European Semester: Commission delivers country reports

The European Commission has released its country reports on the social and economic situation in member states mid-February. The Country reports highlight the main issues that the Commission sees in member states. It concludes that the economic and social situation is improving, but that large challenges remain, mainly high unemployment and poverty rates and instabilities in the banking and financial sectors. The country reports form the basis for country-specific recommendations that the Commission will adopt in April and the member states endorse in June.

Follow-up of the Annual Growth Survey

The country reports follow the priorities of the European Commission outlined in November’s Annual Growth Survey, which reiterated the need for structural reforms, modernising social protection and pursuing ‘responsible fiscal policies’.

Pension reforms: not many actions, but still reform needs

Ageing seems to be less a pressing issue in the country reports than it was previously, although the Commission notes that pension reforms have slowed down and the challenge of making pensions financially sustainable for the future is not yet met in many member states. The Commission is positive about the labour market, with recent reductions of unemployment and employment rates ‘at an all-time high’. The Commission stresses that the target of the Europe 2020 strategy to achieve employment rates of 75 % for the 20-65 year-olds is achievable. However, little attention is paid to the issue of integrating older workers specifically into the labour markets.

Call for modernising social protection, but no attainment of poverty reduction target in sight

Many provisions regarding modernising social protection account for an increase in non-standard contracts and welcome the recent increases in minimum wages that can be observed across Europe. The Commission highlights that minimum income schemes, that prevent poverty, should be rolled out in all member states, but without putting too much emphasis on this. This is in contradiction of the high poverty rates: although poverty in terms of underemployment and material deprivation is diminishing since 2 years, relative poverty (AROP) is rising and the overall levels are still far from the Europe 2020 target of reducing the risk of poverty and social exclusion to about 85 million people in the EU.

Health and long-term care seen primarily as costs for society

Health and long-term care figure as issues in the country reports, albeit only in the chapter on responsible public finances. The Commission asks member states to find ways to contain the projected increase of costs in long-term care and health care due to ageing by finding more economic ways of caring (mostly at home, for example) and emphasising prevention. It is of concern that this chapter is only seen under the budgetary lens, not in a perspective to improve offer and quality of health and long-term care.

AGE Platform Europe is calling on its members to comment the Country Reports and the National Reform Programmes, which are currently being drafted by national governments, to ensure the European Semester benefits citizens of all ages.

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For more information on AGE work on the European Semester, please contact Philippe Seidel:

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