This own-initiative opinion will focus on the interface and inter-linkages between the European semester and Cohesion policy under the new Multiannual Financial Framework with a view to developing policy proposals to improve sustainable growth performance. With the Europe 2020 Strategy coming to an end, these proposals can contribute to the preparation of a new European strategy post-2020.
Although considerable progress has already been made towards completing EMU, there is still a need to significantly reinforce all four of its pillars, taking care to maintain the balance between them, as neglecting one or more of these pillars could result in dangerous disparities. Resilience to crises is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for completing EMU: it also requires a positive vision, as set out in Article 3 of the EU Treaty. The EESC generally calls on the European institutions and national governments to take much more ambitious action in the context of EMU reform in order to achieve a more integrated, more democratic and socially better developed Union.
The EESC calls for a strategic shift at all levels to unequivocally promote new models of circularity, not only by stepping up the alignment of all actors, but also by placing consumers at the centre of public policy.
In the opinion, the Committee states that taxation policy in general and combating tax fraud in particular must remain a priority for the next European Commission. In this line, the EESC endorses a debate on gradually shifting to QMV and the ordinary legislative procedure in tax matters, while recognising that all Member States must at all times have sufficient possibilities to participate in the decision-making process. Moreover, the Committee believes that any new rule must be fit-for-purpose and that certain conditions need to be met to successfully implement QMV: a sufficiently strong EU budget; better coordinated economic policy; and a substantial analytical work assessing to what extent current tax measures have been insufficient.
The EESC takes note of the Fourth Report on the State of the Energy Union (SEU), supports the objectives of the Energy Union and welcomes the emphasis on the engagement and mobilisation of EU society to take full ownership of the Energy Union.
The EESC believes that the practical applications of blockchain technologies can significantly improve the performance of social economy organisations, benefiting them, their members and, above all, their end users. Besides, the EESC believes that real involvement of social economy and civil society organisations is imperative to ensure that the huge opportunities offered by the new technologies are geared towards delivering benefits, access, transparency and participation for all, and not just for a new "digital economy elite".
The future of Europe and of the EU will be shaped and developed by our young people – by the students sitting in classrooms today. The foundations of their perceptions of and attitudes towards developments in Europe and the EU, and of their according them value or rejecting them, are already being laid in class and during discussions at school. The aim of a "Teaching Europe" initiative would be to put more emphasis on Europe and the EU in teaching in schools, and to highlight the EU's main achievements and its future challenges. The way the history of the EU Member States is taught should also be taken into consideration. As an idea, easy-to-use teaching materials could be developed, which would explain, among other issues, the role played by the EESC, civil society and the social partners.