Employers' priorities for 2019

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European elections, a horizontal approach for SMEs, education, fair trade – these are some of the core interests of the European employers' organisations for 2019. On 20 February, representatives of BusinessEurope, CEEP and SMEunited met members of the Employers' Group to discuss the issues they will focus on this year.

SMEunited: shape Europe for SMEs

The European elections are currently the main focus of SMEunited. The organisation is putting forward some priorities for the next term: access to resources, technological development, digitalisation, greening of the economy, and the skills gap. SMEunited has issued a memorandum containing ten priorities for the European elections.

In the discussion on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) we advocate paying particular attention to SMEs and programmes that promote them, such as InvestEU, Horizon Europe, the cohesion funds, and Erasmus+, said Veronique Willems, Secretary-General of SMEunited. Cohesion policy needed to take civil society into account. She underlined the importance of showing local businesses and SMEs that Europe is there and that it is providing for them.

BusinessEurope – business ambition for 2030

Markus Beyrer, Director-General of BusinessEurope, underlined that the business community was ready and willing to speak out more on the future of Europe. BusinessEurope has developed a vision for Europe 2030, setting out how to create the right framework conditions for enhancing competitiveness and entrepreneurship and enabling business to play its role, in the interests of society.

With reference to Brexit, Mr Beyrer underlined that its impact on business would be huge. BusinessEurope advocated a systematic approach that would protect the economy on both sides.Regarding a minimum income, he said that the business community did not support a compulsory minimum wage at European level – this was a matter for the national social partners.

BusinessEurope also called for a more strategic and robust approach to industrial policy. Concepts such as public procurement, trade, state aid, research and competition policy should be rethought. It was necessary to support European competition policy, which was crucial for the single market. Mr Beyrer added that the world was clearly changing, and rules had to be adapted.

CEEP – more cooperation on the 3Ds

Digitalisation, decarbonisation and demographic ageing – these are the 3Ds that CEEP intends to focus on during the next term of the European Parliament. We want to work together with the new Commission to give more direction to the European semester, benchmark exercises and developing the Pillar of Social Rights, said Valeria Ronzitti, General-Secretary of CEEP. Such engagement would enable employers to push for the reforms that are so necessary at national level.

Employers should join forces and agree to speak together to encourage stakeholders in the Member States to be vocal about Europe being the best place to live, work and do business. Broadening support for business policies, recognition of a horizontal policy on SMEs, and an inclusive approach to all employers were other topics addressed by Ms Ronzitti. She expressed her appreciation for the active participation of EESC members in the REFIT platform and progress made thanks to the opinions on subsidiarity and goldplating.