This exploratory opinion was requested by the European Parliament with a view to a forthcoming Commission initiative on fair minimum wages. The question of Decent minimum wages across Europe is a complex and sensitive issue. It is important that any EU action is based on accurate analysis and understanding of the situation and sensitivities in the Member States and fully respects the social partners' role and autonomy, as well as the different industrial relations models.
The forthcoming Presidency of the Council of the EU (Germany), aims to further discuss and analyze the policy objective 1 under the Common Provisions Regulation for cohesion policy that refers to '' a smarter Europe by promoting innovative and smart economic transformation''. In this context, the Presidency has asked the EESC to provide an opinion on how the structural measures and cohesion policy programmes can help in this process. The Presidency plans to present the key findings of this discussion in a High-level conference that will take place on 29th of September where also the opinion of EESC will be discussed.
The Commission's decision to create a Digital Single Market (to remove virtual borders, boost digital connectivity, and make it easier for consumers to access cross-border online content) is therefore a welcome move. But what does it mean for SMEs in practice? How will this affect their day-to-day running? And, given the lessons learnt from previous rapid changes, how do we make an "inclusive" success of the Digital Single Market?
In this own-initiative opinion, the EESC calls on the European Union to develop a coherent and uniform approach to protecting unaccompanied foreign minors in Europe. It urges the European Commission to draw up a Directive on the protection of unaccompanied minors that serves the best interests of the child. The principle of "the best interests of the child" should take precedence over all other national and international law. The EESC calls on the Member States to evaluate minority based on a body of evidence, consisting principally of the declarations by the person in question, civil status documents presented and interviews with the person. Given that bone tests are not really reliable, the EESC calls for them to simply be stopped.
Europe is embarking on a transition towards climate neutrality and digital leadership. European businesses can lead the way as we enter this new age, as they has done in the past.
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are essential to Europe’s competitiveness and prosperity. Based on the new SME Strategy, the EU will support SMEs by:
- encouraging innovation through new funding and digital innovation hubs as part of the sustainable and digital transitions;
- cutting red tape by reducing barriers within the Single Market and opening up access to finance;
- allowing better access to finance by setting up an SME Initial Public Offering Fund (with investments channelled through a new private-public fund) and the ESCALAR initiative (a mechanism to boost the size of venture capital funds and attract more private investment).
The opinion will provide guidance on how to build on existing structures like citizens' dialogues and assemblies, social dialogue committees in order to structure and mainstream the dialogue with civil society. It will also make recommendations about how to encourage information sharing and public understanding of climate action; how to create real and virtual spaces for exchange on climate and how to build capacity to facilitate grassroots initiatives, among others.
The unprecedented magnitude of the COVID crisis requires an unprecedented, long-term and unequivocal response. International trade is a vital tool to finance recovery ge get out of the crisis. In these efforts, the EU must stay true to its values and ensure the protection of businesses, workers and people, leaving no one behind. Recovery must be based on sustainability, and inclusive and green growth. Green Deal measures are therefore more relevant than ever.
While the recovery after COVID-19 crisis is a top priority, the EESC stresses that this should not steer the EU away from its medium and long-term objectives, as outlined in the European Green Deal, 2020 Sustainable Growth Strategy, and the European Pillar for Social Rights. There is a need for a resilient, technology-driven European economy that is defined by the protection of the environment. The EESC underlines that strategies aimed at enhanced economic sustainability need to be developed around productivity, but they cannot be allowed to happen at the expense of workers' rights and social development. The EESC advocates for re-thinking supply chains, underlines that social aspects should be emphasised, start-ups should be encouraged and that the cornerstone of sustainable economic growth in the EU should be the creation and development of a truly circular economy. Open dialogue with social partners and civil society remains key to setting the economic direction.
The EESC welcomes the determination of the new European Commission to enhance the Union's technological sovereignty, and stress the importance of the security sector in this respect. There is no security without technology, and Europe must master the technologies that are crucial for its security.