The EESC has played an important role in raising awareness of EU trade policy among civil society both in the EU and in third countries. The EESC encourages the Commission to strengthen its dialogue with civil society to develop the functioning of TSD chapters in current and future trade agreements. However, the EESC urges the Commission to be more ambitious in its approach, in particular with respect to strengthening effective enforceability of the commitments in TSD chapters, which is of crucial importance to the EESC. TSD chapters must be given equal weight to those covering commercial, technical or tariff issues.
Opinions with Workers' Group members as rapporteur/co-rapporteur/rapporteur-general
The EESC welcomes and supports the European Commission's decision to tackle the problem of intermediaries enabling aggressive tax planning. The Committee notes that the related administrative costs must be reduced to the furthest extent possible for all sizes of businesses and stresses that the taxpayer carries the ultimate responsibility to comply with the proposed directive.
The EESC notes that although economic recovery in the euro area has gathered pace since last year, it remains incomplete and atypical. It disagrees with the European Commission's proposal for an overall broadly neutral fiscal stance and instead proposes a positive fiscal stance of around 0.5% of GDP. It welcomes structural reforms that will not only increase productivity and growth potential, but also support the creation of quality jobs and reduce inequality. It supports the necessary steps for deepening the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), as well as the measures against tax fraud and tax avoidance.
The EESC recognises the important role of transport as a driver of the EU economy and supports the European Commission (EC) in its ambitions to ensure that the EU remains in a leading position in clean, competitive and connected mobility in the future.
The EESC welcomes the fact that the EC is taking the initiative to clarify the regulatory framework on road transport and to ensure better enforcement and closer cooperation between Member States.
However, the EESC is of the opinion that the proposed changes to legislation on driving times and rest periods and on the posting of drivers fail to effectively address the identified problems in road transport in several aspects, including not making the rules simpler, clearer and more enforceable.
The Bulgarian Presidency invited the EESC to draw up an exploratory opinion aimed at identifying a global approach to EU industrial policy that takes into account the need to improve the business environment and to support the competitiveness of industry.
Γνωμοδότηση της ΕΟΚΕ: Adopting a comprehensive approach to industrial policy in the EU – improving business environment and support for the competitiveness of the European industry (exploratory opinion at the request of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council)
The 2030 UN Agenda, or the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, will be one of the top global priorities over the next 15 years, yet it received very little mention in the Commission Communication "Trade for all". Trade is specifically mentioned with regard to nine SDGs (but only once in the MDGs). UNCTAD estimate that, to meet the 17 goals and the 169 targets, at least an extra US$2.5 trillion a year will need to be found - effectively from the private sector. This opinion would seek to look into this further and aim to evaluate how much of that will need to come through trade and investment.
The EESC thinks the "work-life balance" package is a step in the right direction, to be further analysed and be improved in the future. Social partners throughout Europe should be encouraged to examine additional practical solutions to promote a work-life balance that suits the specificities of workplaces, particularly in SMEs. Moreover, there is need for investment in high-quality, affordable and available care services and facilities for all families, as well as for tax deductions that help working parents to continue working.
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 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.
Given the current and future threats to access social security faced by people in the new forms of work, the EESC recommends that the Member States and European courts regulate these new forms of employment. Member States should consider linking up the electronic systems of their health and pension insurance schemes with those of their tax administrations and making it mandatory that individuals generating professional income pay contributions. It should further be examined whether a part of the digitisation dividend could be used to ensure the sustainability of the social security systems.