The Commission's decision to create a Digital Single Market (to remove virtual borders, boost digital connectivity, and make it easier for consumers to access cross-border online content) is therefore a welcome move. But what does it mean for SMEs in practice? How will this affect their day-to-day running? And, given the lessons learnt from previous rapid changes, how do we make an "inclusive" success of the Digital Single Market?
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The European maritime technology industry is an important sector in terms of employment, directly providing more than 500 000 jobs. Shipyards and firms manufacturing marine equipment make a significant contribution to the economic development of the regions where they are located, and across the entire supply chain, which is particularly important to SMEs. Each direct job in a European shipyard means, on average, seven jobs created in the region.
The global counterfeit and pirated products industry accounts for up to 2.5 % of global trade, or the equivalent of US $461 billion.
This is equivalent to the GDP of Austria, or that of Ireland and the Czech Republic combined. Right holders, governments and the economy as a whole may suffer significant economic and social losses. A targeted analysis of the European Union shows that, in 2013, imports of counterfeit and pirated products accounted for up to 5 % of imports, or the equivalent of EUR 85 billion.
The EESC calls for a strategic shift at all levels to unequivocally promote new models of circularity, not only by stepping up the alignment of all actors, but also by placing consumers at the centre of public policy.
The absence of economic and social convergence among Member States and regions is a threat to the political sustainability of the European project and all the benefits it has brought to European citizens. Developing economic and labour market resilience with economic, social, environmental and institutional sustainability should be the principle guiding policies. This will foster upwards convergence and fairness in the transition towards a climate-neutral economy while managing the challenges posed by digitalisation and demographic change.
The future of Europe and of the EU will be shaped and developed by our young people – by the students sitting in classrooms today. The foundations of their perceptions of and attitudes towards developments in Europe and the EU, and of their according them value or rejecting them, are already being laid in class and during discussions at school. The aim of a "Teaching Europe" initiative would be to put more emphasis on Europe and the EU in teaching in schools, and to highlight the EU's main achievements and its future challenges. The way the history of the EU Member States is taught should also be taken into consideration. As an idea, easy-to-use teaching materials could be developed, which would explain, among other issues, the role played by the EESC, civil society and the social partners.
European industrial, energy and climate policy is hampered by contradictory requirements on the price for Greenhouse effect Gas (GHG) emissions: on the one hand, high prices would be necessary to incentivise investment and changes in consumption patterns; on the other, the preservation of the external competitiveness of EU energy-intensive industries, as well as the prevention of “carbon leakage”, would require low prices.
The proposed own-initiative report investigates the technical and legal feasibility of Border Adjustment Measures for the internal price of GHG emissions: importers pay the price, exporters get it refunded, as it already is the case for VAT. The refund of the GHG emission price to exporters could be based on a VAT-like accounting system. The GHG emission price paid by importers could be based on the basic metals and materials content of the product. This system would be in line with WTO rules, and rely upon fully proven methodologies.
The EESC supports the Commission's ambition to kick-start a necessary debate, given the sensitivities of Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) in tax matters. At the same time, the EESC considers that there are certain conditions that would need to be met for QMV to be successfully implemented. The EESC is aware that tax policy has always been closely linked to the sovereignty of Member States, as it is of utmost importance to them.
Following in-depth economic, social and fiscal analysis, any new rule must be fit-for-purpose and all Member States must at all times have sufficient possibilities to participate in the decision-making process. Creating an advantageous outcome both at the EU level and at the level of the individual Member State should be the ultimate objective.