The European Commission today published its annual analysis of the economic and social challenges in the EU Member States, the so-called Country Reports. The reports are a tool under the streamlined European Semester of economic policy coordination to monitor policy reforms and to point early on to challenges that Member States should address. Following the publication in November of the Annual Growth Survey 2016 and the euro area recommendation, which set out the priorities at European level, today's reports shift the attention of the European Semester to the national dimension. The reports will serve as the basis for discussion with Member States of their national policy choices ahead of their National Programmes in April, and will lead to the formulation in late spring of the Commission's Country-Specific Recommendations.
Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis, responsible for the Euro and Social Dialogue, said: "Against the background of growing external risks and increased volatility in financial markets, it is urgent to strengthen the fundamentals of our economies. The Commission's analysis shows that reforms are being carried out on a number of policy areas, but the effort is uneven. A number of Member States still need to be more decisive in tackling persistent vulnerabilities, such as high public and private debt."
Commissioner Marianne Thyssen, responsible for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, said: "Although we have now reached the highest employment rate since the beginning of the crisis in 2008, still too many Europeans are unemployed. Through the European Semester, we remain committed to help Member States' efforts to get people back into jobs."
Commissioner Pierre Moscovici, responsible for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs, said: "The reports the Commission has presented today provide the most accurate and detailed picture of EU economies. These in-depth analyses will be the basis for the necessary dialogue between the EU institutions and national authorities this spring, in view of the next set of Country-Specific Recommendations. Boosting jobs and growth remains our first objective. As the EU recovery remains fragile, the Commission urges Member States to continue reforming their economies and fixing persistent macroeconomic imbalances."
For 18 Member States identified in the Alert Mechanism Report 2016 published in November alongside the Annual Growth Survey, the Country Reports include the
In-Depth Review under the Macroeconomic Imbalances Procedure.
Greece and Cyprus, which are currently under stability support programmes, are not covered by Country Reports at this stage.
As part of the European Semester, the Commission will pursue a close dialogue with the Member States in the months ahead. In March, the Commission will hold bilateral meetings with the Member States to discuss the Country Reports. Commissioners will also visit Member States to meet national governments, parliaments, social partners and others. The Member States are required to present in April their National Reform Programmes and their Stability Programmes (for euro area countries) or Convergence Programmes (for non-euro area countries), covering public finances. The Commission has called on Member States to consult closely national parliaments and the social partners when preparing these documents. The Commission will then present its proposals for a new set of Country-Specific Recommendations in spring, targeting the key economic and social priorities for each country.
Also in March, the Commission will decide on the Macroeconomic Imbalances Procedure (MIP) category for each Member State covered by an In-Depth Review. As of this year, the Commission has streamlined the MIP from six to four categories of macroeconomic imbalances: no imbalances, imbalances, excessive imbalances, and excessive imbalances with corrective action.
The early publication of these Country Reports is part of the efforts to streamline and strengthen the European Semester, in line with the Five Presidents' Report and the steps announced by the Commission to complete Europe's Economic and Monetary Union. Some of these steps were initiated last year, and the practice is confirmed this year, in order to allow for a real dialogue on European priorities, including euro area challenges, upfront at the start of the European Semester, and then to give more time for dialogue with Member States and stakeholders at all levels to reflect on their priorities. These Reports also reflect the greater focus on employment and social considerations which the Commission is bringing into the European Semester.