Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR)
European section of United Cities and Local Governments

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Local and regional governments as employers

European Semester - 03.02.2020

How to involve local social partners in the European Semester
The European Semester needs to be democratised through a bottom-up approach actively involving social partners of the local and regional government sector. That’s the conclusion of CEMR and EPSU’s two-year joint project on “Localising the European Semester”, detailed in their declaration to the EU institutions and national governments.

EU countries coordinate their economic policies through the European Semester. While this process was initially aimed at promoting macroeconomic stability and prosperity in the eurozone, there have been very substantial spillovers for local and regional governments. Over 60% of the European Commission’s recommendations issued in the context of the Semester have local or regional impacts, covering issues such as rules for local investment, public procurement and social inclusion.

CEMR, representing local and regional governments as employers, and EPSU, representing local and regional government workers, joined forces to make the Semester a more democratic and local-friendly process. The project, which was financially supported by the European Commission, sought to better involve CEMR and EPSU’s members in the Semester, notably in national consultations.

The project started in March 2018 with an opening seminar in Namur, followed by three workshops in Copenhagen, Madrid and Vilnius. In each of these workshops CEMR and EPSU’s member associations, national government representatives and EU Commission officials exchanged on good practices and policy recommendations.

Over the course of the European Semester, national governments inform the Commission about the reforms they are planning to make and, in response, the EU executive provides its own recommendations. We believe social partners representing local and regional government employers and workers need to be consulted ahead of time and regularly, so as to prevent top-down faits accomplis at the end of the process.

Proposals to localise the Semester

Currently, national governments’ consultation of social partners is highly uneven. Consultation needs to become systematic and accessible. In particular, CEMR and EPSU call on the Commission to:
  • Set quality standards on national governments’ involvement of social partners representing local and regional governments and their workers.
  • Better involve social partners through improved and more transparent planning, including detailed annual calendars with sufficient meetings, discussions and input opportunities.
  • Provide information sessions and training events to encourage social partners to engage with the Semester.
  • Support European social partners’ efforts to provide adequate information and consultation for their national members in the Semester process by creating an ad-hoc grant.
  • Establish specific European fora for local and regional governments, given their exceptional role in implementing the Commission’s recommendations.
  • Integrate the Sustainable Development Goals into the Semester.

CEMR and EPSU furthermore call on national governments to work with the Commission to make the Semester process as transparent and predictable as possible, and to effectively consult social partners.

The project has also produced a Handbook for Social Partners as practical guide to help them engage with the European Semester.
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