The EESC appreciates the European Commission's effort to apply an economic policy that focuses on supporting the strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth of the euro area as well as a balanced mix of monetary, fiscal and structural instruments in order to achieve this, including a positive fiscal stance.
Opinions in the spotlight
Given the current and future threats to access social security faced by people in the new forms of work, the EESC recommends that the Member States and European courts regulate these new forms of employment. Member States should consider linking up the electronic systems of their health and pension insurance schemes with those of their tax administrations and making it mandatory that individuals generating professional income pay contributions. It should further be examined whether a part of the digitisation dividend could be used to ensure the sustainability of the social security systems.
The EESC opinion on the Commission package "Aviation: Open and Connected Europe" welcomes the European Commission's proposals as a step towards implementing the "Aviation Strategy for Europe" from December 2015. This is of key importance in light of multiple challenges faced by the stakeholders of the aviation sector, including the development of markets in multiple directions, growing pressure on people and companies, increasing competition inside and outside the EU, and new disruptive technologies and digitalisation. The package "Aviation: Open and Connected Europe" – with its one legislative and three non-legislative proposals – addresses some of these challenges.
The Commission's proposal on the free flow of non-personal data in the European Union represents one of the most important legal aspects of the future European policy for developing the data economy and its repercussions on economic growth, scientific research, industry and services in general and public services in particular.
The European Economic and Social Committee welcomes the opportunity to provide an opinion on the Third report on State of the Energy Union by the European Commission, as it did before for the first and second reports. As expressed in previous opinions, the EESC strongly supports the idea of a European Energy Union and would like to stress that the Energy Union is not only relevant to sectoral policies such as energy, transport and climate but offers opportunities to make Europe more democratic, more cohesive, more competitive, and more just.
The key message of the opinion is that transforming the energy system towards carbon-free, decentralised and digitalised supply offers enormous opportunities, in particular for structurally weak and rural regions in Europe. The development of renewable energy (RE) can have a major and beneficial impact on employment, and can be configured so as to provide a completely new stimulus for the regional economy. There is therefore potential for mutually reinforcing the positive effects of Europe's energy and cohesion policies. The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) finds it regrettable that both the Commission and the Member States have yet to properly recognise this potential, let alone exploit it.
The Justice, Rights and Values Fund is a much-needed instrument for the promotion of EU values, fundamental rights, democracy, the rule of law, and in support of a vibrant and diverse civil society. Overall funding should be increased to EUR 1.4 billion, and innovative funding tools be used to reinforce civil society participation and capacity. 50% of the different strands should be earmarked for civil society organisations, and funding for litigation in support of civil society organisations defending fundamental rights be supported. Synergies should be found with programmes supporting media freedom.
The euro area needs to step up its external representation. This will strengthen its relative weight in international financial institutions and give it a more prominent position in international financial markets. The EESC endorses the rationale behind the two Commission documents and agrees with the main elements of the three-phase scenario to gain a single euro area chair at the IMF by 2025. At the same time, however, the EESC proposes that the Commission also draft scenarios for making stronger and more effective the links with other relevant international bodies, taking particular account of their remits. The EESC also recommends clearly and explicitly defining the roles of euro area external representation and their dovetailing with those of the EU as a whole, with a view to preserving the integrity of the single market.
Alarming political decisions have shown that the EU lacks adequate instruments to safeguard fundamental values and the rule of law. A new European mechanism on the rule of law and fundamental rights is needed. The mechanism should include a regular assessment of Member States in a governance "policy coordination cycle", similar to the European Semester. The EESC should play an active role, as this will make for strong civil society involvement. The mechanism must be based on indicators, taking into account the indivisibility of fundamental economic, social and cultural rights and civil and political rights.