The country-specific recommendations are documents prepared by the European Commission for each Member State, which analyse its economic situation and provide tailored policy advice on measures that it should adopt over the coming 18 months. They cover the particular challenges that the Member State is facing in a broad range of areas: the state of public finances, reforms of pension systems, measures to create jobs and to fight unemployment, education and innovation challenges, efficiency of the public administration, competition etc. The final adoption of country-specific recommendations prepared by the Commission takes place at the highest level by national leaders in the European Council.
Weak euro-area growth and the sovereign debt crisis have had serious repercussions for growth and employment on the Belgian economy. On 5 March 2014, in its 2014 in-depth review of the Belgian economy, the Commission concluded that the country is still experiencing macroeconomic imbalances that require monitoring and policy action, in particular when it comes to external competitiveness of goods.
Belgium has made some progress in implementing reforms relating to the 2013 country-specific recommendations, though they vary in scope and ambition. Belgium has reduced its deficit to 2.6% of GDP in 2013, improved fiscal policy coordination between government layers and enacted an old-age social security reform to increase employment of older workers and make public finances more sustainable over the long run. With regard to the latter, additional reforms will be required, however, to address the sizeable ageing challenge. Measures were also taken to curb rising labour costs and to improve participation in the labour market. However, the risk of decoupling of wages and productivity has not been effectively addressed, and employment performance remains marred by persisting structural issues. Finally, only limited progress has been achieved in shifting taxes to less growth-distortive revenue sources, in reducing operational restrictions in retail and services sectors and in decreasing greenhouse gas emissions from the building and transport sectors.
Belgium’s challenges remain broadly the same as last year and additional efforts will be needed in the fields of public finances, competitiveness, labour and product markets, and greenhouse gas emissions. Overall, better coordination between regional and national governments is essential. See how Belgium compares with other EU Member States in key areas.
2014 European Commission's recommendations in brief
The Commission has issued six country-specific recommendations to Belgium to help it improve its economic performance. These are in the areas of: public finances; taxation; pensions and long-term care; labour market; wage-setting and market functioning; greenhouse gas emissions.