Euro area economic policy 2021 (additional opinion) - Related Opinions
This year’s Annual Sustainable Growth Survey outlines the policy priorities in the coming year and provides guiding principles for implementing them in the 2022 European Semester cycle. The European Semester provides a well-established framework for coordinating the economic and employment policies of the Member States and will continue to play this role in the recovery phase and in advancing on the twin transitions. Like in previous years, the policy priorities will be structured around the four dimensions of competitive sustainability and in line with the Sustainable Development Goals. The Communication also sketches out the main characteristics of the 2022 European Semester cycle and explains the main changes compared to previous cycles, taking into account the need to adapt to the processes under the Recovery and Resilience Facility.
The EESC strongly believes in the importance of the next Semester cycle as a key instrument for implementing the Recovery and Resilience Facility.
However, it is still concerned about the lack of clarity in most Member States as regards their National Recovery and Resilience Plan governance systems and the distribution of responsibilities for their implementation.
The EESC would also draw attention to the need to measure progress in implementation, for which good monitoring indicators are needed; in this connection it welcomes the "Recovery and Resilience Scoreboard" initiative.
Moreover, the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the need for a strong industrial policy to avoid dependence on other economic zones for many products and services.
The EESC wants to see real action in this respect by Member States, in terms of investment in education, infrastructure and industrial policy to raise employment and boost European industry.
The EESC welcomes the fact that the Recovery and Resilience Facility regulation confirms the importance of genuine civil society involvement in the development of national plans and advocates for the establishment of binding conditionality for such consultation. To support economic development the EESC considers the full operation of the Single Market as well as fiscal policies and support measures crucial, while calling for the establishment of new fiscal rules that reflect social and economic realities after the pandemic. New instruments to combat tax evasion, undeclared work and the shadow economy are also called for. The EESC also welcomes the inclusion of the green and digital transitions, but regrets the insufficient attention paid to social issues. Efforts to move rapidly towards a green and digital economy must not result in a further increase in poverty and greater social exclusion.
This additional opinion updates and complements the proposals made in the original ASGS opinion, adopted in February this year. The EESC welcomes the step forward towards embracing a more social, inclusive and sustainable economic model, particularly given the economic and social effects of COVID-19. To support the economic recovery and public investment, and in support of a digital and green transformation, the EESC believes that a revision of the Stability and Growth Pact, flexibility in state aid rules and a rethink of tax policy is necessary. Well-resourced public health measures and social security systems are likewise of vital importance. The EESC also welcomes the Commission's proposals for Next Generation EU and sees the ASGS as an opportunity for the EU to shift towards an economic model that gives equal weighing to both economic and social objectives.
The EESC is concerned to note the euro area's economic downturn and the gradual end to a fall in unemployment, wedded to the persistent higher incidence of risk factors affecting economic performance. It is the European Green Deal that the EESC sees as the backbone of the future EU and euro-area economic configuration – the potential start of a fundamental change and a turning point. If managed successfully, it could move Europe up a gear economically and socially; if not, its failure could fatally jeopardise the integrity of the EU.