On 5 May, the EU Commission
published the Spring Package as part of the European Semester. In addition to
country-specific recommendations, the Commission adopted various guidelines and
decisions under the Stability and Growth Pact. The Commission recommends that
the Excessive Deficit Procedure for Spain be discontinued; Italy will not be
subject to an EDP (at least not yet) despite comprehensive criticism of its
budgetary policy. Greece, on the other hand, was the subject of rather quiet
criticism by Dombrowskis for its more expansive budgetary policy since May.
Dombrowskis, Social Affairs Commissioner Thyssen and Economic Affairs
Commissioner Moscovici jointly presented the package. Dombrowski was
emphatically optimistic: the European economy, investments, employment had
grown more or less uninterruptedly for seven consecutive years, and important
structural reforms had taken place. However, this positive picture did not
apply equally to all Member States. Two of the biggest challenges facing the
Member States are digitalisation and the ageing population.
Thyssen addressed the quite
different outcomes across Europe and pointed to the ‘worrying’ volume of non-standard
work in some Member States, even if overall employment levels had reached ‘record
levels’. It was precisely for this group of people and the self-employed that
inclusion in social security had to be reconsidered in order to ensure that all
people are adequately protected.
The future use of European funds,
especially from the Structural and Cohesion Funds, must be focused more on the
European semester and support for the agreed structural reforms. In a press
release, the Commission called on the Member States to make progress in upward social
convergence in line with the European Pillar of Social Rights.
According to the Commission,
significant progress has been made towards achieving the employment and social
policy goals of Europe 2020. The improved situation on the labour markets has
led to increased participation by women and older people in the labour market.
However, there is still a large gender pay gap. There are also significant
differences between countries, regions and population groups.
Unique challenges are arising due
to atypical employment relationships and growing disparities between the skills
profiles offered and demanded. Another cause for concern is sluggish progress
in reducing poverty.
Therefore, despite the general
improvements in the social situation in the EU, access to social benefits and
adequate social protection remain important issues due to changing
circumstances. Against this background, the Spring Package also addresses the issue
of shortages in the housing market.
Click here for the press release of the EU Commission.