BusinessEurope: Member States must step up reform implementation

Employment and Social Affairs

According to BusinessEurope’s “Reform barometer”, most European countries are still lacking consistent reform implementation. The “Reform barometer” is a yearly survey, conducted among the 33 BusinessEurope’s member federations, that evaluates the recommendations for structural reforms made under the European Semester, assesses progress in implementing them and identifies priorities for future reforms.

The 2015 report shows that 90% of the Country Specific Recommendations (CSRs) focus on the right issues for reform in EU Member States. However, the member federations underline the continuing lack of consistent reform implementation across the EU, concluding that only 22% of the 2014 CSRs have been satisfactorily implemented. Reforms have been pushed forward most forcefully in those countries that were faced with greater difficulties as a result of the crisis such as Greece and Spain. In the case of Ireland and Portugal the implementation path results to be at an earlier stage because these countries have recently exited their assistance and adjustment programmes and this years’ assessment focuses on new recommendations for long-term reform.

In some other Member States important reforms have been taken forward, also outside the scope of the CSR. Notably, in Italy, in addition to the reform implemented in the framework of the European Semester, the government has taken forward also the labour market reform (Job Act) with very positive results expected in terms of job creation. In UK, Netherlands, Latvia and Estonia Business federations continue to be satisfied with the reform implementation, while in some Member States, as Sweden and Finland, there is a raising concern that reforms’ implementation has fallen, with serious consequences in terms of competitiveness, growth and employment performance. In particular, the Hungarian business federation believes that the reform implementation has fallen considerably.

Furthermore, the survey evaluates the reform effort in implementing the Country Specific Recommendations in different broad policy areas. Not surprisingly, business environment is the area where the federations believe that progress has been particularly slow, in particular regarding the high costs of doing business and limited progress on the single market. In the labour market area dissatisfaction is also very strong; although some countries, such as Italy, Spain, Finland and to some extent Belgium, have adopted important reforms, the overall feeling is that reforms in this field were largely insufficient to increase employment, sustain social systems and achieve a better skills match. As regards the area of innovation and skills, the business federations consider that reforms have been slightly improved from last year but more effort is needed especially in the specific area of skills mismatches and development.

In this context, BusinessEurope has thus called for an increased focus on implementation of the European Semester and a greater prioritization of CSRs to ensure more effective results. Moreover, stronger coordination between Member States and greater consultation and involvement of social partners at national and European level, are other important factors to improve the formulation and implementation of the CSRs, according to the Business Confederation.

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