The good news and the bad.

Dr. Sch.-W. – 06/2019

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.

Commission Vice-President 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.