The meeting was an excellent occasion for the Steering Committee to exchange views with representatives from several national Economic and Social Councils / similar organisations: from Portugal, Belgium (Conseil central de l'économie and Conseil national du travail), Spain, France, Finland, Malta, Greece, Italy.
Mr Richard CORBETT, Member of the Cabinet of President of the European Council Mr Herman van Rompuy presented the Outcomes of the Spring European Council (1-2 March 2012). The European Council conclusions reiterated the commitment to the EU 2020 strategy and the official recognition of the important role of social partners in the European Semester and the preparation of National Reform Programmes (point 13 of the Conclusions).
Speaking about Europe 2020, Mr. Corbett reaffirmed the centrality of the strategy, as it is stated in the Conlusions of the Spring European Council:
"Europe 2020" is Europe's strategy for jobs and growth and its comprehensive response to the challenges it is facing. In particular, the five targets set out for 2020 remain fully relevant and will continue to guide the action of Member States and the Union to promote employment; improve the conditions for innovation, research and development; meet our climate change and energy objectives; improve education levels and promote social inclusion in particular through the reduction of poverty.
Mr CORBETT stressed the importance of a differentiated approach according to the different macroeconomic situations of each Member State.
He also highlighted the intertwined relationships between long-term and short-term provisions, responsibility and solidarity, fiscal consolidation and confidence. All these aspects should be seen as key driver for restoring growth.
Mr. José Albino DA SILVA PENEDA, President of the Economic and Social Council of Portugal presented the "Commitment for employment, growth and competitiveness" – programme agreed upon by social partners and government in Portugal. Mr Peneda underligned that in a context of a challenging fiscal consolidation and uncertainty about the economic recovery, the social concertation agreement is a strong symbol for the ability of his country to carry out difficult reforms.
After that presentation, a lively debate took place between representatives of national ESCs about their respective implication in the European Semester. Overall, stakeholders consultation seems to progress and national Councils seem to be more intensively involved at national level.
Ms Séverine WERNERT from the European Commission, presented the work that is done by her institution on the Country specific recommendations.
On the Europe 2020 Strategy, Ms Wernert quoted President of EC Mr J-M Barroso: “I believe it is critical on these efforts, namely about Europe 2020 Strategy, the ownership at the national level of these reforms not only by the national parliaments but also by social partners and the regions.” She also recalled the conclusions of the last Spring European Council which reiterated the official recognition of the important role of social partners in the European Semester and the preparation of National Reform Programmes (point 13 of the Conclusions).
The Commission's representative also addressed the Steering Committee and the representatives from national ESCs about their concrete role in the European Semester. She thanked for the Integrated report that contained contributions of national ESC. She also welcomed a future input on the Commission's proposals for Country Specific Recommendations to be issued at the end of May, as well as on their implementation in their respective Member States.
Finally, she informed that the Commission will propose to reinforce the involvement of social partners in coordination of economic and employment policies at EU level and encouraged members to foster communication on the Europe 2020 strategy at national level.
Moreover, several presentations were done on the work that is being done in the Committee's sections:
On the work on the "Multiannual financial framework for 2014-2020" and on "A budget for Europe 2020" – opinion ECO/308 – presentations done by the rapporteur Mr Stefano Palmieri and co-rapporteur Mr Jacek Krawczyk.
On going-local events - presentations by Mr L.M. Pariza Castaños, Mr J. van Iersel and Ms A. Rodert.