The Commission has proposed country-specific recommendations (CSRs) providing economic policy guidance to all EU Member States in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, focused on the most urgent challenges brought about by the pandemic and on relaunching sustainable growth.
The recommendations are structured around two objectives:
- short-term, mitigating the coronavirus pandemic's severe negative socio-economic consequences; and
- short to medium-term, achieving sustainable and inclusive growth which facilitates the green transition and the digital transformation.
A refocused European Semester package
The Annual Sustainable Growth Strategy outlined the Commission's growth strategy, based on promoting competitive sustainability to build an economy that works for people and the planet. With the outbreak of the coronavirus crisis this remains of utmost importance. The recommendations cover the four dimensions of competitive sustainability - stability, fairness, environmental sustainability and competitiveness - and also place a specific emphasis on health. The recommendations also reflect the Commission's commitment to integrating the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals into the European Semester as they offer an integrated framework encompassing public health, social, environmental and economic concerns.
The recommendations cover areas such as investing in public health and resilience of the health sector, preserving employment through income support for affected workers, investing in people and skills, supporting the corporate sector (in particular small and medium-sized enterprises) and taking action against aggressive tax planning and money laundering. Recovery and investment must go hand-in-hand, reshaping the EU economy faced with the digital and green transitions.
The fiscal CSRs this year are qualitative, departing from the budgetary requirements that would normally apply. They reflect the activation of the general escape clause, recommending that Member States take all necessary measures to effectively address the pandemic, sustain the economy and support the ensuing recovery. When economic conditions allow, fiscal policies should aim at achieving prudent medium term fiscal positions and ensuring debt sustainability, while enhancing investment.
Monitoring fiscal developments
The Commission has also adopted reports under Article 126(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU for all Member States except Romania, which is already in the corrective arm of the Pact.
The Commission is required to prepare these reports for Member States that are themselves planning – for reasons related to the coronavirus - or are forecast by the Commission, to breach the 3% deficit limit in 2020. The reports for France, Belgium, Cyprus, Greece, Italy and Spain also assess these Member States' compliance with the debt criterion in 2019, based on confirmed data validated by Eurostat.
These reports take into account the negative impact of the coronavirus pandemic on national public finances. In light of the exceptional uncertainty related to the extraordinary macroeconomic and fiscal impact of the pandemic, the Commission considers that at this juncture a decision on whether to place Member States under the excessive deficit procedure should not be taken.
2020 Country-Specific Recommendations for Malta
- In line with the general escape clause, take all necessary measures to effectively address the pandemic, sustain the economy and support the ensuing recovery. When economic conditions allow, pursue fiscal policies aimed at achieving prudent medium-term fiscal positions and ensuring debt sustainability, while enhancing investment. Strengthen the resilience of the health system with regard to the health workforce, critical medical products and primary care.
- Consolidate short-time work arrangements and ensure the adequacy of unemployment protection for all workers. Strengthen the quality and inclusiveness of education and skills development.
- Ensure effective implementation of liquidity support to affected businesses, including the self-employed. Front-load mature public investment projects and promote private investment to foster the economic recovery. Focus investment on the green and digital transition, in particular on clean and efficient production and use of energy, sustainable transport, waste management, research and innovation.
- Complete reforms addressing current shortcomings in institutional capacity and governance to enhance judicial independence. Continue efforts to adequately assess and mitigate money laundering risks and to ensure effective enforcement of the anti-money laundering framework. Step up action to address features of the tax system that facilitate aggressive tax planning by individuals and multinationals.
The full report can be found here.
A coordinated European economic response is crucial to relaunch economic activity, mitigate damage to the economic and social fabric, and to reduce divergences and imbalances. The European Semester of economic and employment policy coordination therefore constitutes a crucial element of the recovery strategy.
Against this background, the Commission calls on the Council to adopt these country-specific recommendations and on Member States to implement them fully and in a timely manner.
Surveillance reports for Greece, Spain and Cyprus
The Commission adopted the sixth enhanced surveillance report for Greece. The report concludes that, considering the extraordinary circumstances posed by the Coronavirus outbreak, Greece has taken the necessary actions to achieve its due specific reform commitments.
The Commission has also adopted the post-programme surveillance reports for Spain and Cyprus.