This own-initiative opinion will focus on the interface and inter-linkages between the European semester and Cohesion policy under the new Multiannual Financial Framework with a view to developing policy proposals to improve sustainable growth performance. With the Europe 2020 Strategy coming to an end, these proposals can contribute to the preparation of a new European strategy post-2020.
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The EESC calls for a strategic shift at all levels to unequivocally promote new models of circularity, not only by stepping up the alignment of all actors, but also by placing consumers at the centre of public policy.
The absence of economic and social convergence among Member States and regions is a threat to the political sustainability of the European project and all the benefits it has brought to European citizens. Developing economic and labour market resilience with economic, social, environmental and institutional sustainability should be the principle guiding policies. This will foster upwards convergence and fairness in the transition towards a climate-neutral economy while managing the challenges posed by digitalisation and demographic change.
The future of Europe and of the EU will be shaped and developed by our young people – by the students sitting in classrooms today. The foundations of their perceptions of and attitudes towards developments in Europe and the EU, and of their according them value or rejecting them, are already being laid in class and during discussions at school. The aim of a "Teaching Europe" initiative would be to put more emphasis on Europe and the EU in teaching in schools, and to highlight the EU's main achievements and its future challenges. The way the history of the EU Member States is taught should also be taken into consideration. As an idea, easy-to-use teaching materials could be developed, which would explain, among other issues, the role played by the EESC, civil society and the social partners.
European industrial, energy and climate policy is hampered by contradictory requirements on the price for Greenhouse effect Gas (GHG) emissions: on the one hand, high prices would be necessary to incentivise investment and changes in consumption patterns; on the other, the preservation of the external competitiveness of EU energy-intensive industries, as well as the prevention of “carbon leakage”, would require low prices.
The proposed own-initiative report investigates the technical and legal feasibility of Border Adjustment Measures for the internal price of GHG emissions: importers pay the price, exporters get it refunded, as it already is the case for VAT. The refund of the GHG emission price to exporters could be based on a VAT-like accounting system. The GHG emission price paid by importers could be based on the basic metals and materials content of the product. This system would be in line with WTO rules, and rely upon fully proven methodologies.
Although considerable progress has already been made towards completing EMU, there is still a need to significantly reinforce all four of its pillars, taking care to maintain the balance between them, as neglecting one or more of these pillars could result in dangerous disparities. Resilience to crises is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for completing EMU: it also requires a positive vision, as set out in Article 3 of the EU Treaty. The EESC generally calls on the European institutions and national governments to take much more ambitious action in the context of EMU reform in order to achieve a more integrated, more democratic and socially better developed Union.
The EESC supports the Commission's ambition to kick-start a necessary debate, given the sensitivities of Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) in tax matters. At the same time, the EESC considers that there are certain conditions that would need to be met for QMV to be successfully implemented. The EESC is aware that tax policy has always been closely linked to the sovereignty of Member States, as it is of utmost importance to them.
Following in-depth economic, social and fiscal analysis, any new rule must be fit-for-purpose and all Member States must at all times have sufficient possibilities to participate in the decision-making process. Creating an advantageous outcome both at the EU level and at the level of the individual Member State should be the ultimate objective.
The EESC believes that the practical applications of blockchain technologies can significantly improve the performance of social economy organisations, benefiting them, their members and, above all, their end users. Besides, the EESC believes that real involvement of social economy and civil society organisations is imperative to ensure that the huge opportunities offered by the new technologies are geared towards delivering benefits, access, transparency and participation for all, and not just for a new "digital economy elite".
The European Commission’s first progress report on the implementation of the Strategic Action Plan on Batteries shows that a variety of actions have been launched to develop a significant battery industry in the EU. Although it is far too early to draw definitive conclusions, the EESC supports the initiatives that the Commission has taken and has announced it will take to work with Member States and European industry to break Europe's dependence on non-EU – particularly Asian – countries. There is much to be done in the coming years to achieve the necessary level of technological expertise in the EU, to secure the supply of raw materials from third countries and EU sources and to ensure that batteries can be recycled safely and cleanly. Investing in staff is the joint responsibility for the government and the business community.