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The 2013 Annual Growth Survey (AGS), which launches the European semester, sets out what the Commission believes should be the overall budgetary, economic and social priorities for the this year. Given the importance of the involvement of the organised civil society and the social partners in setting priorities for action at the national and EU level, the EESC issues its opinion as a contribution to the debates ahead of the Spring European Council.
The EESC agrees with the Latvian Presidency, recognizing the fundamental importance of the EU 2020 Strategy review to boosting European competitiveness. The Europe 2020 and the Investment Plan should be much more closely linked in the way that it could remedy the main shortcomings of the Europe 2020 Strategy. The Structural Funds should focus more on the implementation of environmental programs or those with a human aspect, which would also promote the sustainable development of factors "beyond GDP".
The "Agenda for new skills and jobs" is one of the seven flagship initiatives under the Europe 2020 Strategy. It proposes actions within four key priorities in order to reach an employment rate of 75% by 2020. In its opinion the EESC broadly welcomes the European Commission initiative but puts forward a number of comments and recommendations. For instance, the Committee finds that the proposed initiative fails to encapsulate the urgent need to create good-quality jobs. It does not constitute a sufficient stimulus to Member States to set more ambitious national goals backed by the necessary investment and structural reforms.
The EESC welcomes the AGS 2015, but reminds that it is not possible to implement a growth plan that supports job creation measures without investment. Social investment can play a critical role in the promotion of welfare and the eradication of poverty and exclusion. The Committee welcomes the streamlining of the European Semester and acknowledges the efforts made by the Commission to encourage more civil society participation. The review of the Europe 2020 strategy should be published in a timely manner in order to give stakeholders sufficient time to prepare their positions.
The Committee's opinion, prepared in view of the Spring European Council, comments on the Commission’s ‘Annual growth survey’ (AGS) 2012.
In the first part, it deals with general issues related to the AGS such as: its focus on growth, on fiscal consolidation and on the implementation of reforms agreed in the framework of the European semester as well as the implication of organised civil society and social partners in the AGS process.
The second part brings together specific contributions from various EESC opinions that were adopted in 2011 in relation to the five AGS priorities: pursuing differentiated, growth-friendly fiscal consolidation; restoring normal lending to the economy; promoting growth and competitiveness; tackling unemployment and the social consequences of the crisis; and modernising public administration. These comments update the EESC’s position on the AGS 2011 that was adopted in March 2011.
"The Committee fully supports the Europe 2020 Strategy as well as the progress towards ex ante fiscal policy coordination in the European Semester and hopes that, at least for countries in the euro area, the current legislative proposals for European economic policy coordination will be the first step towards a genuine common economic policy and the full coordination of fiscal policies. ..."
The EESC welcomes the CEF's support for clean, low-carbon transport and sustainable energy structures, as well as the attention given to energy vulnerability. However, the Committee would like to see more financial resources allocated to the CEF.
It will be possible to meet the expectations of city "users" – inhabitants, businesses, visitors and administrators – thanks to digital service ecosystems overlaying high-quality material and immaterial enabling infrastructure. Establishing this infrastructure will also have a significant impact in terms of growth, employment and productivity.