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.
This opinion is on the Annual Growth Survey 2018 (AGS), which establishes the main economic priorities and provides policy guidance for the following year. The European Commission published the 2018 AGS on 22 November 2017 as part of the European Semester Autumn Package. The 2018 AGS is focused on fostering job creation and growth and establishes three main priorities: boosting investment to support the recovery and to increase long-term growth; structural reforms for inclusive growth, upward convergence and competitiveness; responsible fiscal policies to support sustainability and convergence.
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.
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) endorses the priorities set out in the European Commission's 2017 Annual Growth Survey.
The European Semester is seen as a good instrument for further progress in policies and reform, leading to recovery and employment. The AGS 2017 outlines the most pressing economic and social priorities, accompanied by specific recommendations, however the EESC takes very seriously the negative aspects of the rules of the Stability and Growth Pact and Country-Specific Recommendations applied at national level to set the euro area fiscal stance.
The EESC agrees with the Latvian Presidency, recognizing the fundamental importance of the EU 2020 Strategy review to boosting European competitiveness. The Europe 2020 and the Investment Plan should be much more closely linked in the way that it could remedy the main shortcomings of the Europe 2020 Strategy. The Structural Funds should focus more on the implementation of environmental programs or those with a human aspect, which would also promote the sustainable development of factors "beyond GDP".
The EESC welcomes the AGS 2015, but reminds that it is not possible to implement a growth plan that supports job creation measures without investment. Social investment can play a critical role in the promotion of welfare and the eradication of poverty and exclusion. The Committee welcomes the streamlining of the European Semester and acknowledges the efforts made by the Commission to encourage more civil society participation. The review of the Europe 2020 strategy should be published in a timely manner in order to give stakeholders sufficient time to prepare their positions.