This opinion is part of a wider package of four EESC opinions on the future of the European economy (Deepening of the Economic and Monetary Union and Euro area economic policy, Capital Markets Union and The future of EU finances). The package of opinions underscores the need for a common sense of purpose in the Union governance, which goes far beyond technical approaches and measures, and is first and foremost a matter of political will and a common perspective. Europeans need more (and better) Europe, not less Europe, in order to overcome the political crisis in the EU. The basic principle of the EU budget must be to deliver European added value, achieving better outcomes than would be possible for uncoordinated national budgets acting individually. The EESC considers that it is not credible for the EU budget to continue to be less than 1% of EU-GNI.
The EESC calls for financial education to become a compulsory subject on the school curriculum, and this education should be followed up in training and retraining programmes for workers. As a subject, financial education should encourage responsible saving and promote socially responsible financial products.
The Economy for the Common Good model proposes the transition towards a "European Ethical Market" which will foster social innovation, boost the employment rate and benefit the environment, for example through using indicators of wellbeing and social development beyond the GDP such as the Common Good Product and the Common Good Balance Sheet. The EESC considers that the Economy for the Common Good model is conceived to be included both in the European and the domestic legal framework and demands from the European Commission, in the framework of the upcoming renewed CSR strategy, to make a qualitative step in order to reward (in terms of public procurement, access to external markets, tax advantages, etc.) those enterprises that can demonstrate higher ethical performance.
Competitiveness is not an end in itself. It is only a sensible objective if it improves people's well-being in practice. The EESC therefore recommends that an updated definition of competitiveness ("competitiveness 2.0") be used in future, taking into account "the ability of a country to deliver the beyond-GDP goals for its citizens". The EESC urges that future discussions refer not to "competitiveness boards" but to "boards for competitiveness, social cohesion and sustainability". The EESC asks the Commission to present concrete proposals on how the following necessary requirements with regards to these boards can be safeguarded: accountability, legitimacy and transparency; representation of balanced unbiased expertise; non-binding character of proposals of the boards; inclusion of the dual role of wages, both as a cost factor and as the main determinant of domestic demand.
The EESC strongly endorses the Commission's initiative to extend the duration and increase the financing of the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) and welcomes the positive results of the first year and considers the SME "investment window" a success. The Committee recommend that EFSI 2.0 should aim for ever greater involvement of private capital; stresses the importance of keeping a market-driven emphasis, reinforcing the additionality of the EFSI and calls for a more balanced geographically coverage across the EU. The EESC also recommends bolstering the European Investment Advisory Hub (EIAH) and the reinforcement of the social dimension of EFSI deployment. It is also in favour of using the EFSI to nurture the development of a shared industrial and dual technology base in the European defence sector. Finally, in the view of the Committee it is important to raise the visibility of EFSI funding.
The EESC is in favour of creating a Pan-European personal pension product – PEPP but is unclear as to whether the investment arising from this initiative will remain within the EU and on the impact on labour mobility across the EU. Every effort, by way of tax relief, should be provided to encourage as many workers as possible to take up personal pension products. The EESC emphasises the need for consumer protection and risk mitigation for savers during the course of their working lives and on retirement. The EESC also underlines the importance of the role of the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) in monitoring the market and national supervisory regimes with a view to achieving convergence and consistency across the EU especially regarding the governance structure for PEPPs within any provider.
The EESC welcomes the fact that the package of regulations on the future multiannual financial framework includes the InvestEU proposal to strengthen investment activity in the EU, including long-term investment projects that are of high public interest, while also respecting the sustainable development criteria. In order to guarantee that this programme operates successfully, the Committee underlines the importance of the involvement of civil society organisations and social and economic partners. The EESC appreciates the European Commission's efforts to create an umbrella financial instrument by the InvestEU programme that will result in unified management, enhanced transparency and potential for synergies. The EESC appreciates the fact that, in addition to promoting sustainable infrastructure, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and research and innovation, the InvestEU programme also focuses on social investment and skills.