European Semester: The 2020 cycle must focus on sustainable and inclusive growth

The EESC urges that in 2020, the coordination of economic policies across the Member States must lead to averting the risk of recession and steering the EU's economy towards a path of sustainable and inclusive growth. This should include increased reform efforts, investment, compliance with the Macroeconomic Imbalance Procedure (MIP) as well as more structured civil society involvement in the European Semester process.

In three recently adopted documents, the EESC welcomed further development of the European Semester in 2019, such as the new focus on investment and a larger role for social and environmental objectives. However, it also demanded a series of further adjustments which could improve the Semester, mitigate the current risks and increase the resilience and growth potential of the EU and the euro area economies.

The EESC believes, for instance, that it is essential for fiscal policy to accompany the ECB's accommodative monetary policy with a positive aggregate fiscal stance of the euro area, while respecting the principles of fiscal discipline.

This should be accompanied by other important measures within the next European Semester cycle that:

  • encourage effective structural reforms through well targeted investment strategies;
  • focus equally on social, environmental, macroeconomic and fiscal goals;
  • foster further public and private investment;
  • address low MIP compliance by Member States.

Finally, the EESC calls for enhanced civil society involvement at European and national level and all stages in the European Semester. This could lead to stronger commitment to and ownership of reforms at national level and, consequently, to a more effective and sustainable exercise. Along these lines, the Committee recommends that an annual consultation of civil society be organised under its aegis in each Member State and at EU level.

The Committee provided its policy input to the next cycle of the European Semester in two follow-up opinions, respectively on the Annual Growth Survey and on the recommendation for the economic policy of the euro area, and one information report on a series of country visits regarding civil society involvement in the Semester process. (jk)