3rd June 2014
On Monday 2nd June 2014 the European Commission proposed its Country Specific Recommendations 2014 which are now available online here. These will be approved in their final version when the heads of States and Governments will endorse them at the next Council meeting by the end of June/early July.
The Country Specific Recommendations proposed by the European Commission follow the Commission's assessment of member states’ national reform program.
What is new this year?
This year, the European Commission has shifted its focus from addressing the challenges caused by the crisis to "strengthening the conditions for sustainable growth and employment in a post-crisis economy". The overall message is that growth has return and public finances continue to improve. European Commission President Barosso declared that ""This is about helping Member States firmly out of the crisis and back to growth, with the country-specific recommendations acting as a compass showing the direction. The efforts and sacrifices made across Europe have started to pay off. Growth is picking up and - while still too modest - we will see a rise in employment from this year onwards. " The main challenges identified for the future are unemployment (especially of young people), public debt and competitiveness.
For Eurodiaconia, this is a problematic situation as the European Commission assumption does not prioritise the tackling of the social situation outside from an umployment perspective, despite its recognition that high unemployment levels and the difficult social situation will only improve slowly and the large investment gap will take time to be filled. Eurodiaocnia insist that investment, in particular social investemnet, and the tackling of poverty, should be a first priority.
To be noticed and for Diaconal organisation to be particularly aware of are the reference to long-term care services (see for instance CSR 3 to Austria, CSR 3 Belgium, CSR 1 to Germany) and the several recommendations to improve Roma inclusion either in the labour market or in education (see for instance CSR 5 to the Czech Republic, CSR 6 to Hungary
What about the achievement of the Europe 2020 poverty target?
There are 12 recommendations on Poverty and social inclusion (Bulgaria, Estonia, Croatia, Hungary,Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Romania and UK) but the "Social inclusion" target seems to have been reduced, more than ever, to employment and access to the labour market. On the positive side, there is a focus on long-term unemployment and quality jobs with related CSRs to Bulgaria, Germany, Estonia, Ireland, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain, Portugal, Slovakia, Finland, Sweden and the UK.
So, is "inclusive growth" at hand?
Europe 2020, the overall strategy and its targets are the anchor of the European Semester. Europe 2020 aims toward "inclusive growth" while this year's recommendation clearly distinghish "growth"on one side and "social inclusion" on the other.
The overall initial assessment is therefore a (at best!) mixed feeling. This year, for the first time under the European Semester, the Commission was supposed to use the "employment and social scoreboard" to ensure that country-specific recommendations are based on sound analysis and address employment and social concerns more precisely. The fruits of this effort have produced "social inclusion" CSRs emphasizing in priority policy direction of "activation" (several CSRs, including CSR 3 to Latvia, CSR 4 to Lithuania) and "adequate benefit with work incentives" (CSR 4 to the UK), "strict conditionality"(CSR 5 to Italy). Bridging the gap to reinforce access to the labour market is essential for social inclusion, but this is not enough. A policy direction orientated uniquely toward this path ignore the the most excluded and marginalised and endangers them. Adequate minimum income and better access to quality social services, should be the basis axis for a "social recovery".
For more information
Country Specific Recommendations and related documents by country
European Commission Press Release: Building growth: Country-specific recommendations 2014