Taken together, they represent an ambitious set of reforms for the EU economy. As part of today's package, which marks the culmination of the third European Semester of policy coordination, the Commission has also adopted several decisions under the Excessive Deficit Procedure.
The Commission's 2013 recommendations for the United Kingdom in brief
The Commission has issued six country specific recommendations (CSRs) to the UK to help it improve its economic performance. These are in the areas of:
Sustainable public finances
The UK has very high levels of government debt and a large fiscal deficit. To get public finances back on a sustainable footing, the UK should continue to prioritise the reduction of its debt and deficit, whilst balancing this with targeted growth-enhancing expenditure.
The housing market
The level of household debt in the UK is well above the euro area average. A housing shortage and lack of residential construction is also contributing to keeping house prices high. The UK should take measures to increase the housing supply and strengthen the rental market, whilst avoiding a return to imprudent mortgage lending.
Youth unemployment is over 2.5 times greater than the overall unemployment rate in the UK. The UK should improve the quality of vocational training on offer and reduce the number of young people without sufficient skills to enter the labour market.
Support to low income households
The UK has the second highest percentage of people living in households with a very low work intensity in the EU. The UK should ensure its tax-benefit system is both fair and offers clear work incentives. To allow more women, who wish to, to take up full-time work, the UK should improve the affordability and quality of childcare provision.
Access to finance for businesses
The UK is one of the most difficult countries in the EU for businesses to obtain bank credit, according to SMEs. The UK should take measures to encourage banks to lend to businesses, whilst avoiding excessive risk taking.
Investment in infrastructure
The UK needs to invest in its energy and transport infrastructure if it is to continue to meet the needs of the rest of the economy over the coming decade. In terms of contribution from renewable energy sources the UK is ranked 25th out of the 27 Member States in the EU and should make significant improvements when upgrading its energy infrastructure. With regard to transport, there is a significant gap between the investment needed to improve transport infrastructure and finances committed. The UK should look to provide greater certainty in investment from both public and private sources.
Apart from the UK specific aspects, a number of key EU-wide messages have emerged from this round of country-specific recommendations (CSRs). The Commission's analysis shows that rebalancing is underway in the EU. Most Member States are making progress on fiscal consolidation and are implementing reforms to increase competitiveness. However, the pace and impact of these efforts varies. Some Member States need to accelerate reforms or to implement them with greater urgency.
A major challenge is to tackle rising unemployment, especially youth unemployment, by increasing the use of active labour market policies or by reforming education and training systems to make sure jobseekers are equipped with the right skills for the jobs we have. More can also be done to create the conditions for businesses to invest and create jobs, including by improving competition in product and service markets and promoting investment in research, innovation and resource efficiency. Moreover, fiscal consolidation should continue, albeit at a different pace, while remaining pockets of vulnerability in the banking sector need to be addressed.
The package includes:
• A Communication outlining the main findings of the Commission's country by country analysis, and how this can boost growth and job creation in the EU as a whole.
• 24 sets of recommendations, one set for every Member State - excluding Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Cyprus,- and a separate set for the euro area as a whole. The recommendations contain country-specific guidance on budgetary, economic and social policies, taking account of the individual situation of each Member State.
• Detailed analyses underpinning the recommendations, presented in 29 staff working documents (one for every EU Member State, one for the euro area and one for Croatia).
• In parallel with the European Semester recommendations, the Commission has also adopted a number of recommendations under the Excessive Deficit Procedure, reflecting the latest developments in Member States that already have or are expected to bring their government deficit below the EU's 3% of GDP threshold in future.
The UK Country Specific Recommendations in full
See how the United Kingdom compares with other EU Member States in key areas
All EU member country-specific recommendations
Excessive Deficit Procedure
MEMO/13/458 2013 Country-specific recommendations: frequently asked questions