(9 February 2024) EPSU and other key stakeholders addressed Enrico Letto, the author of the forthcoming report on the future of the single market, in a Belgian Presidency conference held in Liege on 8 February, 2024.
On June 30, 2023, the European Council requested a report on the future of the internal market, 30 June. The report should be presented to the European Council in March this year. The recommendations will guide the European Commission to determine its priorities for the next 5 years after the European Parliament elections in June. The Belgian and Spanish Presidency and the European Commission asked former Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letto to present an independent High-Level Report on the future of the Single Market. Letto is responsible for collecting the opinions of European, national bodies, employers, unions and civil society associations.
A conference under the Belgian Presidency addressed the role of Services of General Interest or Public services. Jan Willem Goudriaan, EPSU General Secretary, addressed Letta and others during a panel debate. Goudriaan raised concerns about:
- the Single Market and it being associated with a corporate-led project steered by lobbies such as the European Roundtable of Industrialists. It has not contributed to solutions for the social housing crisis, nor for the increased income inequality, tax avoidance, reduction of CO2 emissions, regional imbalances and environmental degradation, precariousness and low pay or public investment in public services.
- Hence, we expect a focus on how it will contribute to realising Social Europe, with a social progress protocol, upward social convergence, strengthened collective bargaining and social dialogue, regional cohesion and realising the European pillar of Social Rights.
- the lack of a positive approach to public services in the EU, as building sustainable growth and a fair inclusive society. Without well-funded public administrations and judiciaries with qualified staff, labour inspectorates, environmental protection agencies and tax inspections corporations do as they please and public money will go to waste. Similarly, if there is no health and social care, no education and childcare, many men and especially women would not be able to work. There will be further regional disparities. Furthermore, the EU does not have a positive approach to public enterprise to promote innovation, solve problems and contribute to productive economies. Goudriaan referred further to the demand that public funds should be linked with social conditionalities. No public funds should go to companies that refuse to conclude collective agreements, or that avoid paying a fair share of taxes or degrade the environment.
Ideas for the report included the importance of stressing regional development and the continued presence of public services, benchmarking all policies of the EU against their impact on public services using the Pillar of Social Rights and the Protocol on Services of General Interest to the Treaty, a Vice-President that coordinates and promotes public services and creating EU level public enterprises.
Other speakers included Pierre-Yves Dermagne, Deputy Prime Minister for Belgium and Suica Dubravka, European Commission Vice-President, who linked the recent Commission policies on demographic change and defence of democracy. These indicate the problem of regional imbalance and the disappearance of public services. Koen Lenaerts, President of the European Court of Justice addressed the EU’s legislation and jurisprudence, the role they play to prevent users from paying too much and the scope for public enterprise and public service obligations especially when based on solidarity. The President of the European Economic and Social Committee referred to the recent opinion on the Single Market at the request of the Belgian Presidency underlining the need to integrate trade unions, employers and civil society of the candidate countries in the process of EU enlargement. Valeria Ronzitti, General Secretary of SGI-Europe, representing many employers of EPSU affiliates, recalled the need to reconnect the development of the Single Market with the EU's economic, social, and cohesion policies. Emphasising the critical role played by SGIs in the EU social and economic model, she stressed their role as being productive and contributing to allowing other companies to play a productive role. The Letta report should contribute to the reflection on developing EU Public Goods in areas of common interest to reinforce the EU strategic autonomy.
The Conference took place 8 February 2024, Liege.
- believes that a strategy for the future of the internal market should focus on several aspects: a European industrial policy, a favourable framework for businesses and SMEs, social economy enterprises, public support for the European project, properly organised and efficient services of general interest and steps to preserve and develop our social model;
- calls for a new analytical framework to guide political decision-making for a changed world with new geopolitical challenges. There are a number of conflicting objectives: requests for subsidies versus calls to limit State aid; local production requirements versus moves to open up markets; access to indispensable raw materials versus supply conditions. A new system of cooperation to find the best solutions is required, and a new spirit of collaboration between Member States is essential to create a genuine sense of European identity;
- calls for an assessment of the consequences for economic, social and territorial cohesion of liberalising Services of General Economic Interest (SGEI), and a study of the possible need to create European instruments for public intervention in SGEI sectors.