The National Reform Programme is presented annually in the scope of the European Semester, in conjunction with the Stability Programme, and sets out ongoing and planned reforms. Arnaud Montebourg, Minister of the Economy, Production Recovery and the Digital Sector, gave details of the main priorities of the reform in an announcement to the Council of Ministers.
The National Reform Programme (NRP) is a monitoring and assessment tool of the national aspects of the “Europe 2020” strategy. It enables Member States to set out the structural reforms which they have decided to implement in order to achieve the objectives of this new strategy. Since the 2011 financial year, these programmes form part of the organisation of the European Semester, which focuses on examining them along with the stability programmes.
Presented on the same day as the Stability Programme 2014-2017, Arnaud Montebourg’s announcement to the Council of Ministers highlighted that the NRP 2014 will focus during upcoming months on various regulatory and statutory reforms based on an objective shared by the whole Government: increasing the economy’s growth potential. The NRP is targeted at three priorities: turning around public finances, restoring competitiveness, increasing and boosting growth; reforming the job market to encourage employment growth, improving purchasing power and reducing inequality. The first priority is described in detail in the Stability Programme.
Creating a favourable environment for company development
Arnaud Montebourg stated in his announcement that the innovation policy and industrial policy are crucial. The competitiveness of French companies depends on investment efforts in research and development, higher education and innovation, on companies’ access to financing, in particular for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), as well as the regulatory environment. In this respect:
• the €50 billion public spending savings plan presented on 16 April 2014 by the Prime Minister maintains all mechanisms encouraging the competitiveness of the French production industry, including in particular all support measures for research, investment in start-ups and innovation;
• after the presentation of 50 new simplification measures to save companies’ time and money on 14 April 2014, the Government commits to put forward ten new simplification measures each month and to arrange for an independent body to monitor their implementation.
The announcement also stated that growth needs to combat unearned income. The Government proposes, inter alia, to increase coach travel possibilities and the sales offer and pricing transparency for certain health products. The Simplification Committee will also review the access conditions for certain professions.
Developing employment, improving purchasing power and reducing inequality
The Minister declared in his announcement that consultations will be launched in the upcoming weeks relating to simplifying and improving the running of staff representative bodies, and taking into account holding a trade union position in employees’ career paths, based on the results of the modernisation of the social dialogue, which remains the Government’s chosen method: the NRP will moreover be presented to the social partners and be debated in Parliament before submission to the European Commission.
The social partners will also launch negotiations in the spring on the development of profit-sharing and incentive schemes as well as the reform of employee savings schemes. Finally, the Government will put forward a law reform to the Parliament in 2004, once again after consultation with the social partners, which will clarify the framework of the exceptions to the reconfirmed principle of no Sunday working. The specific issue of tourist areas will be particularly taken into account.
The NRP will be presented to the social partners, debated in Parliament and then submitted to the European Commission. It will be used with the Stability Programme as a proposal basis for recommendations in terms of economic policy called “country-specific recommendations” which the European Commission will pass on to the European Union at the end of the European Semester.