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The EU Economic Governance Review

The Economic and Social Council (ESC) held a Plenary Session and adopted a resolution on the "Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Central Bank, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions - Economic Governance Review". With this act the ESC joined the public debate procedure, which the European Commission launched and should end on 30th June. The adopted resolution was sent to all European and national stakeholders.

In the resolution, the ESC states that the Economic Governance Review is based on an analysis of what has been achieved so far in the field of economic governance based on the positions and recommendations of the European institutions and various stakeholders and institutions, including the academia.

The ESC considers that achieving the maximum degree of coordination between national fiscal policies, on the one hand, and combining them with the monetary policy of the European Central Bank, on the other hand, should be done by ensuring long-term stability of public finances and at the same time by giving the opportunity to Member States to manage the economic and social processes, including through the implementation of counter-cyclical and anti-crisis policies.

According to the ESC, the economic governance framework should not lead to divisions between Member States which have adopted the common currency and the others. Therefore, the ESC considers that every EU Member State outside the euro area should be able to voluntarily join all the mechanisms open to euro area countries. At the same time, the economic governance actions must not go beyond the provisions of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

The ESC considers that economic governance should focus its efforts on the biggest challenge within the macroeconomic goals - maintaining the debt of Member States at manageable levels. In this regard, the ESC proposes a periodical review of the indicators to be made, which are monitored in the macroeconomic imbalances procedure. They must be relatively constant in composition and must reflect the economic and social processes in a balanced way. Current priorities should be taken into account with current indicators that do not conflict and do not overcomplicate the basic and constant system of indicators.

The ESC emphasizes its position, which has repeatedly expressed, that the EU economic governance should not focus only on fiscal indicators. Therefore, the ESC supports the inclusion of social indicators related to the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights, which balances monitoring. At the same time, the ESC believes that given the new EU priorities related to the Green Deal, environmental indicators should be included in the monitoring system as well.

The document also emphasizes the role of social partners and organised civil society not only in the process of discussing the framework of EU economic governance and its objectives, but also in implementing specific policies, such as participation in vocational training, performance monitoring, reduction of bureaucracy and increasing transparency.

In its act, the ESC calls for industrialization policy, strengthening the supply chains, development of small and medium enterprises to be part of the objectives of the economic governance.

The ESC calls for the EU economic governance to be focused on topics of interest to all Member States, such as the Green Deal, migration management, general defense, etc., and in which the EU creates added value without replacing the principles of subsidiarity and the sovereign powers of Member States.

The New EU Strategic Framework on Occupational Safety and Health - 2021-2027

At a Plenary Session the Economic and Social Council adopted an opinion on the "Main Priorities in the Draft EU Strategic Framework on Occupational Safety and Health - 2021-2027".

The rapporteur of the opinion Dr. Kokalov presented the main priorities addressed in the opinion such as new forms of work and digitalization, cancer prevention, small and medium enterprises and etc. Dr. Kokalov noted that every year there are over 3 million occupational accidents in the EU, of which 4000 are fatal and 120000 people die from cancer related to the working environment. Also, more than a quarter of the workers in Europe experience excessive work-related stress, but 23% believe that their safety and health at work are at risk. Work on setting limit values ​​for additional carcinogens and mutagens and other dangerous substances must continue to be a top priority in the future strategy.

In its opinion, the ESC expresses support for the new Strategic Framework, which will help the efforts of the Member States for more effective national policies in this area. With  this regard, the ESC recommends that Bulgaria prepare an impact assessment of the national strategy on occupational safety and health for the previous period. The ESC also emphasizes the crucial importance of the involvement of the social partners in the elaboration and implementation of the EU Strategic Framework on Occupational Safety and Health for the period 2021-2027, taking into account the specific differences in the Member States.

In the opinion, the ESC supports the development of a European occupational safety and health barometer, which would lead to improvement of the database and the collection of information. Attention is also paid to the need for resources of the national labour inspectorates. Last but not least, the opinion points out that the new European Labour Authority could play an important role in ensuring safe and healthy working conditions for cross-border workers, seasonal workers and migrants.

The conclusions and recommendations in the opinion could be useful for the representatives of Bulgaria in the European institutions in the elaboration, discussion and adoption of the European Occupational Safety and Health Strategy. The opinion could be used in the development of the next national strategy for safety and health at work in Bulgaria.

Legislation on night work

The Economic and Social Council adopted an analysis “The Problems of Performing and Receiving Payment for Night Work in Bulgaria”. The purpose of the act is to draw attention of the institutions to the specifics of the night work in our country related to the nature of this type of work, as well as to some consequences and risks to the health of workers. Night work payment is also a major focus of the analysis.

The ESC identifies some major challenges arising from the discrepancy between the natural biological needs of the human body and the widely established economic relations which require the performance of night work.  The ESC points out that there are sectors such as energy, hotels  and catering, healthcare, defense and many others, in which the normal day-night rhythm of work and rest is disrupted. Also, the ESC indicates malignant diseases, weakened immune system, reproductive or psychological problems as medically proven risks due to the night work. From an economic point of view, as a result of the disturbed rest-activity rhythm, there are increased occupational injuries and morbidity, absence from work and labour turnover. Negative social consequences are also found in families of those who regularly work at night such as reduced contacts at home, gaps in the upbringing of children as well as signs of alcoholism and social alienation.

The ESC finds that the Bulgarian legislation foresees the provision of employees on a night shift with hot food and refreshing drinks, conducting periodic medical examinations, relocation of appropriate daily work in case of health contraindications. However, these legal measures are not applied effectively enough or some of them are applied formally.

Following the European practices in payment of night work, the analysis shows that the prevailing practice is that the additional remuneration for night work is a percentage of the basic salary. At the same time, the ESC warns that the group of night workers in our country usually does not receive sufficient payment, which creates conditions for deepening inequalities and social isolation. In this regard, the ESC supports the intention of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy to change the current payment from BGN 0.25 per hour worked at night to not less than BGN 1.00, as of January 2021.

The analysis also recommends supplementing the current legislation, which affects the civil servants, because there is currently no adequate legislation for the performance of night work by them.

In conclusion, the ESC emphasizes that Bulgaria needs to update its legislation and bring national standards in line with European and world standards for night work.