The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) welcomes the approach under Article 16(3) of the Common Provisions Regulation of summarising and presenting the results of negotiations between Member State (MS) authorities and their partners in order to provide an overview of the main achievements of this process. The EESC believes that this offers the necessary starting-point for assessing and monitoring the effective and efficient use of the scarce resources available for the financial period 2014-2020 and for better monitoring of performance and progress towards achieving indicator targets.
- welcomes the thematic concentration and focus on possible ways of mitigating the negative effects of the crisis;
- particularly appreciates the new instruments and approaches such as the Youth Employment Initiative, the European Alliance for Apprenticeships and the new fund to combat poverty;
- warns however that whenever the decisions and risks involved are passed on to the MS, there is a high probability that they will adopt a too conservative approach to avoid possible sanctions from the Commission, thereby preventing a large proportion of eligible beneficiaries from accessing the ESIFs;
- calls for simplified procedures, in particular, for group exemptions from the state aid rules for organisations representing disabled people and groups of beneficiaries in vulnerable positions;
- praises the Commission for taking a step forward in adopting the European Code of Conduct on Partnership. On the other hand, the EESC has some concerns about the different practices employed at national level which place the social partners in an unequal position;
- calls for a mid-term review of the regulations governing investment through the ESIFs;
- urges the Commission to maintain the course set out in the Political Guidelines of the Juncker Commission;
- expresses its regret that during the last ten years no workable solution, valid for all MS, has been found that provides for a highly transparent, swift and efficient way of choosing subcontractors when the ESIFs are used;
- believes that the EU funds should be used not only to achieve the targets of Europe 2020 but also for more investments in the real economy. The Commission should introduce quantified evaluation of the effectiveness and efficiency of the contribution of funds already invested;
- urges the Commission to devote more effort to extending the coverage of the Small Business Act at national and regional levels and to oblige the MS to implement it, especially when it comes to ESIF investment.