The EESC recognizes the importance of a new energy market design for achieving the ambitious climate-related policy goals of the European Union, most notably the expansion of renewable energy. The Committee acknowledges that many of the measures proposed by the European Commission in its Communication, such as the establishment of intraday markets or the removal of market-distorting national regulations, are steps in the right direction. However, the EESC would like the Commission to be more ambitious, in particular in terms of ensuring that energy prices become more transparent and reflect actual generation and external costs, consumers receiving adequate information and resources to become active market participants, and obstacles to market access for emerging local 'prosumers' being identified and removed.
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Opinions in the spotlight
The EESC endorses the proposal for a Directive and suggests other measures which it considers could contribute towards increasing citizens' security: the possibility of placing indelible marks on bullets, which facilitates the traceability of arms and ammunition; making data available on interoperable databases at European level; the introduction of a gun buy-back programme; and reviewing the risks related to 3D printing of lethal weapons, without any possibility of verification or traceability.
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) warns against granting China market economy status (MES) and calls on the European institutions to promote fair international competition and actively defend European jobs and European values with efficient trade defence instruments (TDIs). In its opinion, adopted at its 514th plenary session on 14th July, the EESC points to the disastrous impact a possible granting of MES to China would have on Europe's industry and consequently on Europe's labour market. The EESC insists on China's fulfilment of the five EU criteria for achieving the MES.
The EESC has been asked by the European Commission to contribute to the EC's mid-term evaluation of the Erasmus+ programme. In this context, two questionnaires were widely disseminated by the EESC in the member states and four fact-finding missions have been organised. The EESC also held an expert hearing to collect the views of specialised civil society organisations. An information report has been drafted containing the results of this exercise, accompanied by a detailed technical appendix containing important data on the awareness and perception of the programme. The aim of this evaluation was to provide information to the EC on the experience of civil society organisations with the enlarged and improved programme.
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 supports the Commission's proposal to expand the scope of controls and the competency of the authorities in order to conduct checks and confiscate goods, whenever there is a reasonable indication of illicit activities. The EESC recommends to improve cooperation, both between the competent authorities and between Member States and suggests that penalties should be harmonised across Member States and communicated to the Commission in a coherent way. The Committee also proposes that, in addition to gold, other "highly liquid commodities" should be included in the definition of cash from the moment the new regulation is adopted and it draws attention to the threat of further use of pre-paid cards by criminals and terrorists to covertly finance their activities.
The own-initiative opinion, prepared by the EESC Permanent Study Group on Sustainable Food Systems, will aim to identify existing challenges, policy inconsistencies and obstacles to a more coherent food policy approach at EU level; to provide examples of ongoing transitions to more sustainable food policies at local/regional/national level; to highlight the role of civil society in building partnerships among stakeholders across the food supply chain; and to define how a comprehensive food policy for the EU should look, including an indicative roadmap.
The Bulgarian presidency of the Council of the EU has requested the EESC to prepare an exploratory opinion on how to best promote SMEs in Europe with a special focus on a horizontal legislative SME approach and respect of the SBA's "think small first".
As a key driver of productivity and innovation, industry has always been a cornerstone of economic prosperity in Europe. We can rely on a strong industrial base, but important efforts are needed by Member States, EU institutions and most importantly industry itself to maintain and reinforce Europe's industrial leadership in the age of globalisation, sustainability challenges and rapid technological change.
The EESC supports the Commission's Action Plan on financing sustainable growth, aimed at reorienting capital flows towards sustainable investment, and welcomes the legislative proposals stemming from it, on fiduciary duties, a taxonomy and benchmarks. The proposed gradual approach for its implementation, beginning with the work on a European sustainability taxonomy, is preferable. However, a subsequent extension of the initial taxonomy, based on environmental aspects, to social sustainability and governance goals will be necessary. Attention should be paid to the feasibility and proportionality of legal obligations.