The EESC welcomes the establishment of economic priority programmes for the euro area at the start of the European Semester. To achieve a recovery of growth and employment a mix of financial, taxation, budgetary, economic and social policies is needed. In contrast to the recommendation of the Commission, the focus of fiscal policy should be designed to be more expansionist than neutral. The EESC advocates the reduction of taxation on labour insofar as it does not threaten the financial sustainability of social protection systems. The EESC calls for a coordinated effort to create a more business-friendly environment for SMEs through better regulation, adequate financing and facilitation of exports to markets outside the EU. There is a particular need to open up new funding opportunities for micro-enterprises and start-ups.
Opinions in the spotlight
The EESC has in numerous opinions urged for a fair, efficient and growth-friendly corporate tax system, based on the principle that companies should pay taxes in the country where profits are generated. Thus, the Committee welcomes the Commission’s initiatives intended to combat aggressive tax planning and broadly supports the proposed measures as regards the essential elements of the two legislative proposals, the Anti-Tax-Avoidance-Directive as well as the Directive on Administrative Cooperation. It advocates for a more precise scope and framework in certain specific areas (such as e.g. the switch-over clause). The Committee urges to finish drawing up the list of countries or regions which refuse to apply good governance standards and considers that the envisaged legislative measures should not apply to SMEs.
Over recent years, there has been a shift in bargaining power in the food supply chain, mostly to the advantage of the retail sector and some transnational companies and to the detriment of suppliers, in particular primary producers. The concentration of bargaining power has led to the abuse of positions of dominance causing weaker operators to become increasingly vulnerable to Unfair Trading Practices (UTPs). The opinion takes stock of the impact of UTPs, stresses the difficult position of the most vulnerable actors along the chain and calls for action at EU level to stop UTPs and promote a fairer food supply chain.
The EESC welcomes and supports the Commission's initiative to anticipate the review of the Regulations on European venture capital funds (EuVECA) and European social entrepreneurship funds (EuSEF). The EESC believes that such a regulation can promote the establishment of a capital markets union. The EESC suggests that in order to expand participation in such investment funds, the hitherto very restrictive access criteria, as well as other restrictive conditions, to be significantly relaxed; the Committee proposes to increase the involvement of non-institutional investors and considers it equally important to create an environment in which the financing objectives of social investment funds can develop.
The EESC welcomes the CEF's support for clean, low-carbon transport and sustainable energy structures, as well as the attention given to energy vulnerability. However, the Committee would like to see more financial resources allocated to the CEF.
It will be possible to meet the expectations of city "users" – inhabitants, businesses, visitors and administrators – thanks to digital service ecosystems overlaying high-quality material and immaterial enabling infrastructure. Establishing this infrastructure will also have a significant impact in terms of growth, employment and productivity.
At this time of far-reaching changes in the world of work, the key objectives and principles of social dialogue and collective bargaining still hold true. Their role is not to oppose changes, but to steer them for reaping the full benefits, whilst ensuring that fundamental workers' rights can still be asserted. There is a need for participative management, for collective rules to be drawn up, for the adaptation of social dialogue and to find innovative responses. Digitalisation and its effects on work is a priority
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 Commission's proposals that are a new, important step in the efforts to achieve greater integration and convergence by increasing integrated supervision and provide new building blocks for the realisation of the Capital Markets Union (CMU) in the EU. A smoothly operating CMU can make an important contribution to private, cross-border risk-sharing. The challenge is to find the right balance between the competences of national and European supervisors and, where possible, to apply the subsidiarity and proportionality principles. Keeping the future in mind, new developments and modern technologies, such as FinTech, as well as more sustainable financing, in line with international activities and agreements should be reflected in the system of supervision. Close attention should be paid to costs for the supervision. Where part of the costs is directly borne by the private sector, care should be taken to exercise budgetary discipline and avoid duplication.
Making a reality of the European Pillar of Social Rights (the "Social Pillar") will require improvements in Member States and a robust budgetary base, investment and current spending.
More public investment within Member States can be facilitated by reference to a Golden Rule for public investment with a social objective, which would allow more flexibility in budget rules with a view to achieving the aims of the European Pillar of Social Rights. More public investment can also be supported by the use of existing EU instruments, especially the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIFs), and by the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI). This support should explicitly include objectives linked to the Social Pillar.
Appropriate taxation policies, including effective fight against tax fraud, tax avoidance and aggressive tax planning, should allow Member States and the EU to raise additional means to contribute to the financing of the Social Pillar.
The digitalised world of work will necessitate proper transition management – not only from the side of enterprises, but also from that of human capital.
On the one hand, enterprises have to identify and assess the new needs and draw up and implement plans for controlling the risks and reducing the costs of the transition; employees, on the other hand, should be provided with appropriate guidance and training, so that they can adapt to the new reality and be able to seize the opportunities offered and thrive.
Another aspect to be taken into consideration in the digitalised world of work is the use of data. Thanks to digital technologies and data, the evolution of trends is better understood and targeted support can be proposed to individuals; yet the use of these digital data should be regulated.
The opinion will build on the work already carried out by the Committee on the future of work.