The EESC agrees with the Latvian Presidency, recognizing the fundamental importance of the EU 2020 Strategy review to boosting European competitiveness. The Europe 2020 and the Investment Plan should be much more closely linked in the way that it could remedy the main shortcomings of the Europe 2020 Strategy. The Structural Funds should focus more on the implementation of environmental programs or those with a human aspect, which would also promote the sustainable development of factors "beyond GDP".
The EESC considers it vital to preserve the "biodiversity" of the financial system, without this meaning the arbitrary application of rules. In this context the Committee applauds the consideration the European Commission has given to the introduction of calibrated financial regulation frameworks to consider the specificities of cooperative and savings banks that avoid the undesirable effects of uniform application of prudential rules and possibly an overload of administrative burdens.
The EESC has always been committed to a level playing field, and therefore recommends the use of objective parameters that justify a specific regulation for each business model. Essentially, these are financial and economic performance, contribution to the real economy, risk management, and governance. The EESC proposes that the financial authorities should offer incentives to those actors who best comply with these conditions, and calls for stronger ethical standards and codes of good governance for all kind of banks, as these are vital for restoring lost confidence.
The EESC welcomes the AGS 2015, but reminds that it is not possible to implement a growth plan that supports job creation measures without investment. Social investment can play a critical role in the promotion of welfare and the eradication of poverty and exclusion. The Committee welcomes the streamlining of the European Semester and acknowledges the efforts made by the Commission to encourage more civil society participation. The review of the Europe 2020 strategy should be published in a timely manner in order to give stakeholders sufficient time to prepare their positions.
The recommendations of the opinion will provide guidelines to the other EU institutions, especially to the Commission, on how to better support Turkish civil society organisations and improve their working conditions.
The EESC welcomes the Commission's communication, which calls for the establishment in the European Union of a thriving data-driven economy and thus a digital economy using information technologies.
The EESC stresses that the broad dissemination of information technologies in all areas of society and the economy, culture and education will provide enormous development opportunities, but it is necessary to support IT-related research and development in the technical, economic and social sciences. The EESC regrets the substantial reduction in funding for the financing of digital infrastructure under the Connecting Europe Facility and strongly advocates drawing appropriate conclusions. A new investment plan presented by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in December 2014, aimed at mobilising at least EUR 315 billion in the form of additional public and private investment in key areas such as digital infrastructure, is in this context a welcome policy response.
The main aim of the review is to assess whether all existing priorities of the EU-Central Asia Strategy remain valid, and whether the EU should maintain its current focus on issues such as security, education, sustainable development (energy, transport and environment), and the rule of law.
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) believes that the prospect of a European circular economy should bring a major boost to the systemic competitiveness of the EU, a driver for growth and a generator of new green jobs and skills, providing it is based on a shared European strategic vision with active participation from the world of work, governments, employers and employees, consumers and legislative and regulatory authorities at various levels.
The Committee calls for the launch of a major participatory foresight initiative at European level, with a view to moulding a common vision among all public and private players, in order to pave the way for a consensus-based transition to a circular economy with coherent and effective policies and instruments at EU, national and regional levels, and in order to give concrete impetus to the green innovation agenda
The Committee welcomes the two communications and the package of amendments to the waste directives and supports the campaign to make all businesses and consumers aware of the need to phase out the current linear economic model of "take, make, consume and dispose" and accelerate the transition to a circular model that is restorative by design and aims to rely on renewable energy, in order to minimise the use of natural resources.
However, the Committee regrets that the specific proposals put forward by the Commission focus too much on waste policies and legislation while similar specific proposals "upstream" aimed at improving the entire lifecycle of products are missing.
The framework proposed by the European Commission should share the work involved in promoting awareness and changing behaviour fairly between stakeholders: looking to the future, achieving scientific progress, introducing innovative applications, and safeguarding Europe's competitiveness and the common interest should all be kept in balance. Consumers and producers must be made aware of their responsibilities.