In a debate at the EESC plenary session on 25 March, European Commission Executive Vice-President for an Economy that Works for People, Valdis Dombrovskis, said that most of the national recovery and resilience plans (RRPs) were still at an early stage and that "there is still a lot to do before the plans are mature enough". He also noted that trade policy has a key role to play in getting the EU economy back on track.

EESC president Christa Schweng opened the debate by saying that the EU and its Member States had responded to the crisis promptly and energetically, and that the EESC was now counting on the speedy and efficient implementation of NextGenerationEU and the Recovery and Resilience Facility.

She also referred to the EESC's call for an economic governance framework that facilitates economic recovery, is prosperity-oriented, and reflects the current post-crisis economic reality. The EESC was ready to discuss the economic governance review and had suggested launching a stakeholder conference to be co-hosted by the EESC and the Commission.

Regarding the national RRPs, Mr Dombrovskis explained that the Commission had received information from 23 of the 27 countries on what they intend to include. "However, while speed is important to get the RRF funds flowing as soon as possible, what is important above all else is quality". He warned that there was still a lot to do before the plans were mature enough to be submitted and approved. He flagged up three main areas which still required work: audit and checking systems; credible cost estimates and tracking of climate and digital spending; and respect for the principle of 'do no significant harm'.

He added that implementation of the plans must be flanked by support from the social partners and civil society at every stage. He thanked the EESC for carrying out a timely and relevant stocktaking exercise with its resolution on civil society involvement in the Recovery and Resilience Plans.

On international trade, Ms Schweng said that a rules-based multilateral trading system, as well as an open, fair, inclusive and predictable international trading environment, must continue to be a guiding principle for the European Union. The EESC was looking forward to contributing to the analysis, which would identify best practices in this field in an own-initiative opinion to be adopted by September.

Lastly, Ms Schweng said that the EESC hoped the EU would be able to inspire new cooperation and more consistency between the World Trade Organization (WTO) and other international organisations, such as the International Labour Organization (ILO), on matters of trade and investment, decent work, social and human rights, and climate change.

Mr Dombrovskis agreed that the right answer on how to support our recovery and ensure Europe's prosperity was to keep trading with our global partners. Regarding the institutional reform of the WTO, he said that the Commission's goal was to recast the WTO as a forum for tackling the most pressing problems of today’s world, such as dealing with the impact of COVID-19, supporting environmental and social sustainability, updating the rules for digital trade, and addressing unfair trading practices. (na)