The proposal on an International Procurement Instrument (IPI) is the EU response to the lack of a level playing field in world procurement markets. While our public procurement market is open to foreign bidders, the procurement markets for foreign goods and services in third countries remain to a large extent closed de iure or de facto. The IPI aims at encouraging partners to engage in negotiations and opening participation for EU bidders and goods in third countries' tenders. A first proposal on this issue was made in 2012 (COM(2012) 124 final) but there was no agreement in the Council. The new Commission proposal incorporates some of the changes requested from the European Parliament and tries to reply to some of the concerns expressed in the Council. A number of Member States have expressed reservations as regards the principle of closing the EU market for goods and services originating in certain third countries, even if only temporarily and in a targeted way.
Sección de Relaciones Exteriores (REX) - Related Opinions
With this Opinion, the EESC wishes to weigh in on the new EU Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy, which is expected to be presented to the Council before the summer. The rapporteur argues that internal and external policy are intertwined and both require better coordination of policies, objectives and resources. Social exclusion today is a key factor in crises, and the EU must be a defender of equality and a promoter of freedom, security and prosperity.
The Opinion goes on to address the wide range and crucial nature of topics that the new strategy will cover, such as resource allocation to foreign and defense policy, the EU's role as a constructive and regulatory power, the refugee crisis, development cooperation, or trade.
The EESC already produced an opinion on the same topic in January 2009 (see 'Related EESC Opinions'), but the geo-political developments over the past 7 years (Arab spring, increased tensions with Russia over the Eastern Partnership, crises in the Middle East, fluctuating oil prices) and other economic and technical factors (level of oil prices, new LNG terminals, debate around fracking, etc.) suggest a revision of this opinion.
The EESC wishes to draw up an opinion on the revision of the agreement with Mexico, paying special attention to civil society participation in the process, i.e. consultations during the negotiations and monitoring implementation of the new agreement following its entry into force.
The workers' group at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has called for a proposal for the new ILO standard (convention accompanied by a recommendation) on gender-based violence at work. The ILO Governing Body at its session in November 2015 will take a decision on whether to place this item on the agenda of the International Labour Conference (ILO supreme decision making and standard setting body) for the years 2017-2018. In this context, the EESC Opinion would represent a contribution of the European civil society, including workers' representatives, to the ILO discussion on the need for a new labour standard. In the past, the EESC contributed with its Opinions to the ILO discussions on new standards on domestic workers and prohibition of forced labour.
The own-initiative opinion will focus on the impact of the TTIP on SMEs and reflect on the provisions that would need to be included in the TTIP in order to take account of the specific character of SMEs in the negotiations and implementation of an eventual EU-US agreement. The opinion will also look at how to increase the awareness of SMEs as to existing support services and programmes, and particularly about the new business opportunities that may arise with this agreement.
2015 is marked as the European Year for Development (when the process of discussion for the post-Cotonou arrangements will begin to gain momentum), but also as the year where the Millenium Development Goals (defined until 2015) will give way to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To combine development and sustainability, all available resources of financing must be explored. The magnitude of this challenge is so large that all players including governments, private sector, banks, civil society organisations and development agencies must contribute to the implementation of these goals.
The Neighbourhood policy is high on the agenda of the EESC's external relations priorities. This opinion will provide the contribution of the Committee to this consultation process as a first step, to be followed by a reaction to the Commission document that will be issued in the 2nd semester of 2015.
The recent flow of disinformation in Europe, following the crisis in Ukraine, has underlined the need to consider the influence it has on social and political processes in the EU and the Eastern neighbouring countries. The impact caused by disinformation is often underestimated, as heavily funded disinformation is being spread not only via media, but also through cultural channels and public figures; its presence is strong and influential in the lives of European citizens, especially in Eastern Europe.