The European Commission’s annual Winter Package, a wide-ranging assessment of Member States’ economic and social developments, has been published.
The review found that, while priorities and areas of concern vary drastically between Member States, 2019 is expected to see the overall economy of the EU spend a seventh consecutive year in growth. While some Member States are still experiencing high levels of debt, on the whole public finances have improved significantly. Employment is at a record high and unemployment at a record low across the bloc; though youth unemployment remains high in a number of regions: the report urged Member States to work towards boosting productivity and ensuring the benefits of overall economic growth reach all their citizens.
Marianne Thyssen, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, said: “Demographic change and new technologies are reshaping the labour market, while skills shortages are on the rise in many Member States. We need to shift up a gear. Investing in people’s skills, especially lifting the skill levels of the low-skilled, must be our top priority if we are to maintain our living standards.”
The Country Reports sections of the Winter Package, which analysed the progress made by Member States in implementing the Country-Specific Recommendations published in July 2018, found that Member States had applied on average two thirds of the specific recommendations issued to them since the introduction of the European Semester in 2011. Recommendations covering the financial services were the most widely implemented; and Member States were commended for their work in enabling job creation.
Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs Pierre Moscovici said: “We have carried out an x-ray of all 28 EU economies, to identify problems and ensure they can be tackled in a timely manner. Many of Europe’s imbalances are being corrected, thanks to both economic growth and policy action, though longstanding challenges remain. With growth easing this year, it is more important than ever that governments act to strengthen the resilience of our economies: reducing debt, boosting productivity, investing more and better, and tackling inequalities. Concerning Greece, the second Enhanced Surveillance Report also published today shows significant progress but also some areas in which further efforts are needed, and I urge the authorities to complete these in time for the next Eurogroup.”