With the measures taken and proposed in this NRP, the governments are convinced that they are responding to the country-specific recommendations that Belgium received from the Council of July 2015. As the programme indicates, fulfilling the European commitments also requires a strong involvement of the different federal entities in the European procedures and projects launched as part of the initiatives of the Europe 2020 Strategy. This will be covered in more detail in chapter 6 of this programme.
In the country report, the European Commission calls on Belgium to pursue an ambitious policy. The governments are of the opinion that this programme meets this recommendation. At the same time, the European Commission believes that, compared to the previous three years, Belgium is no longer facing macroeconomic imbalances, in the framework of the procedure for macroeconomic imbalances. This statement is seen by the governments as an encouragement to continue along the course they have set.
The structural measures listed in this NRP are geared towards the medium- and long-term sustainability of our model of society. They are complementary to the budgetary measures outlined in the Stability Programme. For the governments, the structural and budgetary measures are, of course, part of a whole. And that whole shows the following priorities.
The first priority concerns the tax shift. A lower taxation of labour is believed to be essential to increase our employment rate. Both the macroeconomic forecasts of this programme (see chapter 2) and the independent analyses of the Federal Planning Bureau and the National Bank of Belgium indicate that the pursued policy paid off in the field of employment.
A modernisation of labour law and paying special attention to target groups will also boost the employment rate.
In the past few years, the increase in wage costs has been constrained by a temporary suspension of the indexation mechanism and by limiting the increases in gross wages excluding indexation. Consequently, the competitiveness of the labour cost has improved substantially. A discussion on the reform of the 1996 law on wage setting will take place before the summer.
The programme tries to bring together the measures taken over the past twelve months in these and other fields and present the priorities for the coming months.
The reform programmes of the Communities and the Regions (enclosed as appendices 1 to 5) are an essential part of the National Reform Programme. They give more detailed explanations on the measures taken by the different Communities and Regions for implementing the country-specific recommendations. These programmes also review the progress towards achieving the regional Europe 2020 targets and the measures supporting them.