This opinion underlines that the Social Imbalances Procedure (SIP) would offer an opportunity to improve the coordination of national efforts to achieve upward social convergence. It recommends that the SIP should be integrated into the European Semester, throughout its different phases. The opinion proposes social imbalances to be defined as the critical situations identified by the social scoreboard and clear deviations from the path towards achieving the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan targets. It also suggests that the Commission and the Member States consider making existing rules for funds allocation more flexible so that they can be quickly adapted to current societal challenges and critical situations identified in the implementation of the SIP.
Funding the European Pillar of Social Rights (own-initiative opinion) - Related Opinions
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This opinion, based on a referral by the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU, aims at presenting the key elements of sustainable quality work during and after recovery. The EESC considers quality of work as one of the fundamental components of quality of life. The principle of quality of work for quality of life must be followed, as this is a prerequisite for sustainable social development. The EESC therefore firmly believes that it should be given special attention in EU policies, as it must prevent the risks of inequality, poverty, social exclusion and unfair competition. The EESC notes that the Recovery and Resilience Facility does not directly address the components of quality work, and therefore calls on the Commission to supplement this part of the facility. Vulnerable groups, such as precarious and young workers, who have been hit hardest by the epidemic, should not be overlooked.
In this opinion, the EESC underlines that the Action Plan on the European Pillar of Social Rights should be based on concreteness and tangibility, with actions that are measurable and accompanied by monitoring frameworks jointly agreed among relevant stakeholders and encompassing the social, environmental, and economic criteria. The EESC acknowledges the diversity and the common basis of social models across the EU. Competitiveness and higher productivity based on skills and knowledge are a sound recipe for maintaining the well-being of European societies. The EESC further believes that greater efforts can be made at EU and Member State level in the area of combating poverty, in line with the first Sustainable Development Goal under the UN 2030 Agenda.
This additional opinion complements and updates the proposals made in the yearly EESC AGS opinion. The EESC welcomes country-specific recommendations focus on investment and underlines that special attention must be paid to productive investments and investment in social infrastructure to prioritise sustainable growth. Next year's cycle should contain more CSRs to combat the existential threat of climate change. Investment would also be needed to enable the implementation of the social pillar to prevent an increase of social, economic, and environmental inequality. Taxation should favour this type of investment.
The absence of economic and social convergence among Member States and regions is a threat to the political sustainability of the European project and all the benefits it has brought to European citizens. Developing economic and labour market resilience with economic, social, environmental and institutional sustainability should be the principle guiding policies. This will foster upwards convergence and fairness in the transition towards a climate-neutral economy while managing the challenges posed by digitalisation and demographic change.
The opinion tables proposals on how to enhance the European project and bring it closer to its citizens.
The EESC welcomes the proposal for the ESF+ to improve merge funds and simplify procedures, but is critical of a financial cut in EU cohesion policy, and, as regards the ESF+, of the 6% decrease of the funding allocated to it. It calls for 30% of total resources for economic, social and territorial cohesion policies to be allocated to the ESF+ and for 30% of the ESF+ resources to be earmarked for social inclusion measures.
Europeans need more (and better) Europe. The powers and financial resources currently allocated to the EU have been increasingly misaligned with the concerns and expectations of Europeans. The EESC, in accordance with the European Parliament's position, therefore proposes that the expenditure and revenue figure reach 1.3% of GNI. The proposed level of commitments of 1.11% of the EU's GNI is too modest to credibly deliver on the political agenda of the EU.
The EESC recognises the high European added value of the programmes where the MFF 2021-2027 concentrates the main increases in expenditure. However, the Committee questions the fact that these increases are made at the cost of strong cuts in cohesion policy (-10%) and the Common Agricultural Policy – CAP (-15%).
Delivering on balanced economic growth and social progress should be the guiding principle for the debate on the social dimension of Europe. A clear road map for the implementation of European Pillar of Social Rights is advisable with clear assignment of tasks coupled with accountability. The social dimension debate is connected to the debate on deepening the EMU. Social policy has to be embedded in a different EU economic policy. A strong EU can shape globalisation and digitalisation to the benefit of all.
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