In an opinion adopted at its plenary session on 23 February, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) welcomed the communication of the European Commission (EC) on this year's Annual Sustainable Growth Survey, outlining the priorities and guiding principles for the 2022 European Semester cycle. The Committee applauded the unprecedented actions of solidarity taken by the EU in dealing with the COVID-19 crisis. The impact on economic activity, however, has been significant, and the level of uncertainty in Europe continues to rise.
- European Green Deal must lead to more economic prosperity and convergence
- Sustainable growth must be a top priority
- Measures to close the investment gap are essential
The EESC draws forward-looking conclusions from the 2019 Semester and the Committee's civil society consultations in the Member States
The European Union should grasp the opportunity of the new political mandate and financial period to improve its economic policy coordination and governance. The European Semester should become the most important element of economic policy coordination and a multi-level and multi-actor governance approach should be implemented, says the European Economic and Social Committee. It suggests that an EESC competence centre for exchange of information could be established to address implementation concerns in relation to a future EU strategy.
The European Semester should be based on the principles of partnership and multilevel governance modelled on the partnership agreements existing in cohesion policy, as this bottom-up approach will contribute to more clarity, legitimacy and ownership at implementing level. This was one of the main messages of a hearing held by the European Economic and Social Committee on 11 June.
Building up a more sustainable and resilient European economy and completing Economic and Monetary Union should be priorities for the next European Commission and European Parliament: these points emerged from a public hearing held by the European Economic and Social Committee on 12 April 2019.
A resilient, sustainable and inclusive Europe is only possible if organised civil society is systematically involved in both national recovery plans and the Commission's new REPowerEU strategy. During its annual conference in June, the European Semester Group (ESG) renewed its call for a regulation or directive to ensure civil society participation, and proposed a permanent and common investment financing mechanism to enhance crisis preparedness and response capacity.
In its resolution on the involvement of organised civil society in the implementation and monitoring of the National Recovery and Resilience Plans (NRRPs) the European Economic and Social Committee calls for clear rules to effectively involve social partners and civil society organisations in the Member states' strategies to bring the economy back on track.
When NextGenerationEU and the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) were set up, the EESC's European Semester Group (ESG) welcomed them and stressed the need to link these tools to the European semester's policy framework, the functioning of which would probably need to be overhauled as a result of the introduction of these new tools. Furthermore, the ESG continues to see these tools as an effective way of taking European integration one step forward, while at the same time pointing out means of overcoming the crises currently facing the European Union.
The Recovery and Resilience Facility is moving into its next phase, and the European Semester Group of the EESC is following the process. In this high-level conference we will discuss whether the national recovery and resilience plans will deliver as regards the aim of achieving fair, inclusive, competitive and sustainable growth and cohesion through the new growth strategy – the European Green Deal. Focus will be on the implementation of the national recovery and resilience plans, with particular attention on the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights and the just transition towards a green, digital and sustainable European economy. The conclusions of this event will be forwarded to EU institutions and the "EU Recovery Summit" conference in Lisbon on 28 June 2021.