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This exploratory opinion, requested by the Lithuanian presidency, sheds light on the specific contribution that State-owned enterprises can make to the EU's competitiveness. It pinpoints the specific challenges that exist in this area for EU policy and the European institutions. As part of its consideration of the way in which public undertakings could contribute more to the EU's economic recovery and competitiveness, the Committee has addressed the issue of Europe's Services of General Economic Interest in a number of opinions. The EESC also raises the question of the economic activities of the EU's executive agencies, wondering if they are truly independent, while their tasks and responsibilities lead them to be directly involved in socio-economic activities.
Position of the Council at first reading with a view to the adoption of a Directive of the EP and of the Council concerning measures for a high common level of security of network and information systems across the Union
- The EESC welcomes the Communication from the Commission confirming the importance of Internet connectivity for the Digital Single Market and the need for Europe to deploy now the networks for its digital future.
- The EESC notes that the Strategic Objectives for 2025 are ambitious but realistic, although they are largely dependent on national funding (private and public). There is a particular need for public investments to cover all remotes areas and guarantee minimum digital access for the vulnerable members of our society.
- The EESC agrees with the proposal to introduce a voucher system for small communities and SMEs and supports the free "WIFI4EU" initiative for all Europeans in public places, public administrations, libraries and hospitals as well as outdoor spaces even. It recommends following eIDAS digital identity, which offers guarantees for data protection and public security against.
In July 2013, the EESC has adopted an Opinion on Industrial policy in which industrial policy was qualified as a Growth initiative with great potentials. Following up the Opinion it is suggested to discuss somewhat underestimated aspects of the on-going industrial cycle that are vital for future growth and jobs, entailing huge consequences for (manufacturing) industry. It is about the impact of services, digitalisation, ICT and new variations in the same framework - such as 3D printing and other applications (ICT-plus) - on the industrial processes. Services are an increasing part of the European economy, and creating more jobs than manufacturing. The ICT-industry itself is growing in Europe by 10% annually. Services and ICT-plus have huge socio-economic and political implications.
The EESC considers the Commission's conclusions on the impact of the Services Directive and on the functioning of the services sector to be premature. The directive has been in force for only a few years. Not all the Member States are equally satisfied with the directive and they need to implement it in their own legislation in their own way; these are complicating factors that are not taken into account in the communication. The services sector is large and complex, with many different branches, and it will take time to streamline the single market for services by means of European legislation.