The EESC welcomes the Commission's proposal for a new market design, a risk preparedness regulation and the new organisation of the energy regulators' cooperation. The Committee highlights that well-functioning electricity markets are a precondition for fulfilling the goals of the Energy Union. For the markets to function well, significant changes in the market design are necessary, particularly due to the increasing use of variable renewable electricity. The EESC appreciates the general approach of the market design package, especially the goals of putting consumers at the heart of the energy market, increasing electricity supply and strengthening regional cooperation.
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President Juncker stressed in his 2016 State of the Union Speech the need for a Europe that protects, empowers and defends. Taking greater responsibility for their security means that Europeans must invest in the development of key defence capabilities to be able to deter, respond and protect themselves against external threats. The European Union must demonstrate that it can act as a provider of hard as well as soft security, addressing calls for greater solidarity in security and defence. The Bratislava roadmap, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union have also recently underlined this priority.
The EESC supports the measures that the European Union has put in place to tackle all forms of tax fraud and takes the view that the reverse charge mechanism for collecting value added tax (VAT) may be a useful tool in countering carousel fraud and VAT evasion. However, the use of the reverse charge mechanism, which is a derogation from the established principles on VAT, must not be allowed to harm the internal market and it must be temporary and properly assessed by the Commission.
The Committee furthermore recommends focusing particular attention on the proportionality principle, as the cost of compliance for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) related to introducing a reverse charge mechanism could be considerable.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies offer great potential for creating new and innovative solutions to improve peoples lives, grow the economy, and address challenges in health and wellbeing, climate change, safety and security.
Like any disruptive technology, however, AI carries risks and presents complex societal challenges in several areas such as labour, safety, privacy, ethics, skills and so on.
A broad approach towards AI, covering all its effects (good and bad) on society as a whole, is crucial. Especially in a time where developments are accellerating.
In this exploratory opinion, prepared at the request of the European Commission, the EESC provides its contribution to the ongoing reflection on the modernisation and simplification of the CAP post 2020. A reshaped CAP must retain the positive aspects of the current policy and adopt new measures to deal with the new challenges which include societal demands for the delivery of public goods, the EU commitments under the United Nations SDGs, climate change commitments under the COP21, bilateral trade deals and market volatility. A reshaped CAP must also get the correct balance between the needs of the consumer, taxpayers and producers.
The EESC supports the Commission's proposal to expand the scope of controls and the competency of the authorities in order to conduct checks and confiscate goods, whenever there is a reasonable indication of illicit activities. The EESC recommends to improve cooperation, both between the competent authorities and between Member States and suggests that penalties should be harmonised across Member States and communicated to the Commission in a coherent way. The Committee also proposes that, in addition to gold, other "highly liquid commodities" should be included in the definition of cash from the moment the new regulation is adopted and it draws attention to the threat of further use of pre-paid cards by criminals and terrorists to covertly finance their activities.
The EESC considers the intention to create ETIAS as a currently inevitable step corresponding to the threats caused by external and internal circumstances. ETIAS should be based on the right balance between risks and safety, at the same time avoiding increased administrative burdens and barriers for people travelling to the EU. The Committee stresses that ETIAS should fully respect the fundamental rights of applicants and avoid any discrimination. All data gathered by the system must be protected and access to it should be strictly limited. All applicants should be allowed to use the services of intermediaries to obtain the travel authorisation, if needed. However, the costs charged by these intermediaries for their services should be monitored and evaluated by EU delegations in the third countries.
The EESC welcomes the "clean energy" package, which aims to accelerate, transform and consolidate the EU economy's clean energy transition, while pursuing the important goals of economic growth and job creation. The proposed package includes important proposals in the areas of renewable energies and electricity market design and regulation, energy efficiency and energy performance of buildings, energy innovations, transport, and governance – and the Committee views many of the initiatives favourably. However, the opinion – drawing on nine other opinions concerned with the individual proposals of the clean energy package – also identifies a number of challenges that civil society and co-legislators need to be aware of.