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High level European Commission meeting with ENEP to discuss green jobs, services and implementation of environmental legislation

Representatives from ENEP met with William Neale, Member of Cabinet to Karmenu Veila, the European Commissioner for Environment and Maritime Affairs on Monday 6th February, to discuss the future environmental policy agenda in 2017.The visit conincided with the launch of a major initiative of the European Commission the Environmental Implementation Review (EIR) that seeks to target the causes of poor implementation, facilitate capacity building, promote best practice sharing improve auditing and compliance techniques in a way that the Commission hopes will reduce the need for recourse to the European Court of Justice in the longer term. During the meeting Mr Neale encouraged all of you to take a look at the EIR national country reports. The Spring General Assembly that meets in Cardiff, UK on 27th and 28th April will discuss your reactions to the national reports and use your experiences to feed into Green Week 2017.  The annex to the EIR communication provides a useful overview across a wide range of environmental policies in the 28 Member States.

#GreenWeek2017

ENEP congratulated the European Commission on its theme for Green Week 2017 - Green jobs for a greener future and delegation underlined that their conviction that that professional competence is a key driver for effective implementation with national associations playing a key role in the accreditation of recognised skills and competences.  To illustrate this we pointed to our response in the context of the 2015 REFIT on the nature directives that underlined “that the professional competences of those implementing, and advising on the implementation of the Directives is essential.” Greening the economy will create new occupations and there will be a need for new skills profiles, qualifications and training frameworks. Many existing occupations and industries will experience greening changes to tasks within their jobs, and this will require adjustments to the current training and qualification frameworks for these occupations.  Whilst the primary aim of our associations focuses on increasing education and awareness about environmental and sustainability issues the William confirmed that the European Commission is seeking input to Green Week high level conference on how jobs and green skills in other sectors (or non-green roles) will need to change in the future to facilitate the transition to a sustainable society. 

Future of European Service provision across borders

Discussions then moved on to the recent developments on European Services following the proposals from the European Commission on 11th January for the non-regulated professions. The proposed measures seek to make it easier for services providers to avoid burdensome local outdated rules to work across borders. The Commission’s initiative builds on the Services Directive by focusing on its better implementation (a common thread in the Juncker Commission) and its benefit for Jobs and Growth in the the EU economy.   

The first element of the initiative is a proposal (and that is all it is for time prior to its approval between the European Parliament and Member States) fora new European Services e-card: This e-card aims to set up a simplified electronic procedure will make it easier for providers of business services (e.g. engineering firms, IT consultants, organisers of trade shows) and construction services to complete the administrative formalities required to provide services abroad. Services providers will simply have to liaise with a single interlocutor in their home country and in their own language. The home country interlocutor would then verify the necessary data and transmit it to the host Member State. The host Member State retains the current power to apply domestic regulatory requirements and to decide whether the applicant can offer services on its territory. The e-card would not affect existing employer obligations or workers' rights.

A second element involves a proportionality assessment of national rules on professional services: Around 50 million people – 22% of the European labour force – work in professions to which access is conditional upon the possession of specific qualifications or for which the use of a specific title is protected, e.g. pharmacists or architects. Regulation is often warranted for a number of professions, for example those linked with health and safety. But there are many cases where unnecessarily burdensome and outdated rules can make it unreasonably difficult for qualified candidates to access these jobs. The EU does not regulate or deregulate professions – this remains a national responsibility,  but under EU law, a Member State needs to establish whether new national professional requirements are necessary and balanced. To ensure a coherent and consistent approach, the Commission is proposing to streamline and clarify how Member States should undertake a comprehensive and transparent proportionality test before adopting or amending national rules on professional services

Despite references in the texts to engineering and site regeneration, the environmental professions are notably absent. During a previous piece of work in 2012 on the Services Directive ENEP learnt about the application of codes of conduct / ethics. Article 37(1) of the Services Directive states ‘Member States shall, in cooperation with the Commission, take accompanying measures to encourage the drawing up at Community level, particularly by professional bodies, organisations and associations, of codes of conduct aimed at facilitating the provision of services or the establishment of a provider in another Member State, in conformity with Community law. AND  Art. 37(2). Member States shall ensure that the codes of conduct referred to in paragraph 1 are accessible at a distance, by electronic means.’  Environmental professions and emerging green skills are an important part of this agenda.

With Environmental services and green skills, a growing and important part of the Single Market services agenda (as underlined by the 2015 CEDEFOP report ), and the current emphasis on Green Jobs, ENEP underlined the need to ensure greater recognition at the EU level given their connection with better implementation.  ENEP will attend a workshop on the Impacts of the Single Market Strategy on Liberal Professions that will take place on the 7th March in Brussels.

The future of the Water Framework Directive

Finally, the delegation discussed the Water Framework Directive.  In the legislation Article 19(2) obliges the Commission to review the Directive by December 2019 and propose any necessary amendments. The exact modalities of this review, including whether or not this will be part of the REFIT Programme, have not been defined yet according to the Commission.  The Commission is currently undertaking the assessment of the second River Basin Management Plans and will publish a report on the implementation of the Directive before the end of 2018, as required under Article 18 of the Directive. In parallel the Commission is also launching a number of studies which, together with the implementation report, will provide the knowledge base for the review. Depending on the conclusions of this review, the Commission will decide whether or not to propose a revision of the Water Framework Directive.

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Issue 53