The EESC strongly rejects the Commission's proposal to cut the EU's budget by 10% in real terms and urges the Member States (MS) to find solutions that allow this budget to be kept at the same level as the 2014-2020 programming period.
The EESC welcomes the fact that the package of regulations on the future multiannual financial framework includes the InvestEU proposal to strengthen investment activity in the EU, including long-term investment projects that are of high public interest, while also respecting the sustainable development criteria. In order to guarantee that this programme operates successfully, the Committee underlines the importance of the involvement of civil society organisations and social and economic partners. The EESC appreciates the European Commission's efforts to create an umbrella financial instrument by the InvestEU programme that will result in unified management, enhanced transparency and potential for synergies. The EESC appreciates the fact that, in addition to promoting sustainable infrastructure, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and research and innovation, the InvestEU programme also focuses on social investment and skills.
The EESC welcomes and endorses the rationale behind the establishment of the Reform Support Programme. However, the EESC believes that, in order to launch the programme successfully and obtain the expected benefits, better responses are needed to a number of still open questions.
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.
This opinion is on the Annual Growth Survey 2018 (AGS), which establishes the main economic priorities and provides policy guidance for the following year. The European Commission published the 2018 AGS on 22 November 2017 as part of the European Semester Autumn Package. The 2018 AGS is focused on fostering job creation and growth and establishes three main priorities: boosting investment to support the recovery and to increase long-term growth; structural reforms for inclusive growth, upward convergence and competitiveness; responsible fiscal policies to support sustainability and convergence.
The Committee recommends that future crises in the European Union should be managed by striving for a better balance between fiscal and social objectives and urges the Commission to design "supplementary economic and social recovery" programmes, to be applied at the same time as or at the end of an adjustment programme. The EESC recommends that in any future crises situation, the EU Institutions should be solely responsible for developing and implementing the adjustment programmes and stresses that social partners and representatives of civil society must be included in the programme's monitoring and assessment panel, on an equal footing with representatives of the EU, the ECB and other bodies.
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 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 EESC is in favour of creating a Pan-European personal pension product – PEPP but is unclear as to whether the investment arising from this initiative will remain within the EU and on the impact on labour mobility across the EU. Every effort, by way of tax relief, should be provided to encourage as many workers as possible to take up personal pension products. The EESC emphasises the need for consumer protection and risk mitigation for savers during the course of their working lives and on retirement. The EESC also underlines the importance of the role of the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) in monitoring the market and national supervisory regimes with a view to achieving convergence and consistency across the EU especially regarding the governance structure for PEPPs within any provider.
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. Europeans need more (and better) Europe, not less Europe, in order to overcome the political crisis in the EU. The basic principle of the EU budget must be to deliver European added value, achieving better outcomes than would be possible for uncoordinated national budgets acting individually. The EESC considers that it is not credible for the EU budget to continue to be less than 1% of EU-GNI.