The EESC has been asked by the European Commission to contribute to the EC's mid-term evaluation of the Erasmus+ programme. In this context, two questionnaires were widely disseminated by the EESC in the member states and four fact-finding missions have been organised. The EESC also held an expert hearing to collect the views of specialised civil society organisations. An information report has been drafted containing the results of this exercise, accompanied by a detailed technical appendix containing important data on the awareness and perception of the programme. The aim of this evaluation was to provide information to the EC on the experience of civil society organisations with the enlarged and improved programme.
Opinions in the spotlight
The EESC believes that income and wealth inequalities in the EU have become economic and social challenges that should be addressed with appropriate measures at national level and with the support of EU-level action.
A well-functioning system of social transfers and social assistance is thus needed. Fiscal redistribution should to a large extent complement the gaps in the market system. Public assets (social infrastructure, facilities for services in the public interest, etc.) should be developed as a means of addressing inequalities. And fiscal income should be shifted from labour-based taxation towards a more wealth-based one, with taxation on inheritance and capital income. Overall, Intensive economic growth is key to reducing poverty and wealth inequalities.
The EESC supports the Commission's proposal to expand the scope of controls and the competency of the authorities in order to conduct checks and confiscate goods, whenever there is a reasonable indication of illicit activities. The EESC recommends to improve cooperation, both between the competent authorities and between Member States and suggests that penalties should be harmonised across Member States and communicated to the Commission in a coherent way. The Committee also proposes that, in addition to gold, other "highly liquid commodities" should be included in the definition of cash from the moment the new regulation is adopted and it draws attention to the threat of further use of pre-paid cards by criminals and terrorists to covertly finance their activities.
The own-initiative opinion, prepared by the EESC Permanent Study Group on Sustainable Food Systems, will aim to identify existing challenges, policy inconsistencies and obstacles to a more coherent food policy approach at EU level; to provide examples of ongoing transitions to more sustainable food policies at local/regional/national level; to highlight the role of civil society in building partnerships among stakeholders across the food supply chain; and to define how a comprehensive food policy for the EU should look, including an indicative roadmap.
The Bulgarian presidency of the Council of the EU has requested the EESC to prepare an exploratory opinion on how to best promote SMEs in Europe with a special focus on a horizontal legislative SME approach and respect of the SBA's "think small first".
As a key driver of productivity and innovation, industry has always been a cornerstone of economic prosperity in Europe. We can rely on a strong industrial base, but important efforts are needed by Member States, EU institutions and most importantly industry itself to maintain and reinforce Europe's industrial leadership in the age of globalisation, sustainability challenges and rapid technological change.
The EESC welcomes the Commission's package, a centrepiece in the EU offensive to address the persisting issue of NPLs and fundamental to progress towards the Banking Union. The EESC agrees with the application of statutory prudential backstops as a preventive measure to ensure that credit losses on future NPLs are sufficiently provisioned but warns against a "one size fits all" approach. The Committee recognises that the Commission gives an answer to many of the problems of fragmented NPLs secondary markets in the EU, however, the Committee is of the view that regulators must not encourage the sale of NLPs. The EESC welcomes that the right to a fair trial in a national court is ensured if it is necessary and if the application of the out-of-court procedure as proposed in the directive is restricted.
The EESC considers the proposed European Investment Stabilisation Function (EISF) as a step towards closer euro area integration, and possibly an attempt to encourage non-euro Member States to join the single currency. However, the EESC is of the view that a well-crafted union-wide insurance scheme that acts as an automatic stabiliser amidst macroeconomic shocks would be more effective than the proposed EISF.
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.