566th Plenary session 19-20 January 2022 - Related Opinions
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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.
This exploratory opinion, requested by the French Presidency of the EU, has the following objectives:
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.
In 2018, the EESC adopted an Opinion on "The Union's budget and the rule of law" (SOC/598) in which it supported the principle of corrective measures regarding Member States that commit serious violations of the rule of law in Europe. In the present Own-Initiative Opinion, the EESC insists on the actual implementation of Regulation (EU) 2020/2092 "on a general regime of conditionality for the protection of the Union budget". The EESC demands the imposition of swift and comprehensive sanctions for breaches of the rule of law which put the Union's budget at risk. It also recalls the importance for Member States to integrate measures to strengthen the rule of law in their recovery programmes. The EESC also supports a stronger role for the European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO), European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), and civil society in the area.
The Commission intends to renew its strategic partnership with the outermost regions, adapting it to the EU priorities on green and digital transition for a stronger recovery after the coronavirus pandemic. The new Communication is expected to be published in April 2022. In this context, the forthcoming French EU Presidency, aims to conclude together with the other EU Member States this new strategic approach to the outermost regions for a green, digital and fair recovery. More specifically, the Presidency plans to adopt Council conclusions on outermost regions that are going to be presented in the GAC (General Affairs Council) on June 2022. The French Presidency asks the contribution of civil society organisations on the new priorities for the strategic approach and partnership with these regions.
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