A strong emphasis on the EU's recovery, health union and digitalisation, a firm position on defending the rule of law and a focus on the future of Europe: these are the elements of this year's State of the Union that are very much welcomed by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and that particularly align with its priorities.
In this isue:
AI: while 18% of the world's top-tier researchers are European only 10% work in Europe
Frans Timmermans meets European youth leaders at the EESC
Ending poverty for European children needs a whole-society approach
Roaming: the EESC calls for a single tariff zone across the EU
The hearing organised by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) highlighted the need for a reform of the EU budgetary rules applicable in the Member States in order to ensure a sustainable post-COVID-19 recovery and to secure the public investments required for the green and digital transition.
563rd plenary session, with the following guests and debates: “Cohesion policy” with Elisa Ferreira, Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms (tbc), and “Securing Media Freedom and Diversity in Europe” with Christophe Deloire, (Reporters without Borders) and Ricardo Gutiérrez (European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)) (date and time tbc).
A hearing organised by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) discussed opportunities and challenges in the implementation of the National Recovery and Resilience Plans in the various Member States, revealing that civil society is still far from being effectively involved in the process. There were calls for improved consultations in the upcoming implementing phase, following the shortcomings at the drafting stage.
The EESC president
As set out in the Joint Declaration signed on 10 March 2021 by the European institutions, the Conference on the Future of Europe aims at connecting and engaging with citizens. The main aim of this key project - to which the EESC is fully committed – is to give a real say to citizens.
The 2021 prize will reward effective, innovative and creative initiatives carried out by civil society organisations and/or individuals on the territory of the EU which aim to promote a just transition towards a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy.
Applications are now closed. Over 50 applications from 24 Member States – all Member States but Cyprus, Sweden and the Netherlands – were received.
Opinions in the spotlight
The Commission proposal contributes to the creation of a "Europe fit for the digital age" that can make the most of the digital transition, in order to give citizens better opportunities to connect, communicate and facilitate professional and business activity in the single market. The Committee welcomes this draft European regulation and deems it necessary that the proposal at last aim to provide consumers with the same level of service and protection abroad as at home.
The Own Resources Decision (ORD) entered into force on 1 June, enabling the Commission to start borrowing resources for the Next Generation EU (NGEU) recovery instrument. For the EESC, a well-functioning funding strategy is key for the smooth implementation of NGEU. Sound and sustainable funding and solid risk management are in the very interests of civil society. Moreover, borrowing and debt management has to be based on democratic control, legitimacy and transparency.
Trade Policy Review - An Open, Sustainable and Assertive Trade Policy
On 22 February 2021, the European Commission (EC) presented an Action Plan on Synergies between civil, defence and space industries (COM(2021) 70 final) to further enhance Europe's technological edge and support its industrial base.
In this opinion, the EESC underlines that the Action Plan on the European Pillar of Social Rights should be based on concreteness and tangibility, with actions that are measurable and accompanied by monitoring frameworks jointly agreed among relevant stakeholders and encompassing the social, environmental, and economic criteria. The EESC acknowledges the diversity and the common basis of social models across the EU. Competitiveness and higher productivity based on skills and knowledge are a sound recipe for maintaining the well-being of European societies.
The EESC welcomes the new EU Disability Rights Strategy, acknowledging that it is a clear step forward compared with the previous one. It is however concerned about the lack of binding measures and hard legislation implementing the Strategy.
The EESC welcomes both the Strategy on the Rights of the Child and the Child Guarantee, and considers that their implementation will help support efforts at European and national level aimed at promoting children's well-being and reducing child poverty. This opinion calls for the consultation and involvement of organised civil society, children's and family organisations, amongst other stakeholders, in the drafting of national action plans and their monitoring mechanisms.