The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) warns against granting China market economy status (MES) and calls on the European institutions to promote fair international competition and actively defend European jobs and European values with efficient trade defence instruments (TDIs). In its opinion, adopted at its 514th plenary session on 14th July, the EESC points to the disastrous impact a possible granting of MES to China would have on Europe's industry and consequently on Europe's labour market. The EESC insists on China's fulfilment of the five EU criteria for achieving the MES.
If the message of this opinion should be summarised in a sentence, this would be: "Enough is enough; rules must be respected".
Steel industry is at the forefront of granting MES to China. However, the opinion does not tackle the legal and political side of granting MES to China (CCMI/144). It focuses on the Commission's communication and puts forward specific additional measures to provide Europe's steel industry with the level playing field it needs to preserve growth and jobs.
The Committee welcomes the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It regards the adoption of this agenda together with the Paris COP 21 agreement on climate change as a big breakthrough in setting a global course of action to end poverty, promote prosperity for all and protect the planet's natural resources in an integrated way. The Dutch Presidency of the Council requested that the Committee draw up an exploratory opinion on how a mechanism for civil society involvement at EU level in the implementation of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals could be practically set up.
The Committee recommends the creation of a European Sustainable Development Forum in partnership with the Commission and representatives from civil society as a platform involving a broad range of civil society organisations and stakeholders in setting the framework for the implementation of this agenda in the EU, and its ongoing monitoring and review.
Main points of REX/458 Review of the European Neighbourhood Policy opinion:
The EESC fully backs the objective of switching to a greener, resource-efficient and circular economy. It is happy to see that the Commission has come forward with a broader set of proposals covering all the stages of the product lifecycle compared to the previous circular economy package; however, it raises concern over the lower level of ambition, which is likely to lead to lower economic and environmental benefits. The opinion on the Commission's circular economy package includes a number of key recommendations, in particular addressing the Action Plan and upcoming legislative initiatives; among these recommendations, the EESC suggests the creation of a European platform of stakeholders involved in the circular economy to address strategic issues associated with the resource-efficiency transition and keep the political momentum high.
The opinion, as adopted by the SOC section, recalled that labour mobility is a cornerstone of the internal market and can help to bring employment opportunities and prosperity to European citizens and companies. When conducted under fair conditions and when it offers a positive option, such mobility can be enriching and beneficial for workers, employers and society as a whole.
Therefore, special effort is needed to guarantee and promote the free movement of workers in the EU abolishing any discrimination based on nationality, avoiding unjustified restrictions for both workers and businesses.
EU Member States face the arrival of many refugees, who need to be integrated into the host societies once their protected status is granted. The EESC is convinced that integration is a necessity for the preservation of social cohesion. This exploratory opinion, drawn up at the request of the Dutch Presidency of the EU, clarifies the meaning of "integration" and looks at comparability with previous refugee movements, successful integration measures applied in the various EU member states, and the financing of integration measures for refugees, resulting in a set of best practices and recommendations.
In this Opinion on two proposals for directives (on supply of digital content and online sales), the Committee disagrees with the legal basis chosen by the Commission and proposes Article 169 TFEU instead; as a consequence, the Committee thinks that the measures adopted should be based on minimum harmonisation and would have preferred the use of a regulation instead of a directive.
The EESC endorses the proposal for a Directive and suggests other measures which it considers could contribute towards increasing citizens' security: the possibility of placing indelible marks on bullets, which facilitates the traceability of arms and ammunition; making data available on interoperable databases at European level; the introduction of a gun buy-back programme; and reviewing the risks related to 3D printing of lethal weapons, without any possibility of verification or traceability.
The European Economic and Social Committee has been supporting the idea of a European Energy Union from its first inception as a European Energy Community in 2010. The annual State of the Energy Union report is also broadly welcomed by the EESC as a means to keep energy at the top of the political agenda across the European Union and ensure coordinated progress across sectors and Member states. The 2015 version of the State of the Energy Union is a snapshot taken only nine months after the launch of the Energy Union programme, limiting the reports' usefulness to judge progress made towards the Energy Union. However, as is noted in the opinion, the report's publication provides the EESC a welcome opportunity to identify particular aspects in advancing and governing the Energy Union that are of particular importance to Europe's civil society. Most notably, the opinion emphasises the social dimension and implications of the Energy Union process and its adequate reflection in the progress reporting and statistical measurement. Moreover, the EESC expresses its concern about the limited extent and underspecified ways in which civil society is to be involved in the governance and progress reporting of the Energy Union. Finally, the statistical foundations of the progress reporting are – in the opinion of the EESC – in dire need of improvement in order to avoid evaluating progress and taking decisions on the basis of at times outdated and at other times incomprehensive or even non-existent data.