While the recovery after COVID-19 crisis is a top priority, the EESC stresses that this should not steer the EU away from its medium and long-term objectives, as outlined in the European Green Deal, 2020 Sustainable Growth Strategy, and the European Pillar for Social Rights. There is a need for a resilient, technology-driven European economy that is defined by the protection of the environment. The EESC underlines that strategies aimed at enhanced economic sustainability need to be developed around productivity, but they cannot be allowed to happen at the expense of workers' rights and social development. The EESC advocates for re-thinking supply chains, underlines that social aspects should be emphasised, start-ups should be encouraged and that the cornerstone of sustainable economic growth in the EU should be the creation and development of a truly circular economy. Open dialogue with social partners and civil society remains key to setting the economic direction.
The coronavirus outbreak will have a deep and negative impact on the achievement of the SDGs and the objectives of the European Green Deal. For this reason, the EESC insists on the need to face this urgent threat as soon as possible and focus our recovery efforts without undue delay on the SDGs and the Green Deal. The Sustainable Europe Investment Plan (SEIP) is the first comprehensive policy measure to fulfil very ambitious targets of carbon neutrality until 2050 in line with the EU Green Deal. While saluting the Green Deal's ambitions, the EESC regrets the lack of consistency with the budgetary allocation within the next Multiannual Financial Framework and also expresses its doubts about the effectiveness of climate mainstreaming in all EU programmes and calls on the Member States to involve civil society organisations in pushing for climate-proof EU spending.
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.
Although considerable progress has already been made towards completing EMU, there is still a need to significantly reinforce all four of its pillars, taking care to maintain the balance between them, as neglecting one or more of these pillars could result in dangerous disparities. Resilience to crises is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for completing EMU: it also requires a positive vision, as set out in Article 3 of the EU Treaty. The EESC generally calls on the European institutions and national governments to take much more ambitious action in the context of EMU reform in order to achieve a more integrated, more democratic and socially better developed Union.
In the opinion, the Committee states that taxation policy in general and combating tax fraud in particular must remain a priority for the next European Commission. In this line, the EESC endorses a debate on gradually shifting to QMV and the ordinary legislative procedure in tax matters, while recognising that all Member States must at all times have sufficient possibilities to participate in the decision-making process. Moreover, the Committee believes that any new rule must be fit-for-purpose and that certain conditions need to be met to successfully implement QMV: a sufficiently strong EU budget; better coordinated economic policy; and a substantial analytical work assessing to what extent current tax measures have been insufficient.
The EESC notes that the international role of the euro has not yet recovered to the pre-financial crisis level. Whereas the European Commission's proposed measures are welcome and deemed necessary by the EESC, they may not go far enough given the extent of the euro area's social and economic challenges. Social cohesion, economic upward convergence and the promotion of competitiveness and innovation should be the basis on which the euro area's economy gathers pace and supports a stronger international role for the euro.
The EESC welcomes the Investment Plan for Europe for its contribution to the promotion of investment in the EU. The Committee calls for clearly set investment targets, regulatory simplification and further guidance in order to achieve greater geographical and sectoral balance. The EESC advocates for strengthened financial capacity for the InvestEU programme within the Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 and calls for more efforts to raise awareness among European businesses and citizens about the benefits obtained from the Investment Plan for Europe.
The Future of the EU: Benefits to citizens and respect for European values (Exploratory opinion at the request of the Romanian Presidency)
The opinion tables proposals on how to enhance the European project and bring it closer to its citizens.
The EESC welcomes the reforms aimed at increasing high-quality investment and productivity growth, inclusiveness and institutional quality, and to ensure macro-financial stability and sound public finances. The EESC also welcomes the recognition of the need for investment focused on education and training and the need to strengthen the EU’s social dimension. However, it remains to be specified how these objectives are to be achieved. The EESC underlines that progress is very slow and proposals often rather modest in areas where new policies have been proposed, including fair taxation, the banking union and the functioning of the euro area. Moreover, the EESC recognises the importance of addressing climate change but measures so far adopted remain insufficient.