The EESC advocates the creation of an integrated European fund to combat poverty and social exclusion, based on the experiences of the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD) and the European Social Fund (ESF). The current use of the ESF and the FEAD in the Member States should be monitored more effectively and the process should involve civil society organisations. Member States should make greater use of global grants and regranting, and treat in-kind contributions on an equal footing with financial contributions. A greater share of the resources allocated to operational programmes should be earmarked for projects with smaller budgets. The EESC is ready to develop – in cooperation with CSOs – a consultation platform to ensure better coordination of ESF and FEAD interventions and to enable discussion on the basic principles of a future integrated EU fund.
The Committee welcomes the increased attention brought to social investment, a greater targeting of European funds to sound employment and social policies, a dedicated youth employment initiative and youth guarantee scheme, and better cross-border mobility. It also welcomes the foreseen strengthened social dialogue as part of the European Semester process. It particularly supports the idea to step up closer surveillance of employment and social imbalances within the EMU through a systematic monitoring of rates of unemployment, of young people not in employment or training or education, of household income, poverty and inequality. The proposed scoreboard should pro-actively detect asymmetric developments and spill-over into overall economic performance and trigger a timely and effective adjustment mechanism and policy response.
The EESC adopted this opinion after in-depth work carried out during the four meetings of the study group. The opinion also reflects the national debates with civil society organisations carried out in all Member States between 2 September and 2 November 2016. These discussions were coordinated by three members of the EESC ('trios') from the country concerned, often in cooperation with the European Commission (15 debates) or the national economic and social council (7 debates). Participants came from a wide range of employers' and trade union organisations and other civil society organisations, as well as, to a lesser extent, from the academic world. A total of 116 EESC members and nearly 1,800 representatives of civil society organisations participated in the 28 debates. The conclusions/recommendations of the national debates have been grouped in the opinion, while the reports on the national debates will be published separately.
The EESC takes note of the Fourth Report on the State of the Energy Union (SEU), supports the objectives of the Energy Union and welcomes the emphasis on the engagement and mobilisation of EU society to take full ownership of the Energy Union.
The 2030 Agenda, the new global framework for sustainable development agreed by the UN in 2015, needs to be reflected in EU's development policy, the major orientations of which are set out in the 2005 European Consensus on Development ("the Consensus").
To this end, the Commission issued Communication COM(2016) 740, "Proposal for a New European Consensus on Development: Our World, Our Dignity, Our Future" in November 2016. Interinstitutional negotiations are expected to result in its endorsement in the form of a Joint Statement by the Council, the European Parliament and the Commission, in May 2017.