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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.
This opinion is part of a wider package of four EESC opinions on the future of the European economy (Deepening of the Economic and Monetary Union and Euro area economic policy, Capital Markets Union and The future of EU finances). The package of opinions underscores the need for a common sense of purpose in the Union governance, which goes far beyond technical approaches and measures, and is first and foremost a matter of political will and a common perspective. Against this background the Committee advocates the exploration of tools to improve economic governance in the EMU, for instance by creating a permanent Euro Finance Minister, while ensuring full democratic accountability. Bundling competences would enhance coherence of EMU policies.
The EESC welcomes the Investment Plan for Europe for its contribution to the promotion of investment in the EU. The Committee calls for clearly set investment targets, regulatory simplification and further guidance in order to achieve greater geographical and sectoral balance. The EESC advocates for strengthened financial capacity for the InvestEU programme within the Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 and calls for more efforts to raise awareness among European businesses and citizens about the benefits obtained from the Investment Plan for Europe.
The EESC welcomes the establishment of broad economic policy guidelines for the countries of the euro area and supports the formulation of recommendations tailored to each country as well as measures to assess their implementation. However, the Committee regards the current macroeconomic policy mix as unbalanced and calls for a new growth model which takes into account the significance of demand and distributive justice. Stricter regulation of financial markets should be accompanied by a general re-think not only of expenditure, but also of tax systems. Policies should capitalise more on the fact that the negative income and employment multipliers of revenue-related measures are generally more limited than those of spending cuts. The importance for competitiveness of non–price factors is often overlooked.
The Committee gives a guarded welcome to the two communications from the Commission on the introduction of a Competitiveness and Convergence Instrument and on ex-ante coordination of plans for major economic policy reforms. It is disappointing that they provide little additional detail to the concepts already outlined in the Blueprint, which therefore renders assessment difficult. While these two proposals could be a help to Member States in difficulty, restoring growth and capacity to the most needy areas may be hampered or delayed because the focus of concern is that the measures taken must also benefit the euro area as a whole. The Committee questions the added value of a CCI and the additional bureaucratic burden that the proposed ex-ante coordination may bring. The EESC wishes to continue the debate as developments evolve.
The EESC welcomes the Investment Plan for Europe as a step in the right direction, which however faces serious questions about the Plan's size and timescale, the high degree of leverage expected and the potential flow of suitable projects. The Plan proposes that contributions to the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) from Member States will not be included in budget deficit calculations and this is to be welcomed, but it begs the question as to why ongoing strategic public infrastructure expenditures are not treated in the same way. Strategic public investment which underpins present and future economic development should be incentivised by a more benign European fiscal framework.