The EESC believes that the fight against terrorism and its financing and efforts to combat money laundering and other related forms of economic crime should be permanent EU policy priorities. These efforts should be linked more closely with the efforts needed to combat tax fraud and tax avoidance. Therefore, the EESC considers creating public national registers of the beneficial owners of bank accounts, businesses, trusts and transactions, and access to them by obliged entities, to be a priority. Furthermore, all obligations laid down in the Anti Money Laundering Directive should be extended to all territories or jurisdictions whose sovereignty resides with the Member States. And free trade and economic partnership agreements should include a chapter on measures to tackle money laundering and terrorist financing, tax fraud and tax avoidance.
Opinions in the spotlight
The Mid-term evaluation of the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) is one of the evaluations on which the Commission is consulting the EESC.
The CEF was proposed as a financing programme for the completion of trans-European infrastructure networks in the fields of transport, energy and information and communications technology (ICT).
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) welcomes the opportunity to take part in the evaluation of the CEF programme. Transport, energy and ICT are also the core of the EESC Smart Islands Project. Therefore, the EESC's response is based on the above mentioned project, which analyses primary data collected through fact-finding missions taking place in the EU in the course of 2015 and 2016.
The EESC welcomes the Commission's proposal for a new market design, a risk preparedness regulation and the new organisation of the energy regulators' cooperation. The Committee highlights that well-functioning electricity markets are a precondition for fulfilling the goals of the Energy Union. For the markets to function well, significant changes in the market design are necessary, particularly due to the increasing use of variable renewable electricity. The EESC appreciates the general approach of the market design package, especially the goals of putting consumers at the heart of the energy market, increasing electricity supply and strengthening regional cooperation.
Many atypical forms of work are now being developed and the associated social risks should be dealt with by means of coordinated efforts by all stakeholders. Automation and robots are having an increasing impact on work. While they have the potential to stabilise the economy in an ageing society, they are also affecting jobs: it is therefore essential that social dialogue on this point takes place at an early stage. In future, lifelong learning and professional training will be a necessity for everyone, but long-term developments can best be tackled through general education.
In its opinion, the EESC welcomes the commitment to the renewed European Solidarity Corps (ESC) with an increased budget and target for participation. It also appreciates the merging with the EU Aid Volunteers. The Committee believes that in the future, the EU needs to develop two independent support programmes, one for youth and one for volunteering.
The EESC makes a series of concrete recommendations, such as: 1) the employment strand of the ECS needs to be subject to strict regulation and regular review; 2) there should be no age restriction on the ESC as it should be a support for volunteering; 3) the ESC should be restricted to the not for profit sector; 4)the main civil society platforms in the field (the European Youth Forum and the European Volunteering Centre) should be centrally involved in the regulation and oversight of the ESC.
The EESC welcomes the Commission’s proposals and recommends that they be swiftly adopted and implemented by the Member States. The Committee agrees with the Commission's proposal to allow Member States to use two reduced VAT rates and recommends that the Member States continue to apply reduced rates to certain classes of goods and services of general interest.
The Internet of Things (IoT), thanks to its interconnectivity of persons and objects, offers a vast range of opportunities for individuals and businesses. These opportunities must be backed by a series of safeguards and controls so as to ensure introduction of the IoT is problem-free. With this opinion the EESC aims to promote awareness-raising and digital capacity-building initiatives and calls inter alia on the European institutions and EU Member States to ensure that security and privacy are protection by building appropriate regulatory frameworks that contain strict monitoring and control provisions.
Women with disabilities constitute 16% of the total population of women in Europe, which means in the EU there are approximately 40 million women and girls with disabilities.
Women with disabilities face intersectional discrimination in all areas of life, including, socio-economic disadvantages, social isolation, violence against women, forced sterilisation and abortion, lack of access to community services, low-quality housing, institutionalisation, inadequate health care and denial of the opportunity to contribute and engage actively in society.
The EESC welcomes these proposals on sovereign bond-backed securities (SBBSs), which fit into the broader context of completing the Banking Union and building a Capital Markets Union (CMU). Moreover, the proposals also have the potential to make a positive contribution to financial stability and resilience. The EESC has been strongly advocating a weakening of the link between banks and their home countries ("sovereigns") and therefore welcomes that SBBSs aim to contribute to this. The EESC considers that in conceptual terms, the idea of SBBSs is an attractive one and feels that the only way to find out whether banks will switch from bonds from their home countries to SBBSs for their investments and whether investors will be prepared to buy "junior" tranches in sufficient quantities to justify the creation of SBBSs, is to test this new financial instrument - the SBBS - on the market.
In the opinion, the Committee states that taxation policy in general and combating tax fraud in particular must remain a priority for the next European Commission. In this line, the EESC endorses a debate on gradually shifting to QMV and the ordinary legislative procedure in tax matters, while recognising that all Member States must at all times have sufficient possibilities to participate in the decision-making process. Moreover, the Committee believes that any new rule must be fit-for-purpose and that certain conditions need to be met to successfully implement QMV: a sufficiently strong EU budget; better coordinated economic policy; and a substantial analytical work assessing to what extent current tax measures have been insufficient.