The Commission communication on Steps towards completing EMU can provide a great opportunity to launch a debate at political level and with civil society to draw up conclusive proposals which go further than the current ones. It would be more useful to draw up a proposal for the European Semester as part of a comprehensive agreement on economic governance that goes beyond the status quo, changing macroconditionality and strengthening the Interparliamentary Conference. Democratic legitimacy is not tackled seriously by any of the Commission's operational proposals. The tripartite social dialogue could contribute to this matter. On the basis of its own roadmap, the EESC is committed to putting forward, possibly with the Commission, a plan on stage two (Completing EMU 2017-2025) to discuss these issues in the Member States, beginning with the euro area countries.
Competitiveness is not an end in itself. It is only a sensible objective if it improves people's well-being in practice. The EESC therefore recommends that an updated definition of competitiveness ("competitiveness 2.0") be used in future, taking into account "the ability of a country to deliver the beyond-GDP goals for its citizens". The EESC urges that future discussions refer not to "competitiveness boards" but to "boards for competitiveness, social cohesion and sustainability". The EESC asks the Commission to present concrete proposals on how the following necessary requirements with regards to these boards can be safeguarded: accountability, legitimacy and transparency; representation of balanced unbiased expertise; non-binding character of proposals of the boards; inclusion of the dual role of wages, both as a cost factor and as the main determinant of domestic demand.
The EESC welcomes the establishment of economic priority programmes for the euro area at the start of the European Semester. To achieve a recovery of growth and employment a mix of financial, taxation, budgetary, economic and social policies is needed. In contrast to the recommendation of the Commission, the focus of fiscal policy should be designed to be more expansionist than neutral. The EESC advocates the reduction of taxation on labour insofar as it does not threaten the financial sustainability of social protection systems. The EESC calls for a coordinated effort to create a more business-friendly environment for SMEs through better regulation, adequate financing and facilitation of exports to markets outside the EU. There is a particular need to open up new funding opportunities for micro-enterprises and start-ups.
The EESC welcomes the Commission's proposal to amend Regulation (EC) No 1406/2002 establishing a European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), as it fits in with general efforts to monitor the EU's external maritime borders much more effectively than in the past. However, it would once again stress that time is of the essence in implementing the proposed measures.
The Committee welcomes the proposal to expand the activities of EMSA; however, it has serious doubts as to whether EMSA has the human and financial resources to perform these additional activities properly.
In the Committee's view, closer cooperation and information exchange between the three EU agencies in question, and between them and the national bodies carrying out coastguard functions, should result in an efficient and effective coastguard system. In its opinion, a cost-efficient and cost-effective coastguard system would enable Member States to forgo permanent controls and allow Schengen to be restored to its former glory. The Committee endorses using remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS, also referred to as drones) because it enables full surveillance, among other things in order to avoid the loss of human life.
The Committee strongly recommends amending the title of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency in the draft regulations to read European Border Guard Agency.
The EESC supports the intention of the Dutch Presidency of the Council to address poverty through integrated approaches and through cooperation between public and private stakeholders. However, to do so, Member States must be supported by a common European framework and best-practice actors by national anti-poverty strategies. The EU Council should reiterate the commitment made to meet Europe's poverty target by 2020.
As the recovery of Europe's economies remains sluggish and fragile and the level of investment remains low, it should be a matter of priority to deploy every possible means to achieve a robust and stable economy. The Committee therefore endorses the goals of the action plan i.e. to mobilise capital in Europe and channel it to all companies, infrastructure and long-term projects. The Committee has serious concerns, however, regarding the relevance and effectiveness of the capital markets union for SMEs. They must be able to choose the funding channels that suit them best. At the same time the EU's economic and financial stability should be one of the priorities of the capital markets union. There should thus be more simplification, transparency and comparability of financial instruments.
The EESC welcomes the proposals to establish a system of "simple, transparent and standardised" securitisation (STS securitisations), that should enable significant additional resources to be generated for bank funding. That is very important, for SMEs and households in particular. There should be clarity as to the risk involved and who bears that risk, taking account of the whole chain from the issuer to the investor. It is important now is that the mistakes of the past are not repeated. Small investors and consumers should not have access to securitisation due to the complexity and risk involved, the Committee calls for a formal prohibition to be explicitly included in the texts.
The EESC recognizes the importance of a new energy market design for achieving the ambitious climate-related policy goals of the European Union, most notably the expansion of renewable energy. The Committee acknowledges that many of the measures proposed by the European Commission in its Communication, such as the establishment of intraday markets or the removal of market-distorting national regulations, are steps in the right direction. However, the EESC would like the Commission to be more ambitious, in particular in terms of ensuring that energy prices become more transparent and reflect actual generation and external costs, consumers receiving adequate information and resources to become active market participants, and obstacles to market access for emerging local 'prosumers' being identified and removed.