Opinions in the spotlight
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 proposal is intended to introduce some targeted changes to Council Decision No 1313/2013/EU on a Union Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM), under which the European Union supports, coordinates and supplements the action of Member States in the field of civil protection to prevent, prepare for and respond to natural and man-made disasters within and outside the Union. The proposal acknowledges that disaster prevention efforts are crucial to limit the need for crisis and emergency support.
The Justice, Rights and Values Fund is a much-needed instrument for the promotion of EU values, fundamental rights, democracy, the rule of law, and in support of a vibrant and diverse civil society. Overall funding should be increased to EUR 1.4 billion, and innovative funding tools be used to reinforce civil society participation and capacity. 50% of the different strands should be earmarked for civil society organisations, and funding for litigation in support of civil society organisations defending fundamental rights be supported. Synergies should be found with programmes supporting media freedom.
The EESC supports the EU in its efforts to remain a major independent space power and agrees with it acquiring financial resources commensurate with its ambitions.
The EESC also welcomes the importance attached to "space surveillance and tracking" and to the Govsatcom system, calls for close attention to be given to the project of extracting and retrieving natural resources outside the earth's orbit (space mining) and proposes an appropriate campaign, so that citizens realise the added value of European space activities, which are present in their daily lives.
The EESC welcomes the new funds, very different to each other, that will give continuity to the work undertaken, and approves of the increase in their financial allocation. Equal treatment and anti-discrimination policies represent the pillars of European policies, including those concerning the integration of third-country nationals. The removal of the word "integration" from the title is worrying, as this could be seen as reflecting diminishing concern for this aspect. The Committee welcomes the importance given to flexibility in both funds, as this entails acknowledging the importance of better reflecting the needs of each Member States within the framework of joint action.
The EESC welcomes the Third Mobility Package, however, it notes that the Commission's proposal is limited almost exclusively to road transport. In order to develop effectively sustainable and safe mobility, a more ambitious project needs to be developed, taking all available forms of transport into consideration, with a particular focus on intermodality in freight and passenger transport.
The EESC considers the proposed European Investment Stabilisation Function (EISF) as a step towards closer euro area integration, and possibly an attempt to encourage non-euro Member States to join the single currency. However, the EESC is of the view that a well-crafted union-wide insurance scheme that acts as an automatic stabiliser amidst macroeconomic shocks would be more effective than the proposed EISF.
The EESC strongly rejects the Commission's proposal to cut the EU's budget by 10% in real terms and urges the Member States (MS) to find solutions that allow this budget to be kept at the same level as the 2014-2020 programming period.
The EESC welcomes these proposals on sovereign bond-backed securities (SBBSs), which fit into the broader context of completing the Banking Union and building a Capital Markets Union (CMU). Moreover, the proposals also have the potential to make a positive contribution to financial stability and resilience. The EESC has been strongly advocating a weakening of the link between banks and their home countries ("sovereigns") and therefore welcomes that SBBSs aim to contribute to this. The EESC considers that in conceptual terms, the idea of SBBSs is an attractive one and feels that the only way to find out whether banks will switch from bonds from their home countries to SBBSs for their investments and whether investors will be prepared to buy "junior" tranches in sufficient quantities to justify the creation of SBBSs, is to test this new financial instrument - the SBBS - on the market.