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The EESC advocates for a stronger budget for the Connecting Europe Facility for after 2020.
The EESC recommends that the European Commission and the Member States further encourage synergies at project level between the three sectors, which are currently limited because of the rigidity of the budgetary framework as regards the eligibility of projects and of costs.
The EESC urges the co-legislators to maintain the commitment in the previous CEF regulation to spend "the major part" of the energy budget on electricity projects.
The EESC recommends that the financial capacity of the CEF programme under the next MFF should be increased and better balanced between the three sectors in order to maintain high credibility and attractiveness for investors.
The key message of the opinion is that transforming the energy system towards carbon-free, decentralised and digitalised supply offers enormous opportunities, in particular for structurally weak and rural regions in Europe. The development of renewable energy (RE) can have a major and beneficial impact on employment, and can be configured so as to provide a completely new stimulus for the regional economy. There is therefore potential for mutually reinforcing the positive effects of Europe's energy and cohesion policies. The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) finds it regrettable that both the Commission and the Member States have yet to properly recognise this potential, let alone exploit it.
The EESC takes careful note of the initiative's definition of disinformation as verifiably false or misleading information that is a threat to democracy and does public harm. Spreading disinformation has become a part of a hybrid war with a clear political aim. However, it also emphasises that, in addition to false information, highly selective information, defamation, scare-mongering and inciting hatred attack citizens' fundamental rights (freedoms) and minority rights.
Multiple actions from all stakeholders are needed to provide quality information and raise awareness. To this end, the EESC welcomes the initiative for coordinated action to protect the EU, its institutions and its citizens against disinformation. The EESC emphasises the urgency of such measures but is also concerned, however, that the impact of this action plan might be limited given that the May 2019 European elections are not far off.
Gender equality is not only a human rights issue; it is a social and economic necessity for the EU, its Member States and businesses, as it hugely impacts on sustainable growth and GDP, while allowing to use the potential of 51% of the EU population. The EU needs to elevate gender equality to a stand-alone goal with a binding strategy, centred in the following measures:
fighting the economic inequality affecting women and the current backlash of their rights; ratifying and implementing the Istanbul Convention on all forms of violence against women (including harassment); addressing once and for all gendered stereotypes, namely through the media; and supporting civil society organisations working for greater gender equality.
This own-initiative opinion will focus on the interface and inter-linkages between the European semester and Cohesion policy under the new Multiannual Financial Framework with a view to developing policy proposals to improve sustainable growth performance. With the Europe 2020 Strategy coming to an end, these proposals can contribute to the preparation of a new European strategy post-2020.