We need to halt the growing gaps between rural and urban areas and better coordinate policies to bridge them. The new CAP alone will not be sufficient to rebalance these interrelated areas. For Europe to truly tackle inequalities, we need to put in place a wider set of policies and financing instruments.
Equal pay for men and women or for work of equal value is one of the fundamental rights and principles of the EU, but on average women are still paid 14% less per hour than men, with pay differences present in all sectors and widening with age. Although welcomed as a much-needed step to close the gender pay gap, the Commission's proposal on pay transparency is receiving a mixed response, an EESC hearing found.
The EU has some of the strongest regulations in the world on the use of plant protection products (PPPs – pesticides) and other chemicals in agriculture. However, there is still room for improvement to achieve greater regulatory convergence to reduce the risks of using PPPs, and to guarantee a healthy and safe food supply for an ever-growing world population.
The Digital Markets Act (DMA) and Digital Services Act (DSA) proposed by the European Commission to curtail the ever growing power of digital giants in Europe are fit for purpose, in the EESC's view, provided they go hand and hand with the taxation of tech companies, better working conditions for platform workers and data governance.
Having learnt from the shortcomings of the previous EU Roma framework over the past decade, the European Commission is determined to achieve the headline targets of the new Roma strategic framework, closing the gap of discrimination and socio-economic exclusion by at least half by 2030. However, the role of the Member States in delivering tangible results is pivotal. Without effective national strategies and pragmatic measures, the new framework risks failing in the same manner as its predecessor.
All across Europe, LGBTIQ individuals suffer from discrimination which affects their educational performance, job prospects, wellbeing and even the exercise of their fundamental rights, such as freedom of movement within the EU. To tackle this situation, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) adopted an opinion at its April plenary session calling for non-discriminatory regulation of the concept of family at EU level.
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) welcomes the proposed new package of EU cybersecurity measures but points to weaknesses in addressing Europe's huge cyber skills gap. Critical entities also need streamlining, simplification and clearer application guidelines, in the EESC's view.
With one of the EU's fundamental values frozen for over a year, the Digital Green Certificate paves the way for free and safe movement within Europe in the COVID-19 era. The EESC welcomes the introduction of the Digital Green Certificate as an excellent common standard to minimise complexity for travelling passengers and to facilitate their movement, as long as fundamental rights and data protection requirements are fully respected.
With recent surveys showing that 66% of Europeans would like the EU to have more say over health-related matters, and more than a half in favour of public health becoming the EU's top priority in terms of expenditure, the EU should start playing a more active role in protecting the health of its citizens. The EESC thinks that the Commission's recent package on an EU Health Union is a step in the right direction.
Highlights of the European Economic and Social Committee's 27-28 April plenary: 27 April, 5.30 pm - Conference on the Future of Europe • 28 April, 10.00 am - Adina Vălean, European commissioner for transport, on an EU strategy for sustainable and smart mobility • 28 April, 11.00 am - Nicolas Schmit, European commissioner for jobs and social rights, on the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan, ahead of the Porto Social Summit next month and the planned EU Action Plan for Social Economy.