European Semester Autumn Package: Promising shift in language in the 2018 Annual Growth Survey

On November 22, the European Commission published this years' European Semester Autumn Package. The package, which includes the 2018 Annual Growth Survey (AGS), jumpstarts the next European Semester, the EU's annual cycle of national economic policy coordination. Compared to previous editions, CESI welcomes a shift of language in this year's AGS towards social and investment aspects of economic governance in the Member States.

European Semester Autumn Package: Promising shift in language in the 2018 Annual Growth Survey

As in previous years, the AGS makes no mention of the Europe 2020 Strategy, once created as the EU’s overarching flagship initiative for sustainable and inclusive jobs and growth. However, it is possible that the new European Pillar of Social Rights, proclaimed at the Gothenburg Social Summit two weeks ago, can in the future serve as a social counterweight in a European Semester which has in the past years been too much dominated by pure economic considerations.

CESI Secretary General Klaus Heeger said: “This year’s Annual Growth Survey explicitly refers to the European Pillar of Social Rights as a compass to identify the economic and social priorities for the EU and its Member States, and it makes explicit reference to many of the objectives put forward in it. However, using the European Semester to implement the European Pillar of Social Rights in the Member States means that the promising messages of the AGS also need to be reflected in the final country-specific recommendations next year.”

According to CESI, implementing the European Pillar of Social Rights will not be for free. CESI has consistently raised the importance of more investments in essential services such as accessible and affordable childcare, healthcare, education and training, and active labour market policies and stressed that in the social remit this is crucial especially for disadvantaged groups and in the economic sphere it is a precondition for continued growth. Klaus Heeger added: “Unequal societies and economies are not sustainable in the long run. I am glad to see that these considerations are given a much more prominent place than in previous Annual Growth Surveys.”

There is still a way to go to firmly root social progress in the EU’s economic governance and fiscal coordination framework, but content-wise there has already been a clear shift in language in the 2018 edition of the AGS. At the same time, the governance of the European Semester has yet to become more inclusive. Klaus Heeger concluded: “According to CESI, all workers count. Opportunities for input especially for sectoral social partners and independent and smaller trade unions should be provided throughout the European Semester cycle.”

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