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The employers' priorities for 2018 – summary of the second part of the debate

Brexit, the next EU budget and the future of the single market are the core interests of the European employers' organisations. On 14 March 2018, representatives of BusinessEurope, EuroChambres and CEEP presented the priorities of their organisations for 2018 and discussed the issues with the members of the employers' group.

EP elections, MFF and better regulation the focus of CEEP

The upcoming European elections and advocating for broad participation in the vote is one of the priorities for CEEP in 2018. Cooperation between all employers' organisations and reaching people with joint positive messages would help to counteract populism and Euroscepticism, underlined Valeria Ronziti, general secretary of CEEP.

CEEP also intends to focus on the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) and provide SMEs with practical tools for investment. The EU migration policy must also play a role in the upcoming MFF through dedicated programmes for integrating migrants into labour markets. These kinds of activities will require the joint involvement of employers and trade unions.

Better regulation and the legacy of REFIT platform activities is another topic on which CEEP is working jointly with BusinessEurope and Chambers. The organisations are preparing a joint position paper pointing out the inconsistencies that arise from EU law in relation to the MFF. The second document will focus on gold-plating and specific examples of how over-implementation creates problems for companies in Europe.

Trade, single market and industrial strategy – priorities for BusinessEurope

Although there are reasons for moderate optimism in terms of economic recovery, we must acknowledge that growth is still slower than elsewhere, said Markus Beyrer, director general of BusinessEurope. BusinessEurope's reform barometer, soon to be published, clearly shows that the EU is still underperforming in implementing the necessary reforms.

On the subject of trade, Mr Beyrer referred to the uncertainty caused by the recent US measures and expressed his hope that the situation would not further escalate. He underlined the importance of ongoing trade negotiations and pointed out that in trade deals the EU must not be naïve as the reality was becoming more and more difficult.

With regard to industrial strategy, BusinessEurope strongly supports having long-term targets, enabling progress to be evaluated. Moreover, good results are possible only with proper levels of investment. BusinessEurope is against merging the industrial pillar with societal challenges in the next Framework Programme (FP9)

The single market remains a key concern for BusinessEurope as we still face a wave of protectionism. The progress and final shape of certain issues in the coming months will be a kind of test for policy-makers' commitment to defending the achievements of the single market.

Eurochambres stresses SMEs' needs

Disagreement around trade with the US is also a serious concern for EuroChambres and we need to find a solution that respects the WTO rules, stated Ben Butters, policy director for EuroChambres. The organisation is calling for an SME-friendly trade policy that will help SMEs capitalise on trade agreements.

Certain support for SMEs is also necessary in preparation for Brexit as small businesses do not have proper contingency plans for Brexit. Closer cooperation between customs authorities would help SMEs to assess the implications of Brexit for them.

Mr Butters also elaborated on growing concerns related to skills mismatch and challenges that employers are facing in finding skilled workers. Further promotion of workers' mobility and integration of migrants would be a part of the solution.

Referring to the next EU budget, Mr Butters underlined that it has to have the right structure, be SME friendly and respect the subsidiarity principle. EuroChambres continues to work on the think small first principle to ensure that it is respected and implemented as there still remains room for improvement.

It is time for the employers to stand up together, remain united and defend basic values and the interests that are important for us, said Jacek P. Krawczyk, president of the Employers' Group, summarising the debate. It is especially important in the current challenging times with growing competitive pressure from outside the EU.

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