Competitiveness is not an end in itself. It is only a sensible objective if it improves people's well-being in practice. The EESC therefore recommends that an updated definition of competitiveness ("competitiveness 2.0") be used in future, taking into account "the ability of a country to deliver the beyond-GDP goals for its citizens". The EESC urges that future discussions refer not to "competitiveness boards" but to "boards for competitiveness, social cohesion and sustainability". The EESC asks the Commission to present concrete proposals on how the following necessary requirements with regards to these boards can be safeguarded: accountability, legitimacy and transparency; representation of balanced unbiased expertise; non-binding character of proposals of the boards; inclusion of the dual role of wages, both as a cost factor and as the main determinant of domestic demand.
The Commission communication on Steps towards completing EMU can provide a great opportunity to launch a debate at political level and with civil society to draw up conclusive proposals which go further than the current ones. It would be more useful to draw up a proposal for the European Semester as part of a comprehensive agreement on economic governance that goes beyond the status quo, changing macroconditionality and strengthening the Interparliamentary Conference. Democratic legitimacy is not tackled seriously by any of the Commission's operational proposals. The tripartite social dialogue could contribute to this matter. On the basis of its own roadmap, the EESC is committed to putting forward, possibly with the Commission, a plan on stage two (Completing EMU 2017-2025) to discuss these issues in the Member States, beginning with the euro area countries.
The EESC expresses its support for the Commission in combating the erosion of Member States' tax bases and unfair tax competition. The Committee in this context endorses the introduction of a CCCTB and is also pleased that the Commission has published a list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions. The EESC goes even further and proposes that EU rules should include sanctions for companies that continue to run their business through tax havens.
The Economy for the Common Good model proposes the transition towards a "European Ethical Market" which will foster social innovation, boost the employment rate and benefit the environment, for example through using indicators of wellbeing and social development beyond the GDP such as the Common Good Product and the Common Good Balance Sheet. The EESC considers that the Economy for the Common Good model is conceived to be included both in the European and the domestic legal framework and demands from the European Commission, in the framework of the upcoming renewed CSR strategy, to make a qualitative step in order to reward (in terms of public procurement, access to external markets, tax advantages, etc.) those enterprises that can demonstrate higher ethical performance.
Studies point to new dynamics in the world economy with substantial consequences for the competitiveness of national economies. The theme of the information report is inspired by a recent study of the Boston Consulting Group. In analysing in-depth the cost-related aspects in manufacturing among a great many countries the study proves that traditional views about the relationship between the developed and underdeveloped/emerging economies is becoming obsolete. In all groupings there are frontrunners and slow developers...
The EESC wants the conditions be created for an efficient, modern financial services sector with appropriate regulations, which grants access to capital providers by companies seeking investment, especially SMEs and high growth companies, and finds it of utmost importance to overcome the current fragmentation of the markets.
Since a Capital Markets Union (CMU) is to a significant extent a reality for large companies, the EESC stresses the need for measures that will also allow SMEs to benefit from it, for example through accepting simplified standardised criteria for registration on regulated markets, and providing a definition of an emerging growth and high growth company and devoting special attention to the needs of such companies on the capital market.
The Food and drink Industry is the largest manufacturing sector in the EU economy employing directly 4.25 million workers in the EU. It is a non-cyclical and resilient pillar with a strong presence in all member states. It processes 70% of EU agriculture produce and provides safe, quality and nutritious food to the benefit of European consumers, besides being the largest global exporter of food and drink products. The sector generates 7% of EU GDP and should be an important contributor to achieve the EU target set in the 2020 strategy of achieving the necessary expansion of the manufacturing sector that will make it a contributor of 20% of European GDP.
The EESC is of the opinion that persisting imbalances as well as the creation of trust and confidence across Europe require more effective and democratic economic governance, notably in the Eurozone. It has become clear that the current system of rules underpinning the EU, and particularly the euro area, has created confusion on the legal, institutional and democratic fronts. A new approach is therefore needed. With this in mind, the Committee presents its contribution to the new five presidents' report which will propose next steps on better economic governance to the European Council in June. The EESC contribution summarises the different stages and puts forward institutional proposals and preparatory initiatives regarding the completion of the political pillar of the Economic and Monetary Union.
The European economic governance rules, conceived in crisis, played an important role in fiscal consolidation and economic policy coordination, but the cost was high in terms of growth and employment. The quantitative easing measures now being embarked upon by the European Central Bank need to be matched by greater political initiatives by the Member States. In the review of the Multiannual Financial Framework in 2016, there is a need to back urgent structural reforms of common EU interest with some form of fiscal capacity. A reasonable deviation from the 3% deficit parameter should be considered as a temporary exception for a given number of years and not be automatically liable to sanctions. A lack of implementation of country-specific recommendations (CSRs) could be countered by real involvement of civil society and the social partners in drawing up CSRs.
The EESC welcomes the Investment Plan for Europe as a step in the right direction, which however faces serious questions about the Plan's size and timescale, the high degree of leverage expected and the potential flow of suitable projects. The Plan proposes that contributions to the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) from Member States will not be included in budget deficit calculations and this is to be welcomed, but it begs the question as to why ongoing strategic public infrastructure expenditures are not treated in the same way. Strategic public investment which underpins present and future economic development should be incentivised by a more benign European fiscal framework.