With the presentation of the Autumn Package on 24 November 2021, the Commission has launched the cycle of the European Semester for 2022. It was announced that the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) will be integrated into the European Semester. Apart from that, more focus shall be placed on social and environmental aspects. Nevertheless, there is a basic need to reform the European Semester in order to put well-being oriented policies at the centre of the European Union.
The European Semester was introduced in the wake of the economic and financial crisis 2008/09 and serves the coordination of economic policy within the EU. On 24 November 2021, Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis, Commissioner for Economy Paolo Gentiloni and Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights Nicolas Schmit, presented the Autumn Package for the now beginning cycle of the European Semester, which had been temporarily suspended due to the pandemic in the previous year. The Autumn Package is based on the foregoing Autumn Forecast.
What is new about the European Semester?
The Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) was launched in order to meet the challenges of the socioeconomic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in Europe. Due to the fact that contents and political goals of the two processes are closely linked, the RRF shall now be integrated into the European Semester. Such integration is to be welcomed: within the framework of the European Semester, social stakeholders are able to draw on established channels and networks to attract political attention to their concerns, whereas these stakeholders have been inadequately involved in processes surrounding the RFF. The Commission also announced its intention to increase the involvement of social partners and other interest groups in the European Semester. Another positive aspect is the Commission's efforts to increase the focus of the European Semester on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Annual Sustainable Growth Survey 2022
The centrepiece of this Autumn Package is the Annual Sustainable Growth Survey, which describes the EU’s key economic priorities for the next 12 to 18 months, including recommendations for action regarding their implementation. The Annual Sustainable Growth Survey’s focus is on the green und digital transformation of the economy and on promoting a socially just economic recovery. In view of the climate crisis, the implementation of the initiatives of the Green Deal – such as the ”Fit for 55”-package – and the “Just Transition” are thus of crucial importance, according to the report. The digital transformation within the framework of the “digital decade” shall also be expedited, whereby investments in school education and vocational training are identified as a key element.
Joint Employment Report 2022
The Joint Employment Report, which is also part of the Autumn Package, provides an overview of key developments regarding employment and social policy. This year, the focus is on implementing the European Pillar of Social Rights, whereby it will be evaluated how Member States perform in respect of the social scoreboard, among other things. Apart from that, priorities in implementing employment and social targets are discussed: ‘Active labour market policies, including skilling and hiring incentives, need to be at the centre of our work to smoothen out the negative impacts of the pandemic’, says Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights Nicolas Schmit.
Reform of the European Semesters urgently required
The European Semester builds upon the Stability and Growth Pact, which greatly reduces the fiscal scope for public investments of the Member States, often at the expense of societal welfare. Hence a fundamental reform of the European Semester is essential to put well-being oriented policies at the centre of the European Union. From the Austrian Chamber of Labour’s point of view, a reform of the Stability and Growth Pact is required: by implementing a Golden Investment Rule, public investments could be financed by deficits. In addition, the European Semester needs to be democratised through greater involvement of the European Parliament within the entire process. AK EUROPA will therefore also participate in the resumed consultation on the Economic Governance Review.
AK EUROPA: Commission launches Economic Governance Review
AK EUROPA: Europe needs a reform of the Stability and Growth Pact!
AK EUROPA Policy Brief: The Recovery and Resilience Facility - Have social actors been sidelined?
AK Wien: Europäisches Semester - Was steckt hinter dem EU-Koordinierungsprozess? (German only)
European Commission: European Semester – Autumn Package