- The EESC welcomes the Communication from the Commission confirming the importance of Internet connectivity for the Digital Single Market and the need for Europe to deploy now the networks for its digital future.
- The EESC notes that the Strategic Objectives for 2025 are ambitious but realistic, although they are largely dependent on national funding (private and public). There is a particular need for public investments to cover all remotes areas and guarantee minimum digital access for the vulnerable members of our society.
- The EESC agrees with the proposal to introduce a voucher system for small communities and SMEs and supports the free "WIFI4EU" initiative for all Europeans in public places, public administrations, libraries and hospitals as well as outdoor spaces even. It recommends following eIDAS digital identity, which offers guarantees for data protection and public security against.
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Opinions in the spotlight
The EESC welcomes the Commission’s Wifi4EU initiative aimed at rolling out free internet access in public places as it will deliver benefits both in terms of accessibility and economic growth. Together with a single digital identity throughout Europe, proposed by the EESC, this would have a considerable impact in terms of strengthening the sense of European citizenship and overcoming digital poverty.
The Committee calls for a high-quality free WiFi service to be deployed and therefore calls on the Commission to establish goals for social as well as technological development.
The EESC considers Wifi4EU to be a strategic project and considers that its EUR 120 million budget is inadequate to cover the needs of the whole of Europe. It calls on the Commission to supplement the public initiative with public-private partnerships.
The EESC adopted this opinion after in-depth work carried out during the four meetings of the study group. The opinion also reflects the national debates with civil society organisations carried out in all Member States between 2 September and 2 November 2016. These discussions were coordinated by three members of the EESC ('trios') from the country concerned, often in cooperation with the European Commission (15 debates) or the national economic and social council (7 debates). Participants came from a wide range of employers' and trade union organisations and other civil society organisations, as well as, to a lesser extent, from the academic world. A total of 116 EESC members and nearly 1,800 representatives of civil society organisations participated in the 28 debates. The conclusions/recommendations of the national debates have been grouped in the opinion, while the reports on the national debates will be published separately.
With this opinion the EESC welcomes the package of measures to adapt copyright to the requirements of the digital economy, by aiming to eliminate fragmentation while, at the same time, enhancing protection for creators. The EESC supports the exclusive related right of publishers to authorise or prohibit the digital use of their press publications for a period of twenty years and urges to harmonise the "freedom of panorama" exception by means of European rules. The EESC also refers to the ECJ judgment stating that, under certain conditions, the lending of a digital copy of a book has similar characteristics to the lending of printed works.
The emergence of a decentralised digital economy suggests that this could lead to a transformation in setting up businesses, jobs, production, consumption, governance. In view of this and in answer to the Commission's Communication on a new agenda for the collaborative economy, the EESC proposes a series of recommendations to face this new paradigm.
The EESC welcomes and supports the Commission's initiative to anticipate the review of the Regulations on European venture capital funds (EuVECA) and European social entrepreneurship funds (EuSEF). The EESC believes that such a regulation can promote the establishment of a capital markets union. The EESC suggests that in order to expand participation in such investment funds, the hitherto very restrictive access criteria, as well as other restrictive conditions, to be significantly relaxed; the Committee proposes to increase the involvement of non-institutional investors and considers it equally important to create an environment in which the financing objectives of social investment funds can develop.
"Nudges" are small, cheap, easily implemented solutions drawing from behavioural sciences to help people modify their individual behaviours. They consist in inducing towards the most reasonable or responsible option, without forbidding anything, through soft cognitive signals in a wide range of fields, including sustainability. This opinion looks at how to encourage nudging approaches at the European level.
In this opinion, the EESC calls for society to begin an economic transition from over-exploitation of resources and a throw-away culture to a more sustainable, job-rich era, based on quality rather than quantity. In order to cope with the fundamental shift to a new economic model with major systemic consequences in many areas, it is recommended that a new cross-cutting and permanent body be set up in the EESC to analyse these developments.
The EESC encourages the Commission to pursue its efforts to develop policy proposals aimed at promoting the creation of innovative and high growth firms. These policy proposals should strengthen the single market, reinforce the clusters and ecosystems in which innovative start-ups are created, develop the equity component of the European capital markets, encourage an academic agenda focusing on jobs for the future and minimise the cost and red tape involved in starting a new entrepreneurial venture.