On February 16th 2023, EUD attended the European Commission’s (EC) meeting to “Exchange of views with civil society organisations on priorities for the European Semester 2023 against the background of the energy crisis”. The event aimed to involve civil society in discussing the social impact of the energy crisis: specifically, the event presented the 2023 European Semester cycle and investigated the main strategic priorities from the European Semester autumn package.
The event was opened by Ms Barbara Kauffmann – Director for Employment and Social Governance- which introduced the outline and socio-economic development of the European Semester 2023. Ms Kauffmann went through the 2023 Annual Sustainable Growth Survey which delineated the short-term challenges (energy and economic shocks) as well as the medium-term challenges (inclusive & sustainable growth; green & digital transformations; social and economic resilience). Ms Kauffmann also highlighted the importance of the Recovery and Resilience Plans, alongside the Cohesion Policy funding, when addressing the impact of the energy crisis. Finally, she also expressed several recommendations to face challenges caused by the current crisis:
- Fiscal measures to address the impact of high energy prices on vulnerable households and companies
- Sustain high public investment to boost economic and social resilience, as well as to support the green and digital transition
- Develop and adapt social support systems to help vulnerable categories
- Support wage developments mitigating purchasing power loss
- Improve active labour market policies and take measures to address skills shortages
- Ensure the effective involvement of social partners
Following this, Ms Katarina Ivankovic-Knezevic – Director for Social Rights and Inclusion at the EC – emphasized the strong impact of the energy crisis and the importance of the implementation of social measures to support European society. Ms Ivankovic-Knezevic stressed that target actions need to support specific groups as, due to the energy crisis, people with low income have become more vulnerable according to the last Eurobarometer report – the polling instrument used by the European Commission to regularly monitor public opinion in the European Union. Ms Ivankovic-Knezevic also added that such problems have been even more exacerbated by the impact of millions of Ukrainian refugees in Europe.
In her analysis, Ms Ivankovic-Knezevic specifically focused on the difficulties encountered by persons with disabilities and by the employment gap between people with and without disabilities. In this regard, she listed several important tools to tackle this issue such as the EU Disability Employment Package, the European Care Strategy and the European Platform to combat homelessness and promote social housing.
During the event, Mr Massimiliano Mascherini and Ms Martha Myers explored the multidimensionality of energy poverty and shared the necessity of analysing multidimensional outcomes. The analysis of energy poverty was then followed by the introduction of thematic panels discussion where civil society organisations could confront on important issues and topics caused by the energy impact.
EUD attended the event with interest to better understand how the deaf community can be supported by the socio-economic measures implemented by the European Commission during the current energy crisis. Deaf persons – being persons with disabilities – remain one of the most exposed groups to the social impact of energy poverty.