Macroeconomic dialogue at political level, 15 March 2021

The 42nd meeting of the macroeconomic dialogue at political level focused on the economic outlook and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the EU labour market, with a focus on challenges and prospects for the recovery and resilience plans.

As Europe enters its second year of fighting the pandemic, member states are called to address an increasing number of economic and social challenges. The social partners have here a key role to play in helping governments to successfully tackle and overcome difficulties. Today, we had a constructive and valuable exchange on the impact of the pandemic on the EU labour market, touching upon the opportunity represented by the Recovery and Resilience Facility to address future challenges. It is now time to move with full speed on the implementation of this facility to deliver the investments and reforms that will pull Europe out of this crisis and pave the way for recovery. Let me also take this opportunity to refer to the Social Summit to be hosted by the Portuguese presidency, in Porto, on May 7th. With this summit, we intend to reinforce Europe’s social dimension so that we can face the challenges of the green and digital transitions. We call on all parties to participate, because we want a more sustainable and prosperous future!

João Leão, Minister for Finance of Portugal which currently holds the presidency of the Council

The unprecedented actions of the past year have helped to cushion the impact of the crisis on both people and economic activity. Yet, as the recovery takes hold in the coming months, we will need to keep support but gradually shift the focus onto promoting an inclusive and lasting recovery. For labour markets, this means promoting skills and quality job creation, including through the Recovery and Resilience Facility. We need ambitious, high quality Recovery and Resilience Plans with the right balance between investments and reforms to support the recovery and make our economies more sustainable and digital. This calls for strong national ownership and support from all relevant parties – including social partners as well as local and regional authorities – at every stage of the process. This is why the plans will need to include a summary of the consultations with relevant stakeholders, including social partners and member states will need to explain how they reflect stakeholder contributions.

Commission Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis

Cooperation with social partners in preparing recovery and resilience plans will be fundamental to bringing about a sustainable recovery and a more inclusive society for the next generation of Europeans. Reforming our economies and ensuring that public investment pays off is a collective responsibility.

President of the Eurogroup Paschal Donohoe

ETUC is deeply concerned about the current economic situation, but believes the European Union has done the right thing with a large recovery package and emergency measures to protect jobs and wages. The emergency measures need to be prolonged until recovery is complete and extended to cover all workers. Europe needs build back better with recovery spending boosting essential public services, decent jobs, greater equality and a socially just transition to a green and digital world.

Luca Visentini, General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC)

Europe has also done the right thing in suspending the fiscal austerity rules of the misnamed ‘Stability and Growth Pact’ but permanent reform cannot be postponed until recovery takes root. Indeed the threat of renewed austerity may even stop governments from investing heavily in recovery.

Liina Carr, Confederal Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC)

Whilst the EU has suffered the deepest economic crisis in its history, the prospect of an increasingly rapid deployment of vaccines offers hope to many businesses that there are better times ahead. We cannot stay in crisis mode forever, but a premature switch-off of support for businesses and workers, before the recovery is firmly underway, would risk undermining our efforts over the last year. European’s longer term economic success requires both effective use of the Recovery and Resilience funds for growth and productivity enhancing investment and reforms, as well a regulatory environment that supports growth and job-creation and does not place undue burden on companies that are fighting for survival.

Business Europe Director General Markus J. Beyer

This is the moment for member states to be ambitious. SGI Europe has been calling for years for quality investments in physical and social infrastructures especially in sectors such as healthcare, education, energy, digital, waste management and water services. The Recovery Resilience Facility is designed for this purpose. Renewed investments in services of general interest will be a key lever for new sustainable productivity gains as well as an important potential source of new quality jobs.

Valeria Ronzitti, General Secretary of SGI Europe (Employers entrusted to deliver Sustainability Growth Innovation)

After a light recovery in the second half of 2020, SMEs are again in a recession, where personal services like retail, hospitality and event sectors are impacted most be lockdowns and confinements. In addition too many SMEs are in the meantime confronted with over-indebtedness and the risk of insolvency. Therefore, SMEunited urges national governments to provide financial instruments to allow businesses with a positive business outlook to survive and to finance their recovery and investments in twin transition.

SMEunited Secretary General Veronique Willems

The economic situation remains highly uncertain. We must be cautious about the right timing of withdrawal of the emergency measures. It is important that the fiscal policy remains supportive as long as needed to secure robust growth and recovery. Despite the ongoing uncertainty and the emergency measures still in place, now is the right time for major structural changes. Productive companies and individuals are the main drivers of growth. Our focus should therefore be on the enhancement of economic and social resilience with the measures that will strengthen the productivity. We must also strengthen the resilience of the labour market by increasing job opportunities for unemployed and inactive people. Policies investing in human capital, education, reskilling, and upskilling remain a focal point for the future growth.

Incoming Slovenian presidency (July – December 2021)

Le chemin parcouru est déjà important, mais tout doit continuer d’être fait pour ne pas répéter les erreurs de la grande crise financière, avec un soutien massif et durable dont l’objectif est d’éviter les conséquences durables sur l’emploi, sur la perte de compétence, sur le pouvoir d’achat.

Future French presidency (January – July 2022)

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