Decisions which political leaders take today on climate change and environmental issues will above all affect young people and future generations. In recent years, we have seen young people mobilising to demand concrete measures from governments and politicians to protect the environment and achieve climate neutrality. However, despite the fact that the younger generations are the most sensitive and aware of the need to act in order to achieve environmental sustainability and to accomplish the green transition, they are still not finding their place in decision-making and their voice is not heard enough.
In strategies to exit poverty and exclusion, minimum income features as a key element. Principle 14 of the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR), the EU's blueprint for a more social Europe, states that the right to adequate minimum income should belong to everyone lacking sufficient resources for living a life in dignity. Following the Covid-19 crisis, the number of people living at risk of poverty and social exclusion rose, amounting to over 95.4 million Europeans in 2021. Repercussions of Russia's invasion of Ukraine will rise their number even further. Although all Member States have social safety nets, including minimum income, in place, the progress in making them adequate has been uneven across Europe.
In December 2022, the Commission published a set of measures to further develop the EU's Capital Markets Union (CMU), which remains fragmented and underdeveloped in size. Part of the package – a new Listing Act – aims to reduce the administrative burden on companies of all sizes, particularly SMEs, so that they can better access funding by listing on European public markets. Studies show a sub-optimal situation with respect to SME initial public offerings (IPOs) in Europe. Also, the total number of listed companies on SME growth markets in Europe has barely increased since 2014, despite the fact that listed companies enjoyed clear benefits.
A safe, robust and competitive clearing ecosystem is an essential part of a well-functioning Capital Markets Union (CMU). But we are not there yet, and European financial markets are put at risk by overdependence on services provided by third-country Central Counterparties (CCPs). In December 2022, as part of a larger package of measures designed to further develop the CMU, the Commission proposed a new European Market Infrastructure Regulation (EMIR) to enhance the clearing capacity within the EU. The section for Economic and Monetary Union and Economic and Social Cohesion (ECO) at the EESC has adopted an opinion on the Commission proposal.
With a unanimous vote, the EESC's section for External Relations adopted the own initiative opinion on the Youth Action Plan (YAP) in EU external action at its section meeting on 6 March 2023. This is the first-ever policy framework for a strategic partnership with young people around the world put forward by the Commission and the High Representative. The EESC fully supports the YAP, but it also points out that there may be challenges in the roll-out and delivery, which will need monitoring and oversight and therefore it is asking to be actively involved in the implementation of the YAP.
The following weaknesses have been pinpointed as something to bear in mind when designing future programmes:
- SME involvement
- Rigidity and red tape
- Failure to close the gap between older and newer Member States.
The Council of the European Union sets foreign policy sanctions which are applicable to all member states. However, implementation and enforcement are decentralized. This results in fragmentation, with national legislation varying in definitions, scope, penalties, and investigative capacities. The Commission oversees member state compliance with EU sanctions regulations and can initiate infringement procedures, but it has only recently begun improving implementation and enforcement. A new directive proposal enables the Commission to propose legislation to standardize criminal offenses and penalties for violating EU sanctions. This is justified by the inclusion of sanction violations among the list of EU crimes under art.
Equality bodies are independent public institutions established across Europe to promote equality for all and combat discrimination. They protect and assist victims of discrimination, monitor and report on discrimination issues, and play a fundamental role in the non-discrimination architecture of the EU. Three equality directives have entrusted these bodies with carrying out the same missions in their respective fields: good and services, employment, and self-employment. These directives make no mention of the structure and functioning of equality bodies and only establish minimum competences, which can lead to substantial differences between Member States. In December 2022, the Commission adopted two proposals to strengthen equality bodies' independence, resources, and powers.
The European Commission published the 7th edition of its State of the Energy Union report in October 2022. The report takes stock of the EU's energy policy response to the current energy crisis: in order to tackle the recent turbulence in energy markets, price volatility and energy insecurity across the world, the Union and its Member States are reshaping and accelerating their energy and climate strategies.
In October 2022, on top of the emergency interventions to tackle the spike in energy prices, the European Commission adopted the Communication on Digitalisating the energy system - EU action plan. According to the proposed energy action plan, new technologies and system-wide digitalisation can help improve the efficient use of the energy resources, facilitate the integration of renewables into the grid, and save costs for EU consumers and energy companies.