Held under Chatham House Rule, the workshop featured interventions of high level representatives of the European Commission, the European Parliament, civil society organisations and the academic field.
Expert interventions on social investments under EU macro-economic and fiscal governance
Presentations and discussions were held on the following topics:
• The future shape of the social dimension within the European Semester;
• Opportunities and implications of more fiscal space for social investment in EU governance;
• Options for national social investment reforms and implications for the European governance; and
• The role of political parties – Policy proposals for a stronger social dimension in the European macro-economic governance model.
Klaus Heeger: “Now is the time to discuss social investments”
Most speakers agreed on the topicality of the subject and on the need to research more on technical details of a better embedding of social investments in EU macro-economic and fiscal governance. In his opening intervention, CESI Secretary General Klaus Heeger recalled that the 2016 AGS’s first-time real call for more social investments provides the right momentum to make progress in this regard.
Mr Heeger also focussed on possibilities of trade unions to become more involved in the European Semester process, calling to further reform the process to enhance the formal role of trade unions at the Member State level. However, he also stressed that trade unions may sometimes also need to be more proactive in providing input to discussions on the European Semester’s yearly Annual Growth Surveys (AGS), country reports and country-specific recommendations (CSRs).
‘Cost of non-investing’ as an economic argument for social investments
The workshop also addressed the lacking appreciation of social investments among many policy makers that are not (entirely) convinced of positive economic and social returns of social investments. Several speakers said that where doubts exist, a concept of long-term ‘costs of non-investing’ should be clearly established and promoted as an argument in favour of social investments. Effective tools to measure the long-term economic and social costs of, for instance, a lacking integration of refugees are uncircumventable, these speakers concluded. Mr Heeger took up the idea to formulate a ‘Gold standard’-clause for a deduction of social investments in the deficit rules of the EU’s economic governance tools such as the Stability and Growth Pact.
Social investing is a topic of major interest for CESI. Representing several million public sector workers, CESI has called for a long time to end austerity measures and invest again more in the public services, also in the context of its membership in the European Semester Alliance.
Third workshop and concluding study on social investments forthcoming
The workshop was the second of its kind in a series of three CESI-EPC workshops on social investments. A summary report will be available soon. Further information and a summary report about the first workshop on social investments is available here. The third workshop will be held on May 20. The workshop series will be concluded by a publication on social investments, which will be published in September 2016 (tbc).