Competitiveness is not an end in itself. It is only a sensible objective if it improves people's well-being in practice. The EESC therefore recommends that an updated definition of competitiveness ("competitiveness 2.0") be used in future, taking into account "the ability of a country to deliver the beyond-GDP goals for its citizens". The EESC urges that future discussions refer not to "competitiveness boards" but to "boards for competitiveness, social cohesion and sustainability". The EESC asks the Commission to present concrete proposals on how the following necessary requirements with regards to these boards can be safeguarded: accountability, legitimacy and transparency; representation of balanced unbiased expertise; non-binding character of proposals of the boards; inclusion of the dual role of wages, both as a cost factor and as the main determinant of domestic demand.
Opinions in the spotlight
While welcoming the existence of the Horizon 2020 program, the EESC is worried that funding for research into Societal Challenges has been significantly reduced. Moreover, the EESC is exceedingly concerned about the large disparities between Member States in terms of national funding for research and innovation.
The EESC endorses the European Strategy for Low-Emission Mobility (the strategy), including its aims and methods, and its holistic approach, which provides coherence between transport and other policy areas. It would have liked this approach to be further developed in terms of the links between the strategy and the communication on the upgrading of the internal market. This also applies with regard to the prospects of the digital economy and the development of a sharing economy and a circular economy. It underscores the potential effects of these developments on transport patterns, and draws attention to their social implications.
The EESC welcomes the package on the modernisation of VAT on cross-border e-commerce, and endorses both its objectives and its focus on addressing the concerns of SMEs. The Committee welcomes the proposed extension of the MOSS to goods as it creates conditions for the possible removal of the Low Value Consignment Relief (LVCR) scheme. Furthermore, the amendments to the VAT rates applicable to e-publications rules would eliminate the distinction between physical and non-physical publications, and ensure neutrality in this market.
The opinion deals with the prevention of "radicalisation" of young people. For the purpose of this opinion, radicalisation is understood as a process through which individuals or groups become extremists eventually using, promoting or advocating violence for their aims. The opinion highlights activities undertaken by civil society and calls for continuing to work on a coherent EU-concept, including sustainable and effective European support, funding and coordination.
The EESC considers that ENISA's new permanent mandate as proposed by the Commission will significantly contribute to enhancing the resilience of European systems. However, the accompanying provisional budget and resources allocated to ENISA will not be sufficient for the agency to fulfil its mandate.
The EESC recommends to all Member States to establish a clear and equivalent counterpart to ENISA, as most of them have not done it yet.
The EESC also feels that, ENISA should prioritise actions to support e-government, should provide regular reports on the cyber-readiness of Member States focusing on sectors identified in Annex II to the NIS Directive and monitor the performance and decision-making of national certification supervisory authorities.
The EESC supports the proposal to create a cybersecurity competence network sustained by a Cybersecurity Research and Competence Centre (CRCC).
The EESC welcomes the efforts made by the EC to address the persistent pay gap between men and women by proposing an Action Plan with eight areas for action, but finds that each area should be further developed. It is important to look at the stereotypes that affect career choices, as well as to the underlying causes of labour market segregation, in order to counter them. It agrees with the EC proposal for pay transparency and pay audits to be introduced in order to facilitate the collection of individualised data and develop appropriate action plans at sector and business level. Moreover, it welcomes the EC recognition of the crucial role social partners play in this, while also highlighting the contribution of civil society organisations. Finally, it insists on the need to obtain additional resources, as part of the Multiannual Financial Framework, to implement the Action Plan, including the financing of childcare facilities and long-term care services.
The EESC supports the Commission's Action Plan on financing sustainable growth, aimed at reorienting capital flows towards sustainable investment, and welcomes the legislative proposals stemming from it, on fiduciary duties, a taxonomy and benchmarks. The proposed gradual approach for its implementation, beginning with the work on a European sustainability taxonomy, is preferable. However, a subsequent extension of the initial taxonomy, based on environmental aspects, to social sustainability and governance goals will be necessary. Attention should be paid to the feasibility and proportionality of legal obligations.
This exploratory opinion was requested by the European Parliament to feed into a mission to Tallinn, Estonia, on "Digitalisation and the women's role", organised by the EP's Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM) on 19-21 September 2018. The opinion looks into the digital gender gap in education system and the labour market. It analyses the reasons behind this phenomenon it and makes proposals on how to increase the participation of girls in STEM and ICT studies and boost the presence of women in the digital sector. It also looks into the pros and cons of digitalisation and its impact on women's life-work balance.
The Justice, Rights and Values Fund is a much-needed instrument for the promotion of EU values, fundamental rights, democracy, the rule of law, and in support of a vibrant and diverse civil society. Overall funding should be increased to EUR 1.4 billion, and innovative funding tools be used to reinforce civil society participation and capacity. 50% of the different strands should be earmarked for civil society organisations, and funding for litigation in support of civil society organisations defending fundamental rights be supported. Synergies should be found with programmes supporting media freedom.