The Internet of Things (IoT), thanks to its interconnectivity of persons and objects, offers a vast range of opportunities for individuals and businesses. These opportunities must be backed by a series of safeguards and controls so as to ensure introduction of the IoT is problem-free. With this opinion the EESC aims to promote awareness-raising and digital capacity-building initiatives and calls inter alia on the European institutions and EU Member States to ensure that security and privacy are protection by building appropriate regulatory frameworks that contain strict monitoring and control provisions.
Opinions in the spotlight
The Committee considers that the Commission's proposal for setting up a European Labour Authority (ELA) is, if adequately implemented, an important step in the right direction towards improving cross-border mobility, enforcing European and national legislation, fostering cooperation between national labour market authorities and improving access to adequate and up-to-date information, tackling illegal activities and strengthening the internal market, provided that the ELA respects national and European competences and the Member States demonstrate their support and cooperation.
The EESC considers the proposed European Investment Stabilisation Function (EISF) as a step towards closer euro area integration, and possibly an attempt to encourage non-euro Member States to join the single currency. However, the EESC is of the view that a well-crafted union-wide insurance scheme that acts as an automatic stabiliser amidst macroeconomic shocks would be more effective than the proposed EISF.
The EESC notes that the Global Compact is a non-binding instrument that does not create new obligations for EU Member States and its content is fully in line with the principles and values of the European Union, most notably Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union, which includes – as its main values – respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. The EESC therefore regrets the fact that the Compact has not been approved by all Member States and recommends that the EU clarify and build on the Compact's objectives using appropriate mechanisms.
The European Economic and Social Committee has been supporting the idea of a European Energy Union from its first inception as a European Energy Community in 2010. The annual State of the Energy Union report is also broadly welcomed by the EESC as a means to keep energy at the top of the political agenda across the European Union and ensure coordinated progress across sectors and Member states. The 2015 version of the State of the Energy Union is a snapshot taken only nine months after the launch of the Energy Union programme, limiting the reports' usefulness to judge progress made towards the Energy Union. However, as is noted in the opinion, the report's publication provides the EESC a welcome opportunity to identify particular aspects in advancing and governing the Energy Union that are of particular importance to Europe's civil society.
This report follows the conclusion of the 2015 Euro-Mediterranean Summit of Economic and Social Councils and Similar Institutions on cooperation with third countries in promoting regular migration to the EU and will be presented at the 2016 Euromed Summit. Cooperation with countries of origin and international bodies to increase transit possibilities for regular migrants to the EU is the most effective way of combating the illicit trafficking of people and meeting the need for workers in EU countries. The aim of the information report is to define the pillars that can facilitate cooperation on regular migration and ascertain what experience has been gained from labour migration agreements with countries of origin and from the ways in which the Member States manage recruitment abroad.
The EESC is committed to open and fair trade and recognises its value as a driver of growth and jobs. Therefore, the EESC calls for a level playing field between European and third country exporting producers, and for effective trade defence instruments. The EESC supports the Commission's proposal that the dumping margin should be calculated not using the standard methodology, but on the basis of benchmarks that take account of significantly distorted production and sale costs. The EESC points out that in its 2016 opinion on preserving sustainable jobs and growth in the steel industry, it already called for the standard methodology not to be used in anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigations into Chinese imports as long as the country failed to meet the EU's five criteria for market economy status. The EESC welcomes the Commission's intention of using specific criteria to determine whether there are significant distortions in the market situation.
President Juncker stressed in his 2016 State of the Union Speech the need for a Europe that protects, empowers and defends. Taking greater responsibility for their security means that Europeans must invest in the development of key defence capabilities to be able to deter, respond and protect themselves against external threats. The European Union must demonstrate that it can act as a provider of hard as well as soft security, addressing calls for greater solidarity in security and defence. The Bratislava roadmap, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union have also recently underlined this priority.