Mr António Costa
Prime Minister of the Portuguese Republic
Dear Prime Minister,
The European business community supports the 5 main priorities of the Portuguese Presidency. Like you, we want to achieve a resilient Europe, a green Europe, a digital Europe, a social Europe and a global Europe.
In this unprecedented crisis, European companies do their utmost to preserve Europe’s economies and societies. They take strong measures to mitigate the economic and social impact of the crisis. They do all they can to protect workers at their workplaces, preserve value chains, maintain jobs, and accelerate the digital and green transitions. To allow business to fully play its role, we urge the Portuguese Presidency to focus on creating framework conditions that will enhance Europe’s long-term capacity to generate growth and employment and to encourage structural reforms.
The virus is still present, and more coordination is needed to contain the threat of a new wave of infections across Europe. With the start of COVID vaccinations at the end of December 2020, there is light at the end of the tunnel. But the path back to pre-crisis levels of economic output is likely to be long and uneven as uncertainty remains high. BusinessEurope’s latest economic outlook points to a fall of over 7% in the EU in 2020 and growth of 5.0% in 2021 meaning that the EU economy would still be 3% below pre-crisis levels at the end of 2021.
For a resilient Europe, the Portuguese Presidency should:
- focus all policies on ensuring a lasting recovery avoiding premature unwinding of measures to support business and workers and strengthening them where and when needed,
- ensure that the money of the EU Next Generation recovery package reaches companies and workers rapidly, and is invested in the right projects,
- involve the social partners in the design, implementation and monitoring of the national recovery and resilience plans,
- flank financial support with a determined non-financial European response and necessary reforms,
- not only restore all freedoms of movement in the Single Market to pre-COVID conditions as soon as possible but also tear down all persisting barriers that weigh on its development,
- reinforce the Better Regulation agenda at EU and national levels to improve the investment climate,
- ensure that Europe remains open to trade and investment while safeguarding its interests under the concept of “open strategic autonomy”.
For a green Europe, the Portuguese Presidency should:
- underpin the Green Deal and its new targets with a credible industrial strategy to turn the Green deal into a real growth driver, acknowledging the economic impact of COVID-19 and helping to increase Europe’s capacity to invest in the best technologies,
- ensure that the additional guidance of the European Council regarding the Green Deal and implementation of the new climate targets spurs sustainable economic growth, ensures cost-efficiency, creates jobs and contributes to the long-term global competitiveness of the EU economy,
- promote a strong dialogue with European industry in the preparatory phase of the numerous legislative initiatives foreseen in 2021, including the Fit-for-55 Package and possible proposals for the EU Emissions Trading System, the Renewable Energy Directive, the Energy Taxation Directive, Energy Efficiency Directive, the Eco-design Directive or the Industrial Emissions Directive,
- make sure that, should a Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism be introduced, it is done in addition to existing ETS carbon leakage protection measures and in a fully WTO-compatible way,
- ensure that the sustainable finance agenda supports the EU’s transition towards climate and sustainability objectives and avoids creating undue red tape for companies.
For a digital Europe, the Portuguese Presidency should:
- support the digital transformation of our economy to the benefit of our societies by creating the conditions for a safe roll-out of new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence,
- support the Data Governance Act to incentivise more voluntary data sharing between businesses and further opportunities to re-use public sector data,
- start discussions on the Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act with a view to finding balanced solutions to support the removal of illegal goods and content online and contestability on gate-keeper platforms in truly open markets,
- work towards an intensification of efforts to find a solution for the tax challenges of the digital economy on a global level. This is a global issue that requires a global solution at OECD level.
For a social Europe, the Portuguese Presidency should:
- encourage Member States to prioritise public skills-related investments as part of their recovery and resilience plans to support employment and strengthen Europe’s future economic growth potential,
- organise an appropriate process of consultation with the social partners in good time before the Social Summit in Porto on the content of the proposed action plan to implement the European pillar of social rights,
- avoid EU policy initiatives that create new costs, administrative burden and obligations that will undermine enterprises recovery,
- encourage labour market reforms and social dialogue,
- defend national competences and social partners’ autonomy in the debate on the Commission proposal for a Directive on minimum wages and collective bargaining.
For a global Europe, the Portuguese Presidency should:
- pursue an ambitious international trade agenda that increases access to third markets while ensuring that products and services entering the EU market do not create distortions of competition, for example because their production is subsidized and/or because they do not meet EU standards,
- work towards improving resilience at the multilateral level, ensuring good governance and smooth cooperation in the WTO, the OECD, the G7 and the G20,
- work towards a reassessment of the EU’s relationship with its major trading partners: the USA and China and seizing the opportunities of the Biden-Presidency to re-set EU-USA relations,
- within the preparation of stronger ties with Africa, ensure that trade plays its role in enhancing economic integration and sustainable growth and jobs in this continent,
- promote effective implementation of existing trade agreements and ratification of agreements that have been concluded such as Mercosur,
- work to ensure ratification and good implementation of the EU-UK agreement and the Withdrawal agreement, promoting a sound competitive environment for our companies and combining good market access with level playing field provisions.
Further details about BusinessEurope’s priorities for the Portuguese Presidency are set out at annex.
Europe plays a key role in tackling this crisis. We look forward to working constructively with you and the different members of your government for the recovery in this enduring COVID-19 crisis and bring long-term solutions to the economic and social challenges facing us.
Pierre Gattaz Markus J. Beyrer
President Director General