At the request of the future Bulgarian presidency of the Council of the EU (January-June 2018), the EESC was asked to prepare an exploratory opinion on the challenges and priorities countries of the Western Balkans are facing in the European integration process, as well as in the area of economic and social cohesion. Western Balkans will be one of the policy priorities of the Bulgarian presidency and a Western Balkans Summit is scheduled to take place in May 2018 in Sofia.
Pareri i cui relatori, correlatori o relatori generali sono membri del gruppo Lavoratori
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 EESC appreciates the proposed roadmap for completing the European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) but its support is not full and enthusiastic, since a number of social, political and economic issues, highlighted in our previous opinions, were not taken into consideration. The completion of the EMU requires first of all strong political commitment, efficient governance and better use of the available finances, in order to actually cope with both risk reduction and risk sharing among Member States. For these reasons the EESC underlines that the principles of responsibility and solidarity at EU level should go hand in hand.
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 EU has one of the world's most open investment regimes, and collectively EU Member States have the fewest restrictions in the world on foreign direct investment (FDI). The OECD expressly acknowledged this in its FDI Regulatory Restrictiveness Index which measures statutory barriers against foreign investment in over 60 countries.
The Commission's reflection paper of 10 May 2017 on Harnessing Globalisation recognised increasing concerns about foreign investors' strategic acquisitions of European companies with key technologies. These concerns called into question the capacity of the current regulatory framework to address them.
The EESC welcomes the efforts made by the EC to address the persistent pay gap between men and women by proposing an Action Plan with eight areas for action, but finds that each area should be further developed. It is important to look at the stereotypes that affect career choices, as well as to the underlying causes of labour market segregation, in order to counter them. It agrees with the EC proposal for pay transparency and pay audits to be introduced in order to facilitate the collection of individualised data and develop appropriate action plans at sector and business level. Moreover, it welcomes the EC recognition of the crucial role social partners play in this, while also highlighting the contribution of civil society organisations. Finally, it insists on the need to obtain additional resources, as part of the Multiannual Financial Framework, to implement the Action Plan, including the financing of childcare facilities and long-term care services.
The European maritime technology industry is an important sector in terms of employment, directly providing more than 500 000 jobs. Shipyards and firms manufacturing marine equipment make a significant contribution to the economic development of the regions where they are located, and across the entire supply chain, which is particularly important to SMEs. Each direct job in a European shipyard means, on average, seven jobs created in the region.
Persistent organic pollutants ("POPs") are chemical substances that persist in the environment, bioaccumulate through the food web, and pose a risk to human health and the environment.
The aim of this proposal for a regulation is that the Commission has identified needs to update and recast the existing regulation on Persistent Organic Pollutants that dates back to 2004.
The introduction of digitalisation in business is having a momentous impact on the production systems, labour conditions and organisational models of the labour market and the society in general. Quality basic education, high-standard and effective training, lifelong learning, up- and re-skilling for all will be the necessary tools for grasping the job opportunities of the future and fostering enterprise competitiveness. In this context, it is important to keep a human-centred approach and to find ways to accompany vulnerable people who will not be able to respond to the growing demands of the new technological era.
Social sustainability is achieved through the reaffirmation of the role and value of the European social model, which represents the identity and specificity of our continent and which guarantees high social protection and citizenship rights for all. There is a clear connection between competitiveness, productivity and social sustainability: all stakeholders must commit themselves to promoting inclusive growth and at the same time foster conditions that are favourable for the world of enterprise, with the aim of creating more and better jobs.