The European Commission has published a “Winter Package” of documents as part of the European Semester, the annual cycle of economic policy coordination at EU level, in place since 2011 and part of the European Union’s economic governance framework. The European Semester was born as an instrument to implement the EU Stability and Growth Pact and to steer fiscal convergence amongst Member States. The Semester has also a social dimension, which has grown stronger after the publication of the European Pillar of Social Rights in 2017 when the Semester became then also an instrument to monitor the implementation of the Pillar and to drive the use of European Structural Funds.
The Winter Package was issued end of February and follows the publication in November of the 2019 Annual Growth Survey and the Autumn Package or euro area recommendation, which set the priorities for the year ahead at European level. The Winter Package includes Country Reports, assessing Member States’ progress in implementing the Country-Specific Recommendations of July 2018. Challenges vary significantly across countries but, overall, Member States have progressed in the implementation of more than two-thirds of the recommendations issued since the introduction of the European Semester.
The Commission has also adopted a proposal to maintain the 2018 Council Decision on guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States, reconfirming the alignment of the Employment Guidelines with the 20 principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights.
The Council is expected to discuss the Country Reports together with the results of the in-depth reviews. In the coming months, the Commission will hold bilateral meetings with all countries and will visit Member States in order to analyse and discuss the findings of the reports. In April, Member States are expected to present their National Reform Programmes, detailing national reform priorities, and their Stability or Convergence (for non-euro area countries) Programmes, setting out their multi-annual fiscal strategies. Based on all these programmes, the Commission will present in Spring its proposals for a new set of Country-Specific Recommendations, targeting the key challenges to be addressed for 2019-2020.
In the meantime, we call on COFACE members to check the reports for their countries, especially Annex D which refers to investment priorities for the European Social Fund and European Regional Development Fund.
Here you can know more about the European Semester in your country.