The 2030 Agenda represents a breakthrough in multilateral cooperation, in the sense that it puts social and human development on a par with economic progress, and sees these three dimensions as a whole. Whereas the MDGs (Millennium Development goals) addressed primarily developing countries, this new Agenda is a transformational and universal agenda for all countries, and promotes a new, inclusive and participatory method of decision-making. The EU showed significant leadership in the process leading up to the adoption of the new SDGs (Sustainable Development Goasl). The opinion stresses that the EU needs to hold up its credibility both internally and externally, when it comes to implementing the Agenda and its 17 goals. Pointing to the universal and indivisible nature of the Agenda, the opinion underlines the importance of an EU response at the highest level, providing a robust base on which an overarching EU strategy should be founded.
Secção das Relações Externas (REX) - Related Opinions
On 12 June 2014, the Commission presented a proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council codifying Council Regulation (EC) No 673/2005 of 25 April 2005 establishing additional customs duties on imports of certain products originating in the United States of America.
The EESC has played an important role in strengthening an informed civil society debate on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) through a number of TTIP-related opinions, adopted in 2014 and 2015, covering issues such as labour rights, investment protection, impact on SMEs, among others.
It is important under the present circumstances that the EESC, in order to maintain its position as a key civil society player in the TTIP debate, react to the textual proposals for TTIP negotiations on essential topics such as the sustainable development chapter, regulatory cooperation, investment and services. This will have the advantage not only of setting up the EESC position on major negotiating chapters but also of presenting concrete recommendations and pointing out the need to involve civil society in the implementation of those chapters.
The EESC recommends that the EU should aim to achieve a modern, equal and effective partnership with the ACP countries that transcends a donor-recipient relationship and is based on a coherent and integrated EU external policy, based on the principle of Policy Coherence for Development (PCD). This framework should guarantee the involvement of civil society organisations, including the private sector, whose specific task should be to monitor and assess the impact of the implementation of this Agreement on the sustainable development of the Parties. Civil society should be provided with the technical and financial support needed to undertake this role.
The EESC recommends that all forms of development support that the EU gives to third countries should fall under the same legal framework and should be subject to the same democratic scrutiny by the European Parliament, while retaining the same positive aspects of the EDF.
The EU acknowledges the increasing importance of including the EU and partner countries' companies in the GSCs. It is also emphasised that the current interdependence of the economies may further increase due to the recently negotiated and implemented EU trade and investment agreements, as well as negotiations at the WTO. The EESC also recommends cooperation between international organisations and other relevant stakeholders. This would include adopting a common language and common definitions of elements related to global value chains, GSCs and decent work, and comparison and assessment of the statistical data between the various stakeholders, such as the OECD, the International Labour Organisation (ILO), WTO, the European Commission, the World Bank and IFM. This should help avoid confusion and misinterpretation, and support elaboration of a coherent policy between diverse public bodies involved.
The proposal on an International Procurement Instrument (IPI) is the EU response to the lack of a level playing field in world procurement markets. While our public procurement market is open to foreign bidders, the procurement markets for foreign goods and services in third countries remain to a large extent closed de iure or de facto. The IPI aims at encouraging partners to engage in negotiations and opening participation for EU bidders and goods in third countries' tenders. A first proposal on this issue was made in 2012 (COM(2012) 124 final) but there was no agreement in the Council. The new Commission proposal incorporates some of the changes requested from the European Parliament and tries to reply to some of the concerns expressed in the Council. A number of Member States have expressed reservations as regards the principle of closing the EU market for goods and services originating in certain third countries, even if only temporarily and in a targeted way.
The EESC already produced an opinion on the same topic in January 2009 (see 'Related EESC Opinions'), but the geo-political developments over the past 7 years (Arab spring, increased tensions with Russia over the Eastern Partnership, crises in the Middle East, fluctuating oil prices) and other economic and technical factors (level of oil prices, new LNG terminals, debate around fracking, etc.) suggest a revision of this opinion.
With this Opinion, the EESC wishes to weigh in on the new EU Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy, which is expected to be presented to the Council before the summer. The rapporteur argues that internal and external policy are intertwined and both require better coordination of policies, objectives and resources. Social exclusion today is a key factor in crises, and the EU must be a defender of equality and a promoter of freedom, security and prosperity.
The Opinion goes on to address the wide range and crucial nature of topics that the new strategy will cover, such as resource allocation to foreign and defense policy, the EU's role as a constructive and regulatory power, the refugee crisis, development cooperation, or trade.
The European Commission review of EU trade strategy is timely in the first year of a new Commission.
The intense public interest that has been aroused by the TTIP negotiations between the EU and the US demonstrates that trade is no longer an esoteric matter nor the concern of those few who are sufficiently involved to master the finer, highly technical detail that trade involves. It is now a popular issue and part of the public agenda, but because of its technicalities it is also open to wide misunderstanding.
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