On 22 November, the European Commission presented the Autumn Package, which kicks off the annual cycle of economic governance coordination and marks the beginning of the European Semester 2018. In this package, the Commission sets out general economic priorities for the EU and provides Member States with policy guidance for the following year.
The 2018 Annual Growth Survey for 2018, the centre piece of the package setting the overall EU economic priorities and Member States’ guidance, starts this year on a positive note, stressing the fact that Europe´s economy is strengthening.
Growth is increasing and unemployment is down, while investments and public finances are improving, even if the recovery remains uneven between Member States. This momentum, the report argues, presents the European Union with an opportunity to reignite economic and social converge.The 2018 Annual Growth Survey for 2018, the centre piece of the package setting the overall EU economic priorities and Member States’ guidance, starts this year on a positive note, stressing the fact that Europe´s economy is strengthening: growth is increasing and unemployment is down, while investments and public finances are improving, even if the recovery remains uneven between Member States. This momentum, the report argues, presents the European Union with an opportunity to reignite economic and social converge.
With the official proclamation of the European Pillar of Social Rights on 17 November 2017 a new additional angle has been added to the European Semester process. The European Semester will be an essential vehicle for delivering on the Pillar as it takes account of the situations of each Member State and drives the political direction and coordination in the three areas encompassing the Pillar: equal opportunities and access to the labour market, fair working conditions, and social protection and inclusion.
As a result, the survey pays, for the first time, close attention to the role of affordable, accessible and quality services, including housing services, to ensure equal opportunity for all. It stresses the “essential role” of social housing and other housing assistance and the need to protect the most vulnerable against eviction and foreclosure and fight against homelessness.
The Commission has also completed its assessment of the compliance of euro area Members States’ Draft Budgetary Plans (DBP) with the provisions of the SGP, taking into account its recent Autumn 2017 Economic Forecast and consultations with Member States. It has adopted Opinions for 18 Member States today (all but Greece).
What does the Autumn Package contain?
• 2018 Annual Growth Survey: It sets out the general economic priorities for the EU and offers EU governments policy guidance for the following year. The Commission guidance is built around 3 inter-connected strands: investment, structural reforms and fiscal consolidation.
• 2018 Alert Mechanism Report: This is a screening device, based on a scoreboard of indicators, which identifies countries that may be affected by economic imbalances and for which the Commission should undertake further in-depth reviews. It launches the annual Macroeconomic Imbalances Procedure (MIP), which aims to prevent or address imbalances that hinder the smooth functioning of national economies, of the eurozone or of the EU as a whole.
• 2018 draft Joint Employment Report: The report analyses the employment and social situation in Europe and the policy responses of national governments.
• Proposal for the Amendment of Employment Guidelines: The employment guidelines present common priorities and targets for the national employment policies and provide the basis for Country Specific Recommendations.
• Recommendation for a Council Recommendation on the economic policy of the euro area: The recommendation addresses issues critical to the functioning of the single currency area and suggests concrete measures national governments can implement. This ensures that eurozone and national issues are included in the EU economic governance planning.
• Assessment of euro area Member States’ 2018 Draft Budgetary Plans: a Chapeau Communication and individual Opinions for 18 euro area Member States (except Greece): The opinion assesses how much national budget plans for the coming year comply with the requirements of the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP).
• a number of steps under the Stability and Growth Pact