The EESC welcomes both the Strategy on the Rights of the Child and the Child Guarantee, and considers that their implementation will help support efforts at European and national level aimed at promoting children's well-being and reducing child poverty. This opinion calls for the consultation and involvement of organised civil society, children's and family organisations, amongst other stakeholders, in the drafting of national action plans and their monitoring mechanisms. The EESC recommends all Member States to earmark ESF+ funding for lifting children out of poverty, with the designated 5% taken as a minimum. Furthermore, it recommends them to grant free access to early childhood education and care, education and school-based activities and healthcare or grant these services free of charge.
The Own Resources Decision (ORD) entered into force on 1 June, enabling the Commission to start borrowing resources for the Next Generation EU (NGEU) recovery instrument. For the EESC, a well-functioning funding strategy is key for the smooth implementation of NGEU. Sound and sustainable funding and solid risk management are in the very interests of civil society. Moreover, borrowing and debt management has to be based on democratic control, legitimacy and transparency.
The EESC stresses how important it is that the Commission manage the funding strategy directly and does not outsource this. The massive engagement on capital markets will be accompanied with a broad set of risks. The EESC supports the establishment of solid risk-management systems and the holding of the 'NGEU account' with the ECB.
The Slovenian presidency of the Council of the EU has decided to request an EESC opinion on one of its priority topics linked to digitalisation. Artificial intelligence is regarded as the most important aspect in digitalisation. Particularly important are also the integration of advanced technologies into society and transition to a gigabit society. With the emerging technologies such as the AI and the data economy, the EU can recover rapidly and become the world’s leading digital society.
The EESC opinion should cover the following topics:
The Commission proposal contributes to the creation of a "Europe fit for the digital age" that can make the most of the digital transition, in order to give citizens better opportunities to connect, communicate and facilitate professional and business activity in the single market. The Committee welcomes this draft European regulation and deems it necessary that the proposal at last aim to provide consumers with the same level of service and protection abroad as at home.
In this opinion, the EESC underlines that the Action Plan on the European Pillar of Social Rights should be based on concreteness and tangibility, with actions that are measurable and accompanied by monitoring frameworks jointly agreed among relevant stakeholders and encompassing the social, environmental, and economic criteria. The EESC acknowledges the diversity and the common basis of social models across the EU. Competitiveness and higher productivity based on skills and knowledge are a sound recipe for maintaining the well-being of European societies. The EESC further believes that greater efforts can be made at EU and Member State level in the area of combating poverty, in line with the first Sustainable Development Goal under the UN 2030 Agenda.
Digital transformation begins with the trust of citizens and businesses. This exploratory opinion at the request of the Slovenian EU Presidency proposes the tools needed to build public trust in digital technologies and motivate people to participate in digital training.
The EESC welcomes the new EU Disability Rights Strategy, acknowledging that it is a clear step forward compared with the previous one. It is however concerned about the lack of binding measures and hard legislation implementing the Strategy.
Among other recommendations, the Committee regrets the lack of specific actions addressing the needs of women and girls with disabilities and calls for a specific flagship initiative in the second half of the period of the Strategy. It also calls for the full involvement and participation of organisations of persons with disabilities in the proposed Disability Platform. As regarding the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), the EESC feels it should be strongly linked to the Disability Strategy and used to help persons with disabilities recovering from the pandemic.
The communication presents a vision, targets and avenues for a successful digital transformation of Europe by 2030. It proposes to agree on a set of digital principles, to rapidly launch important multi-country projects, and to prepare a legislative proposal setting out a robust governance framework, to monitor progress – the Digital Compass.
The EESC underlines the role of adult learning to help adults improve and acquire citizenship skills and to be more active in society. It considers that lifelong learning should become a lifestyle for all and a reality at the workplace, and calls on the Commission and the Member States to achieve and raise the target of 60% of adult learning participation per year. It recommends Member States to strengthen the policy, governance and funding to adult learning and ensure equal access to lifelong learning for all adults. Better access to guidance and counselling is needed so that all adults are informed on lifelong learning possibilities. Companies, together with trade unions, should be involved as much as possible in establishing strategies for skills development for the digital and green transitions of industries.