The EESC is a strong advocate of a fair, well-administered and sustainable development policy at EU level. It is also very committed to the cause of greater tax justice. In recent years, questions have been raised as to whether the international tax policies of the Member States, in particular the concluding of certain types of double taxation agreements, are consistent with EU development policy objectives.
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The 8th meeting of the EU Advisory Group for the EU-Central America Association Agreement will take place on February 1st in Brussels.
During the meeting, the Commission representative will provide information about the ex-post evaluation of the EU-Korea FTA, as an example of an evaluation of a trade agreement being in force. A similar evaluation of the implementation of the trade pillar of the EU-Central America Association Agreement is scheduled for 2018 and the EU Advisory Group would like to prepare for its future contribution to that process. The Commission will also discuss with the Group the follow-up to the meetings with Central America held in Honduras in June 2016 and the preparation for next year's meetings, which will take place in Brussels. The Group may also have an opportunity to discuss with the ILO representatives implementation of the project related to respect for labour standards, funded by the EU and delivered by the ILO in El Salvador and Guatemala.
This year's joint meetings between the EU and Central America under the Trade and Sustainable Development Title of the Association Agreement commenced with a workshop on market access. The participants discussed opportunities provided by the Agreement and challenges faced by the economic operators, in particular SMEs. Separate sessions focused on fair trade and value chains as ways facilitating market access for SMEs and small producers. On 16 June, the representatives of the EU and Central American Advisory Groups exchanged experience in their up-to-date operation and discussed proposals for strengthening capacity of the civil society monitoring mechanism, the role of the Parties in this context and future cooperation. This was followed by Civil Society Dialogue Forum where civil society representatives from the EU and Central America asked questions and expressed positions with regard to implementation of the Association Agreement and its impacts.
During the meeting, the Commission representative provided information about the implementation of the project on labour standards delivered in cooperation with the ILO in El Salvador and Guatemala. The Commission also informed about preparations for meetings with Central America planned for 15-17 June in Honduras, in particular meeting of the intergovernmental Board on Trade and Sustainable Development. The EU Advisory Group then discussed preparations for the civil society meetings with Central America, which this year will include a workshop on market access, a joint meeting of the Advisory Groups and an open Civil Society Dialogue Forum. In the afternoon, a video-conference with Central American partners took place to discuss preparations for joint meetings.
During the meeting, the representative of the European External Action Service (EEAS) presented information about the EU relations and cooperation with Central America. Based on the Second Annual Report, the Commission representative provided information about the implementation of the trade pillar of the Association Agreement, changes in trade flows and work of joint bodies established by the Agreement. The EU Advisory Group discussed also preparations for the next meeting with Central America under the Trade and Sustainable Development Title, as well as the ways to better communicate its activities to the Central American partners and other relevant stakeholders.
During the meeting, the EU Advisory Group presented its activities and communication tools, including the website, to the representatives of the Embassies of the Central American countries. It discussed progress in implementation of the Trade and Sustainable Development Title and proposals for follow-up actions to the joint meeting with Central American Advisory Groups held in May 2015. The Group discussed also with the Commission representatives preparation for the annual meeting with Central America planned for 2016. Moreover, the Commission representatives delivered a presentation about the EU programmes and projects for Central America, which are relevant for the Trade and Sustainable Development Title.
During the meeting, the EU Advisory Group confirmed the election of Mr Mário Soares (EESC, Workers Group) for the Chair of the Group and elected Ms Alba Ridao-Bouloumié (EUCOFEL) and Mr Gérard Karlshausen (CIFCA) for the roles of Vice-Chairs. The Group adopted also its Rules of procedure. Moreover, the EEAS representative provided information about EU relations with Central America and preparations for the EU-Latin America and Caribbean Summit planned for June 2015 in Brussels. The EC representatives provided information concerning implementation of the TSD title of the EU-Central America Association Agreement and preparations for meetings with Central American partners planned for 27-29 May 2015 in Brussels. The remaining part of the meeting, the EU Advisory Group dedicated to preparation for a joint meeting with Central American Advisory Groups, Civil Society Dialogue Forum and workshop about agricultural value chains.
During the meeting, the EU Advisory Group discussed several aspects related to its composition, working methods and Rules of procedure. The Group agreed also the procedure for election of the Chair and Vice-Chairs. Moreover, based on the first Annual Report, the Commission representatives (DG TRADE) provided information concerning implementation of the trade pillar of the EU-Central America Association Agreement and its Trade and Sustainable Development Title. The EU Advisory Group discussed furthermore lessons learned from the first meeting with Central America held in November 2014 in Nicaragua and the preparations for the second one, planned in May 2015 in Brussels.
During the meeting, the representatives of the EU and Central American Advisory Groups discussed the mandate and composition of the Advisory Groups as envisaged by the Trade and Sustainable Development Title, as well as possible ways of their cooperation and topics for future discussions. The participants were of the view that joint meetings of the Advisory Groups held back-to-back to the annual meetings of the Board on Trade and Sustainable Development and Civil Society Dialogue Forum provide a useful framework for a structured, in-depth discussion between the civil society representatives from EU and Central America. They also concurred that the Parties should facilitate presence of the Advisory Groups and other civil society representatives in the annual meetings. The participants adopted a Joint Declaration which was presented to the Civil Society Dialogue Forum and the Board on 19 November 2014.