The EESC considers that there is an enormous need for a social investment package to counter poverty and promote employment. Implementing such a package requires:
- creating an investment programme amounting to 2% of GDP;
- identifying new sources of revenue;
- including social investments in the Europe 2020 Strategy and the European Semester;
- considering excluding social investments from the calculation of net government deficits; and
- finding the right tools to measure the effects of such investments
The effect of the current financial and economic crisis has put energy pricing under the spotlight because of the impact on household energy costs in the context of austerity and on industrial competitiveness of high energy prices. The importance of Market Based Instruments (MBI) is that they must both advance the transition to a resource-efficient and low carbon economy and support economic recovery. Environmental and climate policies should not be seen as a burden in the recovery from the fiscal and economic and social crisis, but rather as a part of the solution. The Committee urges the Commission to make environmental fiscal reform an integral and permanent part of the European Semester.
The EESC welcomes this new communication, which it regards this as an opportunity to recalibrate policies in light of the experience acquired by the Member States and to give new impetus to the process of EU electricity market integration by focusing more clearly on the benefits to the public and the eradication of energy poverty in the EU.
Traineeships have become an important gateway through which young people enter the labour market. However, although traineeships have become standard in European labour markets, their spread has been accompanied by growing concerns as to learning content and working conditions. To facilitate access to employment, traineeships should offer good quality learning content and adequate working conditions.
In several Eastern and Southern EU countries there is a steady flow of young people leaving their hometowns to find work in distant cities. This is a worrisome trend. An ever-increasing global food demand will require in the near future that all agricultural surfaces be cultivated.
To abandon large production areas is a luxury that the EU cannot afford. In order to attach young workers to their rural territories, or to bring them back if they are already gone, the availability of good job opportunities is a necessary condition but not a sufficient one. Education and health services, ICT links, even cultural activities have to reach a minimum level that makes living in these places not only acceptable but indeed attractive.
The Commission launched the initiative "Opening up Education" to improve the use of Open Educational Resources and Massive Open Online Courses and the ICT infrastructure and connectivity in schools.
The EESC agrees that the digital approach in education improves its quality and creativity. Required will be the involvement of teachers and the mobilisation of all stakeholders. The initiative must be supported by EU and national funding and coordinated by the Commission. Students' social inclusion must be ensured.
The opinion familiarizes the public with the phenomenon of collaborative consumption (CC). The document presents the conceptual approach and describes briefly best practices in CC. The EESC proposes also a general strategy for the sound development of CC in the EU. Given that CC covers mostly bottom-up initiatives, studies are needed before the appropriate regulations, rights and responsibilities of all the stakeholders involved can be established.
The EESC welcomes the special attention devoted to drawing up a European Union Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region (EUSAIR), in order to support cohesion and competitiveness in the light of challenges that cannot be satisfactorily resolved by single regions or countries through the usual means. The EESC believes that EUSAIR must adopt a comprehensive programme with an action-oriented list of projects and schemes, and strongly recommends that better use be made of the private sector's potential to attract investment (both local and international) and to create business opportunities. Simultaneously, the strategy should include a stronger social dimension, in order to better support inclusive growth in the Adriatic and Ionian region.
Five years into the economic and financial crisis which spread from the United States to engulf Europe, it is all the more necessary to carry out a quantitative and qualitative assessment of the shadow economy and undeclared work in the European Union. The EESC calls for the fight against the shadow economy also to look beyond EU borders and for corporate social responsibility to be applied where minimum decent working standards are lacking in third countries subcontracting for EU companies.