Country-specific recommendations (CSR) contain targeted labour market and employment advice issued annually by the European Commission to all Member States. The recommendations are part of the EU’s European Semester process, where the EU and the euro zone countries coordinate their proposed budgetary and economic policies, in line with both the Stability and Growth Pact and the Europe 2020 strategy.
The recommendations cover a wide range of issues, including public finances and structural reforms in areas such as taxation, pensions, public administration, services, and the labour market, especially youth unemployment. The programme countries (Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Cyprus) do not receive CSR, as their compliance with their macroeconomic adjustment programmes is monitored under a separate, more intensive, process.
The recommendations are drafted in May by the Commission services and adopted by the College of Commissioners. This happens following an assessment of how the previous year’s recommendations were implemented, combined with an analysis of Member States’ National Reform Programmes, and stability or convergence programmes that Member States submit under the European Semester process in April.
The Council discusses the draft and agrees on the final recommendations which are then presented to the European Council for endorsement in June.
In July, the Council adopts the recommendations, and the Member States are invited to implement them. Countries take them into account during national negotiations on their budgets, in order to enable them to carry out policies as envisaged. If any recommendations are not implemented within a given time, policy warnings can be issued. In the case of excessive macroeconomic and budgetary imbalances there is also an option for enforcement through incentives and sanctions.
The most recent country-specific recommendations (350KB PDF) were issued by the Commission in May 2013. This communication states that the Commission is aiming to move Europe beyond the crisis and strengthen the foundations for growth. It acknowledges that a major challenge remains in tackling rising unemployment, especially youth unemployment, and this is to be achieved by increasing the use of active labour market policies or by reforming education and training systems. The five priorities agreed upon by the Commission and Member States for 2013 were:
- pursuing differentiated growth-friendly fiscal consolidation;
- restoring normal lending to the economy;
- promoting growth and competitiveness;
- tackling unemployment and the social consequences of the crisis;
- modernising public administration.
In 2014, a Eurofound report analysed whether any aspects of wage-setting arrangements or other features of industrial relations have been the subject of country-specific recommendations under the European Semester system, which took effect from 2011.
Country-specific recommendations and, indeed, the whole European Semester process should take place with the full involvement of national parliaments, social partners, regions and other stakeholders. The EU-level cross-sector social partners issued a declaration (338 KB PDF) in 2014 on social partner involvement in European economic governance, stating:
Involving social partners in the elaboration and implementation of policies affecting directly or indirectly employment and labour markets all along the different steps of the European semester is essential with the view of taking into account their position. Social partner consultations should be timely and meaningful, allowing the necessary analysis and proposals and fitting within decision making processes.