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.
Opinions in the spotlight
The emergence of a decentralised digital economy suggests that this could lead to a transformation in setting up businesses, jobs, production, consumption, governance. In view of this and in answer to the Commission's Communication on a new agenda for the collaborative economy, the EESC proposes a series of recommendations to face this new paradigm.
The EESC strongly endorses the Commission's initiative to extend the duration and increase the financing of the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) and welcomes the positive results of the first year and considers the SME "investment window" a success. The Committee recommend that EFSI 2.0 should aim for ever greater involvement of private capital; stresses the importance of keeping a market-driven emphasis, reinforcing the additionality of the EFSI and calls for a more balanced geographically coverage across the EU. The EESC also recommends bolstering the European Investment Advisory Hub (EIAH) and the reinforcement of the social dimension of EFSI deployment. It is also in favour of using the EFSI to nurture the development of a shared industrial and dual technology base in the European defence sector. Finally, in the view of the Committee it is important to raise the visibility of EFSI funding.
The EESC appreciates the European Commission's effort to apply an economic policy that focuses on supporting the strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth of the euro area as well as a balanced mix of monetary, fiscal and structural instruments in order to achieve this, including a positive fiscal stance.
Given the current and future threats to access social security faced by people in the new forms of work, the EESC recommends that the Member States and European courts regulate these new forms of employment. Member States should consider linking up the electronic systems of their health and pension insurance schemes with those of their tax administrations and making it mandatory that individuals generating professional income pay contributions. It should further be examined whether a part of the digitisation dividend could be used to ensure the sustainability of the social security systems.
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.
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 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.