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Brussels, 16 September 2015
Re: Annual Growth Survey 2016 – crucial to bring Europe 2020 back on track
President of the European Commission
Mr Jean-Claude JUNCKER
Dear Commission President Juncker,
As the European Semester Alliance, a broad coalition bringing together 18 major EU civil society organisations (CSOs) and trade unions, representing thousands of member organisations at EU, national, regional and local level, we are writing to you to express our concern about the direction your Commission has taken when it adopted the Country Specific Recommendations for 2015. We urge you to address this and turn the 2016 AGS into a first step towards a European Semester that is democratic, social, sustainable and inclusive.
Using the European Semester purely as an instrument to ensure macro-economic and monetary stability will not help you bring the EU closer to its citizens. Only by using the Semester to support a reform agenda that helps the EU become more democratic, social, sustainable and inclusive and make progress towards the related Europe 2020 targets will you have a chance to close the gap with EU citizens. An explicit commitment to effective stakeholder engagement for both the Commission and Member States will also reinforce ownership and accountability.
In the current climate, in which women and men across Europe are becoming increasingly sceptical of Europe’s leadership in solving Europe’s many crises and challenges in a responsible manner that restores the balance between economic, social and environmental policies, the time has come to give hope. This means to draw lessons from the recent past, to renew the founding values of the EU in accordance with Article 3 of the Treaties and to meet your promise for a democratic, social and sustainable Europe. This is particularly the case regarding your priority to develop a deeper and fairer Economic and Monetary Union by making governance in this area more democratically legitimate and apply social impact assessments to reform programmes.
Five years have passed since the ‘fiscal consolidation’ approach was first introduced through the European Semester. As CSOs and Trade Unions, confronted by the social and environmental realities faced daily by various age and population groups and service providers we represent, we assert that austerity is not working. Rather it is transferring costs to society as a whole which will have disastrous human, social and environmental/climate mitigation impacts that will take decades to reverse, as well as preventing a sustainable and inclusive economic recovery that can benefit all.
We believe a prosperous European Union has the means at its disposal to change its direction and to invest in the well-being of all.
In the following pages, we outline our proposals for a democratic, social, inclusive and sustainable Europe. We would like to ask you the following specific questions:
As the Semester should be democratic, is the European Commission willing to introduce Guidelines for stakeholder dialogue in order to homogenise and improve the quality of civil society participation across Member States?
As regards the social dimension of the Semester is the European Commission willing to promote social impact assessments as a key tool to ensure that budgetary consolidation and economic growth strategies do not undermine social priorities?
As regards the inclusive dimension of the Semester is the European Commission willing to reinforce the Poverty Target by urging member states to ambitiously commit to targets and actions that result in the target of lifting at least 20 million persons out of poverty? What initiatives will the Commission take that will concretely result in less people experiencing or at risk of poverty by 2020?
As regards the environmental dimension of the European Semester, how will you ensure that all Member States will be asked to shift taxation from labour to environmental pollution and resource consumption and align macro-economic reform with measures to address Europe’s over consumption of resources such as raw materials or freshwater, whilst guarding against negative social impact?
A specific commitment from the European Commission to support the active participation of civil society organisations in the Semester process is essential. We would very much welcome a meeting with you to discuss our and your concrete proposals to make the European Semester more democratic, social, inclusive and sustainable.
We trust that you will give your utmost attention to our concerns.
The European Semester Alliance