The EESC opinion on the Commission package "Aviation: Open and Connected Europe" welcomes the European Commission's proposals as a step towards implementing the "Aviation Strategy for Europe" from December 2015. This is of key importance in light of multiple challenges faced by the stakeholders of the aviation sector, including the development of markets in multiple directions, growing pressure on people and companies, increasing competition inside and outside the EU, and new disruptive technologies and digitalisation. The package "Aviation: Open and Connected Europe" – with its one legislative and three non-legislative proposals – addresses some of these challenges.
Opinions in the spotlight
The Commission's proposal on the free flow of non-personal data in the European Union represents one of the most important legal aspects of the future European policy for developing the data economy and its repercussions on economic growth, scientific research, industry and services in general and public services in particular.
The European Economic and Social Committee welcomes the opportunity to provide an opinion on the Third report on State of the Energy Union by the European Commission, as it did before for the first and second reports. As expressed in previous opinions, the EESC strongly supports the idea of a European Energy Union and would like to stress that the Energy Union is not only relevant to sectoral policies such as energy, transport and climate but offers opportunities to make Europe more democratic, more cohesive, more competitive, and more just.
The EESC supports the Commission's Action Plan on financing sustainable growth, aimed at reorienting capital flows towards sustainable investment, and welcomes the legislative proposals stemming from it, on fiduciary duties, a taxonomy and benchmarks. The proposed gradual approach for its implementation, beginning with the work on a European sustainability taxonomy, is preferable. However, a subsequent extension of the initial taxonomy, based on environmental aspects, to social sustainability and governance goals will be necessary. Attention should be paid to the feasibility and proportionality of legal obligations.
The key message of the opinion is that transforming the energy system towards carbon-free, decentralised and digitalised supply offers enormous opportunities, in particular for structurally weak and rural regions in Europe. The development of renewable energy (RE) can have a major and beneficial impact on employment, and can be configured so as to provide a completely new stimulus for the regional economy. There is therefore potential for mutually reinforcing the positive effects of Europe's energy and cohesion policies. The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) finds it regrettable that both the Commission and the Member States have yet to properly recognise this potential, let alone exploit it.
The Justice, Rights and Values Fund is a much-needed instrument for the promotion of EU values, fundamental rights, democracy, the rule of law, and in support of a vibrant and diverse civil society. Overall funding should be increased to EUR 1.4 billion, and innovative funding tools be used to reinforce civil society participation and capacity. 50% of the different strands should be earmarked for civil society organisations, and funding for litigation in support of civil society organisations defending fundamental rights be supported. Synergies should be found with programmes supporting media freedom.
The introduction of further risk sharing is to be accompanied by further risk reduction in the Banking Union. Both the EDIS and the relevant risk reduction measures have to be dealt with in parallel and without delay and actually put into effect. An EDIS will have a positive impact on the situation of individual Member States and banks by being more able to cushion local shocks. This may discourage speculation against specific countries or banks, thus reducing the risk of bank runs. At the same time it will further weaken the link between the banks and their national sovereigns. It is imperative that the existing legislative framework of the Banking Union is fully implemented by all Member States. It is important that the Commission carry out a comprehensive in-depth impact study in order to further strengthen the legitimacy of the proposal.
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.
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.
The proposal from the Commission is a welcomed step further in the creation of a Digital Single Market, but it's not a game-changer. More ambitious and well-defined proposals for a Digital Single Market in favour of consumers and companies, should be put forward.
Justified geo-blocking resulting from different Member States' industrial policies and diverging legislation is also damaging the development of SMEs and scale-ups operating in Europe. The EU should focus equally on the remaining obstacles in the Single Market that discourage or hamper traders from selling on-line and/or off-line across borders.