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The EESC believes that income and wealth inequalities in the EU have become economic and social challenges that should be addressed with appropriate measures at national level and with the support of EU-level action.
A well-functioning system of social transfers and social assistance is thus needed. Fiscal redistribution should to a large extent complement the gaps in the market system. Public assets (social infrastructure, facilities for services in the public interest, etc.) should be developed as a means of addressing inequalities. And fiscal income should be shifted from labour-based taxation towards a more wealth-based one, with taxation on inheritance and capital income. Overall, Intensive economic growth is key to reducing poverty and wealth inequalities.
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.
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 welcomes the "Action Plan on VAT", and calls for a definitive VAT system that is clear, consistent, robust and comprehensive, as well as proportionate and future-proof. The Committee welcomes the strong focus on closing the VAT gap and tackling the susceptibility of VAT to fraud. There should be results delivered without delay, including by improving cooperation between tax administrations. “Bona fide” enterprises should be protected and no new excessive measures should be imposed on them. The future system of reduced rates must combine flexibility and legal certainty, be transparent, and for the sake of simplicity the number of reduced rates and exemptions must be limited.
The EESC endorses the aims of the Commission proposals in the area of the CCCTB and recommends the greatest efforts be made to pursue the CCCTB by consensus. The Committee recognizes that the Commission relaunched the CCCTB proposal both with the objective to aid the single market and to combat aggressive tax planning, attributing income where the value is created.
The EESC notes that the international role of the euro has not yet recovered to the pre-financial crisis level. Whereas the European Commission's proposed measures are welcome and deemed necessary by the EESC, they may not go far enough given the extent of the euro area's social and economic challenges. Social cohesion, economic upward convergence and the promotion of competitiveness and innovation should be the basis on which the euro area's economy gathers pace and supports a stronger international role for the euro.
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.
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.
Fighting against tax avoidance and aggressive tax planning, both at the EU and at a global level, is an important political priority for the European Union. The EESC welcomes and endorses the Commission proposal, which aims to make the taxation system more transparent as this measure will boost public confidence. The EESC suggests that the Commission should aim for a more ambitious package. It proposes the disclosure of a wider range of data, the gradual reduction of the turnover threshold of EUR 750 Million and that the disclosed data is made publicly available in one of the official languages of the EU in order to achieve the objective of giving the public genuine access to data for the whole single market.