore, the Commission is pursuing
proceedings against Italy for non-compliance.
In contrast, the Commission heaped praise
on Greece. The primary budget
surplus is now so large that the agreed pension cuts could be reversed by 14%
for 1.4 million pensioners.
Commissioner Thyssen spoke of the important
role of the European Semester in the implementation of the European Pillar of
Social Rights. In the last cycle, a substantial part of the Country Specific
Recommendations focused on achieving the objectives of the Pillar. Thyssen also
highlighted the progress of the implementation: 13 of the 14 indicators of the Social
Scoreboard had seen improvements across the EU on average.