On 27 February, the European Commission published the Winter Package, which includes the 28 country reports that analyse the economic and social situation of each member state.
Eurodiaconia has actively contributed to the drafting of these reports by sending information from our membership, and we will now be drafting a policy paper in reaction to this Package. Members of Eurodiaconia are invited to send us their assessment by replying to the survey below.
This year’s reports have a particular focus on demographic change and its impact on labour markets and social protection systems. Although the effects on long-term care, healthcare, and pensions are touched upon, it is too often done from a fiscal standpoint, however, and too little is said of the role of care services to support this change, as well as on the need to further invest in these services. In this regard, the novelty in 2019 is the clear link created between the Winter Package and the negotiations of the future multiannual financial framework: the 2019 country reports assess investments levels in the member states and determine where the needs are. Each chapter includes an analysis on investments, and a new annex (Annex D) gives guidance for the use of cohesion funds in five priority investment areas. These include “a more social Europe” (policy objective 4), which promotes investment in social infrastructures and in reforms of the labour market and education system. Eurodiaconia welcomes this evolution and the clear inclusion of social investments as priorities. Nevertheless, investments in health and social services should have been better highlighted, in line with their relevance to tackling many challenges implied by demographic change in Europe.
In line with last year’s reports, skills still feature prominently in the Winter Package, as a solution for current and future challenges such as digitisation, new forms of work, and demographic change. The European Pillar of Social Rights is also treated in a similar manner with a box assessing the social scoreboard and a streamlining of the related policy areas throughout the chapter on labour market, social and education reforms. Eurodiaconia, therefore, continues to regret the lack of general, qualitative and systematic analysis of the Social Pillar in the Chapeau Communication, the lack of indicators reflecting all principles of the Pillar, as well as the lack of clear target to reach for the EU and per member state for each of the social scoreboard indicators. There were however clear improvements in the coverage and analysis of the Social Pillar in the draft Joint Employment report published in November 2018, in line with the updating of the Employment guidelines, which lead to better coverage of key Pillar areas such as housing and homelessness, child poverty, and job quality. Eurodiaconia welcomes this evolution and hopes to see further improvements in the next cycle.
Indeed, the Winter Package still lacks emphasis on the role of civil society in reform-making and implementation. Civil society organisations are key actors to engage with in order to create ownership for and quality of reforms. The European Semester is becoming increasingly inclusive, this is noticeable with the systematic involvement of social partners in the process. Efforts have been made at the European level to improve engagement with civil society organisations, and these now need to be mirrored at the national level. A thorough analysis of the involvement of civil society organisations in designing and implementing reforms – on the model of recent studies done for social partners – would be an important step to determine the existing shortcomings and best practices. Eurodiaconia has been conducting such research among its members and will continue to do so in order to inform policy-making.
To read the 28 country reports in English and national languages, please check the website of the European Commission.
To help Eurodiaconia draft a policy paper on the country reports, please answer our online survey (for members only) by the 15th of March.
To attend Eurodiaconia’s webinar on Thursday 7 March (10-11am) giving tips and advice on the country reports, please register on this link (for members only) before 4 March cob.
To read Eurodiaconia’s report on the 2018 European Semester, including the section on civil society involvement, please check our website.