Cohesion must be at the heart of post-pandemic Europe, say European Commissioner Elisa Ferreira and EESC President Christa Schweng
A hearing organized by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) discussed the opportunities and challenges in the implementation of national recovery and resilience plans in the different Member States, revealing that civil society is still far from being really involved in the process. Calls were made for improved consultations in the upcoming implementation phase, following shortcomings at the drafting stage.
Europe can experience a stronger post-pandemic recovery if civil society is fully involved in the implementation phase of the national recovery and resilience plans (PRNR) in the different Member States, thus promoting the just transition towards a green, digital and sustainable European economy. This is the main message of the hearing held in Brussels and remotely by the European Semester Group (ESG) of the Economic and Monetary Union and Economic and Social Cohesion (ECO) Section on September 6, 2021.
“It is essential to address the serious shortcomings of the drafting phase of the NRRP,” said Javier Doz Orrit, president of ESG. He called for “a strong recovery that strengthens social cohesion by genuinely involving the social partners and organized civil society, for a just, green and digital transition. Their involvement is particularly important with regard to reforms of the labor market, public services and pension systems and in the implementation of investment plans.
Overall, the participation of organized civil society is still low in many Member States. Organizations were informed and in many cases briefly consulted; however, this has only given limited results. In the majority of Member States, there were no formal and effective consultations leading to significant changes to the initial government proposals, with a few exceptions. The Commission should therefore monitor the Regulation on the Recovery and Resilience Mechanism (FRR) and ensure that it is properly implemented in Member States, for example by setting up participatory structures with national authorities. , local and regional, social partners and civil society organizations.
“The participation of civil society in the implementation of the NRPs is vital as the plans will be more effective and more easily owned by the citizens, but it is also an important manifestation of our common European values as established by the Article 2 of the Treaty. Unfortunately, it is still far from sufficient in most Member States ”, added Krzysztof Balon, chairman of the study group for the current EESC opinion on The 2021 Annual Sustainable Growth Strategy.
State of play – implementation of NRRP
The event, titled ‘Towards the European Semester 2022 – Implementing National Recovery and Resilience Plans’, brought together the views of various civil society organizations, EU bodies and advocacy groups. reflection.
Rob jonkman, member of the Committee of the Regions (CoR) of the EU and rapporteur for his opinion on the implementation of the RRF, underlined that the key to the successful implementation of the NRPs was broad societal ownership in the Member States . The direct involvement of civil society as a whole, including local and regional authorities, social partners and NGOs, is therefore crucial.
Johannes Lübking of the European Commission’s Recovering and Resilience Working Group (RECOVER) set the scene with figures: 25 NRRPs have so far been submitted and 18 have already been approved. For the green transition, most of the funds have been allocated to sustainable mobility, while, for the digital transformation, most have been allocated to digital public services.
Zsolt Darvas, representative Bruegel, underlined that the implementation of reforms and public investment projects supported by the RRF is extremely important in many Member States in the coming years. In this regard, he expressed concerns about the absorption capacity of some Member States. Close monitoring was therefore essential.
Most participants agreed that a number of warning signs had started to appear in the NRRP implementation process: the country-specific recommendations made by the Commission had been largely ignored by some Member States so far. , so there was skepticism about a possible change in attitude in the future. In addition, the transformative effects of RRF investments have been questioned, as have their efficiency and effectiveness.
The way forward, towards the 2022 European Semester cycle
With a view to the next cycle of the European Semester, Markus Ferber, MEP and rapporteur for the Annual sustainable growth strategy 2021, said that so far there had not been much consultation with regional and local authorities or with civil society, as originally planned in the NRPs, and that this was a mistake because a more inclusive position would only benefit the plans.
Sure the same lines, James watson of BusinessEurope stressed that the implementation of the NRRP could not be just a checkbox exercise but should be in line with the true spirit of the instrument: the role of social partners should be recognized and consultations should take place in public forums and not behind closed doors.
Marco cilento, representing the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), raised the issue of quality jobs, productivity, higher wages and better working conditions, stressing that only tangible results for citizens could really put them at the heart of the EU.
Ultimately, Hanna surmatz, from the European Foundation Center (EFC) and member of the EESC Liaison Group, also agreed on the importance of consulting civil society partners, noting that this would help restructure the European Semester, give citizens the feeling of being really involved and contributing to the construction of an inclusive European future.
“Civil society participation clearly needs to be increased in the implementation process to enable better national ownership and implementation of NRRP. We will continue to monitor the situation as we want to draw effective conclusions and have a positive impact on the process. We want to make a difference and it is time to act ”, concluded Gonçalo Lobo Xavier, rapporteur for the EESC opinion, to be adopted at the October plenary session.