Public services contribute to sustainable growth and job creation
Dear President Grybauskaitė,
Dear President Van Rompuy,
Ahead of the European Council meeting on 19 and 20 December 2013, CEEP would like to reiterate its commitment to foster youth employment, to combat tax evasion, to achieve effectiveness of public services all over Europe and to contribute to the evaluation of energy policies. In regards to all these topics, the role of public services employers and providers is key.
The continued focus on competitiveness, sustainability and job creation are central, as are the efforts to review the measures taken in the area of taxation as well as energy. Nonetheless, we strive to highlight points of particular importance in these processes, with public services and our members in mind. Indeed, CEEP believes that public services providers are essential partners in the EU recovery. Underestimating their added value may be detrimental for a quicker and yet more stable competitive climate in Europe. Having said this, we would like to focus your attention on four points that we deem crucial when considering the reform framework for the year ahead:
- Fostering youth employment in Europe is vital, in order to raise employment levels, ensure the long-term sustainability of national budgets as well as increase competitiveness within Europe in the medium to long-term perspective. Consequently, the effective implementation of the Youth Guarantee is of paramount importance. We therefore encourage Member States, while taking into account the different national contexts, to implement it quickly. To achieve that goal, as it has been clearly underlined by the European Commission, it is essential that the social partners at national level are actively involved in shaping the implementation plans of Youth Guarantee. CEEP has recently consulted its members in this regard and from the received responses it is clear that only in certain Member States have the social partners been properly consulted until now. Therefore, CEEP calls on you as chairs of the upcoming European Council meeting, to reiterate to EU leaders the importance of closely involving the social partners, and especially employers’ organisations, in this process, should they want the Youth Guarantee to bring long lasting and effective results. Employers at national, regional and local levels are indeed the best placed to ensure that young people receive an offer of employment or an apprenticeship or traineeship within a certain time after they have left school or become unemployed.
- Tax evasion. While fiscal consolidation is required in many Member States, its speed should be calibrated to country-specific circumstances so as to avoid excessive tightening. In particular, the importance of effective tax enforcement cannot be overstated. Before deciding to make cuts in public budgets, all options for recovering assets hidden from taxation should be thoroughly implemented. Therefore CEEP especially welcomes the reference to the necessity of coordinated action to tackle tax havens made in the 2014 Annual Growth Survey (AGS). We call on Member States to strictly follow the AGS recommendations in this respect.
- Effectiveness of public services. Sustainable and long lasting growth partly arises from investments in public services. Indeed, those services need to be effective, efficient, innovative, modern and be able to think ‘out of the box’ when adapting and responding to current challenges. CEEP is of course well aware of the differences existing between the EU member states when it comes to efficiency and effectiveness of public service providers. Therefore, CEEP and its members are supportive of benchmarking and comparisons, that we want to foster with activities such as a project of exchanges between leaders of public services that will have a specific focus on experiences from Greece and Cyprus. Nonetheless, if the trend of benchmarking and indicators would ever be taken up at Council level, it should be done in close collaboration with us and our members, and not “above”, if not even “against” them. It is our belief that this would result in Foreign Direct Investments increasingly coming back to Europe, as investors would consider again the “old continent” as an attractive market to invest in. It is CEEP’s firm belief that high-quality and effective public services, which provide the essential infrastructure for private business development and citizens’ quality of life, would contribute to achieve this goal.
- Progress on the Completion of the Internal Energy Market. CEEP supports the continued initiative of the European Commission and the European Council to evaluate and closely follow-up on the progress on the completion of the Internal Energy Market. As a part of the evaluation that has most recently been the topic of the Energy Council the 12th of December, CEEP did have an in-depth look at the Staff Working Document accompanying the Commission’s Communication on “Making the internal energy market work”. Using the right comparison criteria for a statement on the functioning of the energy market is vital not to draw wrong conclusions that might lead to ineffective or even contradictory actions. Several quantitative criteria have been outlined by the Commission’s Staff Working Document on this matter, which CEEP welcomes. However, we seek to further add that switching rates have to be used carefully when judging customer satisfaction. High customer satisfaction with the current provider and tariff or just switching packages offered by the same provider may also lead to lower switching rates. Furthermore we CEEP very much welcomes that the European Commission is planning to publish a report at the very beginning of next year on the development of energy prices corrected and levies. The development of retail prices is increasingly determined by state levies, taxes and charges. The higher this share, the little opportunities are given to suppliers for differentiating from competitors in terms of prices.Out of the point of view of Services of General Interest investments in regional and local infrastructures, in cross-border interconnections, investments in low carbon power generation and in energy efficient services, and the amount of advisory services should also be taken into account when measuring the functioning of the internal energy market. This is of essence as the evaluation is an important tool to discover if other vital objectives such as economic development and social progress have been fulfilled.
To conclude, please be assured of the commitment of CEEP and Public Service Employers’ in ensuring a stronger recovery from the crisis that has haunted us for too long. A real recovery will not be possible without high quality public services and we therefore urge you to consider our messages for the upcoming European Council meeting. We are also available for any further exchange on those points in 2014.
Hans-Joachim Reck Valeria Ronzitti
President General Secretary