This additional opinion updates and complements the proposals made in the original ASGS opinion, adopted in February this year. The EESC welcomes the step forward towards embracing a more social, inclusive and sustainable economic model, particularly given the economic and social effects of COVID-19. To support the economic recovery and public investment, and in support of a digital and green transformation, the EESC believes that a revision of the Stability and Growth Pact, flexibility in state aid rules and a rethink of tax policy is necessary. Well-resourced public health measures and social security systems are likewise of vital importance. The EESC also welcomes the Commission's proposals for Next Generation EU and sees the ASGS as an opportunity for the EU to shift towards an economic model that gives equal weighing to both economic and social objectives.
The European Semester and Cohesion policy - Towards a new European strategy post-2020 (own-initiative opinion) - Related Opinions
While the recovery after COVID-19 crisis is a top priority, the EESC stresses that this should not steer the EU away from its medium and long-term objectives, as outlined in the European Green Deal, 2020 Sustainable Growth Strategy, and the European Pillar for Social Rights. There is a need for a resilient, technology-driven European economy that is defined by the protection of the environment. The EESC underlines that strategies aimed at enhanced economic sustainability need to be developed around productivity, but they cannot be allowed to happen at the expense of workers' rights and social development. The EESC advocates for re-thinking supply chains, underlines that social aspects should be emphasised, start-ups should be encouraged and that the cornerstone of sustainable economic growth in the EU should be the creation and development of a truly circular economy. Open dialogue with social partners and civil society remains key to setting the economic direction.
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.
Although considerable progress has already been made towards completing EMU, there is still a need to significantly reinforce all four of its pillars, taking care to maintain the balance between them, as neglecting one or more of these pillars could result in dangerous disparities. Resilience to crises is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for completing EMU: it also requires a positive vision, as set out in Article 3 of the EU Treaty. The EESC generally calls on the European institutions and national governments to take much more ambitious action in the context of EMU reform in order to achieve a more integrated, more democratic and socially better developed Union.
The objective of this proposal is to provide an update of EESC's positions related to the cohesion package presented by the Commission on May 2018. While the discussions in the Council and the Parliament are still ongoing, this opinion will reflect better the developments in view of a successful cohesion policy in the post-2020 period.
The Romanian presidency who has asked for this opinion proposes that the conclusions drawn in this opinion could stimulate the informal ministerial debate of the cohesion ministers to be held in April 2019.
The EESC welcomes the reforms aimed at increasing high-quality investment and productivity growth, inclusiveness and institutional quality, and to ensure macro-financial stability and sound public finances. The EESC also welcomes the recognition of the need for investment focused on education and training and the need to strengthen the EU’s social dimension. However, it remains to be specified how these objectives are to be achieved. The EESC underlines that progress is very slow and proposals often rather modest in areas where new policies have been proposed, including fair taxation, the banking union and the functioning of the euro area. Moreover, the EESC recognises the importance of addressing climate change but measures so far adopted remain insufficient.
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.