The Committee considers transparency essential as it is important for all parties, for the companies themselves, and for improving their image and boosting the trust of workers, consumers and investors. While the EESC recognises that most companies operating in the EU are indeed transparent and that investors and shareholders are increasingly paying attention to qualitative corporate social responsibility (CSR) indicators, it is important to focus simultaneously on both the effectiveness and scope of the information being filed and on its quality and veracity. The EESC believes that any further initiative on disclosure of information should include a common set of indicators and at the same time should take into consideration the nature of the company and the sector in which it is operating.
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Opinions in the spotlight
The EESC opinion on the revision of the Posting of Workers Directive was adopted with 180 votes in favour, 84 against and 30 abstentions. A counter opinion on the same subject was put forward and not carried, receiving 94 for, 175 against and 23 abstentions.
In its opinion, the EESC supports in principle the Commission's proposed recast of the Posting of Workers Directive. The principle of equal pay for equal work in the same place is the cornerstone of the pillar of social rights in Europe.
The EESC is in favour of the Commission's proposal which introduces a new approach to safety rules, based on risk assessment and performance.The EESC also supports the proposal to give EASA greater responsibility for security, in cooperation and in agreement with the Member States.The successful implementation of these changes in working methods and culture require adequate resources and a transparent and inclusive approach.
The EESC still considers that Turkey remains a very important partner and that the political will exists to increase levels of cooperation, but only provided that compliance with the fundamental European values and the principles of democracy, the rule of law and human rights is ensured. The EESC believes that ongoing developments have rendered the current Customs Union (CU) agreement obsolete and that the parties to the agreement will have to start serious negotiations on strengthening their economic ties by establishing a new type of trade agreement that reflects current needs. The recent adjustments and best practices implemented in various trade agreements have transformed models for sustainability, transparency and the involvement of the social partners and civil society in international trade agreements.
While welcoming the existence of the Horizon 2020 program, the EESC is worried that funding for research into Societal Challenges has been significantly reduced. Moreover, the EESC is exceedingly concerned about the large disparities between Member States in terms of national funding for research and innovation.
The 2030 Agenda represents a breakthrough in multilateral cooperation, in the sense that it puts social and human development on a par with economic progress, and sees these three dimensions as a whole. Whereas the MDGs (Millennium Development goals) addressed primarily developing countries, this new Agenda is a transformational and universal agenda for all countries, and promotes a new, inclusive and participatory method of decision-making. The EU showed significant leadership in the process leading up to the adoption of the new SDGs (Sustainable Development Goasl). The opinion stresses that the EU needs to hold up its credibility both internally and externally, when it comes to implementing the Agenda and its 17 goals. Pointing to the universal and indivisible nature of the Agenda, the opinion underlines the importance of an EU response at the highest level, providing a robust base on which an overarching EU strategy should be founded.
The EESC supports the Commission's initiatives to achieve "roam-like-at-home" from 15 June 2017 as well as its efforts to eliminate the failures of the wholesale roaming market.
However, pre-emptive measures will be necessary to prevent operators from compensating for the drop in revenue resulting from the abolition of roaming charges by increasing domestic charges or by means of other improper practices. The EESC also expresses serious reservations about the new possibility given to operators to negotiate "innovative wholesale pricing schemes" outside the regulated prices (caps) that would not be directly linked to the actual volumes consumed. Commercial negotiations based on flat payments are likely to lead to cartels and abuses of dominant positions.
Alarming political decisions have shown that the EU lacks adequate instruments to safeguard fundamental values and the rule of law. A new European mechanism on the rule of law and fundamental rights is needed. The mechanism should include a regular assessment of Member States in a governance "policy coordination cycle", similar to the European Semester. The EESC should play an active role, as this will make for strong civil society involvement. The mechanism must be based on indicators, taking into account the indivisibility of fundamental economic, social and cultural rights and civil and political rights.
Over recent years, there has been a shift in bargaining power in the food supply chain, mostly to the advantage of the retail sector and some transnational companies and to the detriment of suppliers, in particular primary producers. The concentration of bargaining power has led to the abuse of positions of dominance causing weaker operators to become increasingly vulnerable to Unfair Trading Practices (UTPs). The opinion takes stock of the impact of UTPs, stresses the difficult position of the most vulnerable actors along the chain and calls for action at EU level to stop UTPs and promote a fairer food supply chain.