This opinion (rapporteur: Juan MENDOZA CASTRO (GRII) was adopted during the plenary session held on 17 and 18 February 2016 (meeting of 17 February) by 139 votes to 8, with 11 abstentions.
Seven years since the start of the crisis, the Committee expresses its concern over high unemployment, which is an issue in certain Member States in particular. The 2016 AGS contains much more in the way of social analysis, objectives and goals, but for this new approach to be effective, it should not be based on the reiteration of the policy recommendations of previous years.
The 2016 AGS must place more emphasis on strengthening governance in order to effectively carry out the major European policies on market integration and modernising the economy. Structural reforms, combined with a supportive monetary policy and growth-friendly fiscal consolidation, are the three pillars that contribute to robust recovery while at the same time increasing long-term growth prospects.
The EESC suggests that, amongst the policy priorities, efforts should focus on two areas in particular: investment and employment. "Immediate action" is needed to confront long-term unemployment (which accounts for 50% of the total) and youth unemployment. At the same time, the large number of people at risk of poverty or exclusion raises questions about the fulfilment of one of the Europe 2020 strategy's major objectives.
The EESC welcomes the decision to strengthen follow-up of the Europe 2020 targets and to divide the Semester into European and national phases as it will enable better determination of who is responsible for achieving the set objectives. Moreover, investments to bring about energy transition (Paris Agreement) must become a source of job creation and economic development.
Lastly, the EESC advocates the full participation of civil society, via economic and social councils and similar organisations, in social policies and national reform plans.