The European Economic and Social Committee has been supporting the idea of a European Energy Union from its first inception as a European Energy Community in 2010. The annual State of the Energy Union report is also broadly welcomed by the EESC as a means to keep energy at the top of the political agenda across the European Union and ensure coordinated progress across sectors and Member states. The 2015 version of the State of the Energy Union is a snapshot taken only nine months after the launch of the Energy Union programme, limiting the reports' usefulness to judge progress made towards the Energy Union. However, as is noted in the opinion, the report's publication provides the EESC a welcome opportunity to identify particular aspects in advancing and governing the Energy Union that are of particular importance to Europe's civil society.
Opinions in the spotlight
This report follows the conclusion of the 2015 Euro-Mediterranean Summit of Economic and Social Councils and Similar Institutions on cooperation with third countries in promoting regular migration to the EU and will be presented at the 2016 Euromed Summit. Cooperation with countries of origin and international bodies to increase transit possibilities for regular migrants to the EU is the most effective way of combating the illicit trafficking of people and meeting the need for workers in EU countries. The aim of the information report is to define the pillars that can facilitate cooperation on regular migration and ascertain what experience has been gained from labour migration agreements with countries of origin and from the ways in which the Member States manage recruitment abroad.
The EESC is committed to open and fair trade and recognises its value as a driver of growth and jobs. Therefore, the EESC calls for a level playing field between European and third country exporting producers, and for effective trade defence instruments. The EESC supports the Commission's proposal that the dumping margin should be calculated not using the standard methodology, but on the basis of benchmarks that take account of significantly distorted production and sale costs. The EESC points out that in its 2016 opinion on preserving sustainable jobs and growth in the steel industry, it already called for the standard methodology not to be used in anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigations into Chinese imports as long as the country failed to meet the EU's five criteria for market economy status. The EESC welcomes the Commission's intention of using specific criteria to determine whether there are significant distortions in the market situation.
President Juncker stressed in his 2016 State of the Union Speech the need for a Europe that protects, empowers and defends. Taking greater responsibility for their security means that Europeans must invest in the development of key defence capabilities to be able to deter, respond and protect themselves against external threats. The European Union must demonstrate that it can act as a provider of hard as well as soft security, addressing calls for greater solidarity in security and defence. The Bratislava roadmap, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union have also recently underlined this priority.
The Commission has identified three main strands of further work to move a step closer to a genuine Single Market for financial services:
Increase consumer trust and empower consumers when buying services at home or from other Member States.
Reduce legal and regulatory obstacles affecting businesses when seeking to expand abroad.
Support the development of an innovative digital world which can overcome some of the existing barriers to the Single Market.
The EESC welcomes the new set of measures proposed by the European Commission to complete the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and move towards an optimal monetary zone. The EESC supports the various proposed goals for reinforcing the Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM) and the Single Resolution Mechanism (SRM). The EESC welcomes that the present communication provides scope for a broader discussion and for a phased approach to implementing the European Deposit Insurance Scheme (EDIS) and underlines the importance not to lose momentum in implementing the Banking Union. Finally, the EESC reiterates its commitment to a diverse financial ecosystem in which the large pan-European players coexist with small and medium-sized banks and other non-banking entities that focus reliably on the financing of the real economy on an equal footing, in an environment of much reduced systemic risk.
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 supports the proposal for a Council Recommendation on access to social protection for workers and the self-employed. A proper coverage of workers in non-standard forms of work and the self-employed would be in line with the principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights. Access to social protection systems is key for fairer societies. The main outcomes would be: increasing the mutualisation of risk, income security, labour market dynamism, higher productivity, better allocation of resources, and reducing insecurity and poverty for individuals.