In its annual assessment of the economic and social situation in the Member States, the Commission stresses the need to promote investment, pursue responsible fiscal policies and implement well-designed reforms.
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Challenges vary significantly across countries and call for appropriate and determined policy action.
This review of country-specific challenges comes against the backdrop of a European economy that is expected to grow for the seventh consecutive year in 2019, but at a more moderate pace. Employment is at a record high and unemployment at a record low.
At a time of more pronounced global uncertainty, it is crucial that EU Member States step up their action to boost productivity, improve the resilience of their economies and ensure that economic growth benefits all citizens.
As a novelty of today's package, the Commission launches a discussion on investment challenges and priorities in the Member States and sets out first ideas as to how EU funds, in particular EU Cohesion Policy funds, can help in the forthcoming programming period 2021-2027.
Marianne Thyssen, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, said: “Demographic change and new technologies are reshaping the labour market, while skills shortages are on the rise in many Member States. We need to shift up a gear. Investing in people's skills, especially lifting the skill levels of the low-skilled, must be our top priority if we are to maintain our living standards.”
Progress with Country-Specific Recommendations
The Country Reports assess Member States' progress in implementing the Country-Specific Recommendations of July 2018.
Overall, Member States have achieved some or more progress with the implementation of more than two-thirds of the recommendations issued since the introduction of the European Semester in 2011.
Sound progress has also been achieved with regard to reforms facilitating job creation on permanent contracts and addressing labour market segmentation.
Employment Guidelines renewal
The Commission has also adopted a proposal to maintain the 2018 Council Decision on guidelines for the employment policies of the Member States.
This year's proposal reconfirms the alignment of the Employment Guidelines with the 20 principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights, as their overall objectives and priorities remain valid.
Stocktaking Report on Member States' training and retraining strategies
The Commission also released today a report on the implementation of the Council Recommendation on “Upskilling Pathways”, which is part of the new Skills Agenda for Europe put forward by the Commission in June 2016.
Currently, there are 61 million adults in the EU who have at best lower secondary education. Through this Recommendation, Member States committed to offer adults with low levels of skills and qualifications new and improved opportunities to boost their basic literacy, numeracy and digital skills, and to progress towards higher qualifications.
This report reviews the measures carried out by Member States, which differ in size and level of ambition. A lot of them are supported by the European Social Fund.
This Winter Package is part of the annual cycle of economic policy coordination at EU level, the European Semester.