The upcoming French Presidency of the Council of the European Union asked the EESC to prepare an opinion on how the industrial ecosystems identified by the Commission will contribute to the EU's strategic autonomy and the well-being of its citizens.
Opinions with Employers' Group members as rapporteur/co-rapporteur/rapporteur-general
The EESC adopted unanimously in September 2020 the opinion "SME strategy". Amongst its main conclusions were the plead to the Commission to draw up a "Next Generation SME Strategy". Unfortunately, in its 2021 Work Program, the European Commission chose to commit to an update of the Industrial, but not of the SME Strategy. The objectives of this follow-up opinion are the following: present the SME position on how to channel in the best way the unprecedented financial support, coming from the MFF 2021-2027, Next Generation EU and Recovery and Resilience Facility Mechanism; identify and respond to the difficulties SMEs face when accessing the single market and generate ideas on how to use the COVID-19 crisis as a driver for change and catalyst of the transition of the SMEs towards sustainable and digital economy.
The EESC :
Micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) face challenges in the area of digitalisation and access to artificial intelligence, but this segment can take great advantage of the opportunities offered by artificial intelligence.
The main objective of the opinion is to propose concrete measures which can be easily implemented in order to avoid MSMEs being “left behind” from the transition to artificial intelligence. The main issues to be addressed are: the use of new technologies to offer innovative products and services and strengthen Europe’s capacity to invest in disruptive innovations; create closer links in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) between universities and public administration, on the one hand, and businesses, in particular SMEs and micro-enterprises, on the other; support the MSMEs in recruiting and ensuring skills development for their employees to cope with the technological changes brought about by AI; facilitate the access to EU funding.
The coronavirus pandemic has hit the health of Europe's citizens and its economy hard, notably its industrial production. The European companies in the sectors with high consumption of resources and energy (REIIs) were already in a precarious situation, and are now undergoing this further, unexpected, crisis.
In its opinion, the EESC highlights that one of the main challenges the retail sector is facing is the lack of an online level playing field with third-country traders. It agrees that a solid ambitious digital policy for the retail sector is needed in Europe to take advantage of the opportunities that the digital innovation offers for enhancing Europe’s competitiveness. The EESC also believes that for the retail sector, taking on board the green transition provides an opportunity for the retail sector to help consumers make more sustainable choices in their consumption.
Recent years have been marked by a persistent global decline in democratic values and the rule of law. While many differences remain and have to be acknowledged, North America has unquestionably been our closest historical ally in championing democracy and its values across the world. The arrival of the new administration in the US has provided a new momentum and a unique opportunity to build the new transatlantic partnership and jointly manage not only the internal, but also global challenges, especially with regard to powers which do not share the same values, such as China or Russia. President Biden's initiative to organise a Summit for Democracy at a time when autocracies are on the offensive is only the first step in building a strong international democratic alliance.