The EESC is concerned to note the euro area's economic downturn and the gradual end to a fall in unemployment, wedded to the persistent higher incidence of risk factors affecting economic performance. It is the European Green Deal that the EESC sees as the backbone of the future EU and euro-area economic configuration – the potential start of a fundamental change and a turning point. If managed successfully, it could move Europe up a gear economically and socially; if not, its failure could fatally jeopardise the integrity of the EU.
The EESC takes note of the Fourth Report on the State of the Energy Union (SEU), supports the objectives of the Energy Union and welcomes the emphasis on the engagement and mobilisation of EU society to take full ownership of the Energy Union.
Liberal democracy relies on civil liberties and a pluralistic civil society, but considerable political forces in today's Europe are challenging liberal democracy. The social, political and legal framework must allow for a pluralistic civil society. Strong social partners and civil society are needed to defend EU values. The EESC calls for the creation of a Democracy Semester, a European control mechanism, corrective economic measures for non-respect of fundamental EU values, the creation of a European statute for CSOs, or interinstitutional CSO authorisation and, tax incentives to support civil society. Burning social questions must be tackled, ensuring social sustainability and inclusive education.
The biggest challenge now facing Europe's economy is how to sustain the recovery that is now underway. This is the main message of the 2014 Annual Growth Survey (AGS). Its adoption kicks off the fourth European Semester of economic policy coordination in an environment where growth is beginning to return and Member States are making progress on correcting the imbalances that developed before the crisis.
The 2013 Annual Growth Survey (AGS), which launches the European semester, sets out what the Commission believes should be the overall budgetary, economic and social priorities for the this year. Given the importance of the involvement of the organised civil society and the social partners in setting priorities for action at the national and EU level, the EESC issues its opinion as a contribution to the debates ahead of the Spring European Council.