This exploratory opinion, requested by the Lithuanian presidency, sheds light on the specific contribution that State-owned enterprises can make to the EU's competitiveness. It pinpoints the specific challenges that exist in this area for EU policy and the European institutions. As part of its consideration of the way in which public undertakings could contribute more to the EU's economic recovery and competitiveness, the Committee has addressed the issue of Europe's Services of General Economic Interest in a number of opinions. The EESC also raises the question of the economic activities of the EU's executive agencies, wondering if they are truly independent, while their tasks and responsibilities lead them to be directly involved in socio-economic activities.
The proposed measures of the services package aim to make it easier for services providers to navigate administrative formalities, helping Member States identify overly burdensome or outdated requirements on professionals operating domestically or across borders. Rather than amending existing EU rules in the services area, the Commission focuses on ensuring better application.
In July 2013, the EESC has adopted an Opinion on Industrial policy in which industrial policy was qualified as a Growth initiative with great potentials. Following up the Opinion it is suggested to discuss somewhat underestimated aspects of the on-going industrial cycle that are vital for future growth and jobs, entailing huge consequences for (manufacturing) industry. It is about the impact of services, digitalisation, ICT and new variations in the same framework - such as 3D printing and other applications (ICT-plus) - on the industrial processes. Services are an increasing part of the European economy, and creating more jobs than manufacturing. The ICT-industry itself is growing in Europe by 10% annually. Services and ICT-plus have huge socio-economic and political implications.
The directive on services in the Internal Market was designed to promote competitiveness, growth and employment in line with the Lisbon Strategy. It has, at the same time, triggered an intensive debate on the form to be taken by the freedom to provide services. The effects of the Directive on national labour markets, social conditions and consumer protection requirements remain a highly controversial issue.
The EESC considers the Commission's conclusions on the impact of the Services Directive and on the functioning of the services sector to be premature. The directive has been in force for only a few years. Not all the Member States are equally satisfied with the directive and they need to implement it in their own legislation in their own way; these are complicating factors that are not taken into account in the communication. The services sector is large and complex, with many different branches, and it will take time to streamline the single market for services by means of European legislation.
Health and related sectors are a central aspect of human existence and thus attract particular attention of citizens. The sectors of biomedical engineering and the medical and care services industry – including research and development – are among the fastest growing industrial areas, in terms of turnover as well as employment. Under biomedical engineering we understand the bridging between methods of engineering and medicine and biology for diagnostic and therapeutic measures in healthcare – including, among others, biologics and biopharmaceuticals, pharmaceutical drugs, various types of devices for chemical or biological analysis or processing as well as the development of medical equipment and technology for cure, treatment and prevention of disease. The combination of research and development, engineering and industrial production, and medical and care services is particularly important.