The Bulgarian Presidency invited the EESC to draw up an exploratory opinion aimed at identifying a global approach to EU industrial policy that takes into account the need to improve the business environment and to support the competitiveness of industry.
Opinions in the spotlight
The EESC notes that although economic recovery in the euro area has gathered pace since last year, it remains incomplete and atypical. It disagrees with the European Commission's proposal for an overall broadly neutral fiscal stance and instead proposes a positive fiscal stance of around 0.5% of GDP. It welcomes structural reforms that will not only increase productivity and growth potential, but also support the creation of quality jobs and reduce inequality. It supports the necessary steps for deepening the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), as well as the measures against tax fraud and tax avoidance.
The EESC strongly welcomes the proposals to create an enabling framework for crowdfunding. The Committee therefore calls for swift action in order to achieve a successful outcome, particularly as it fits into a broader framework that is of particular interest to the Committee. The EESC also welcomes the fact that the financing of small, young and innovative enterprises has been taken into consideration. Crowdfunding is an important part of their funding escalator, particularly when they move from a start-up to an expansion phase and traditional financing is not always available. It is very positive that, to this end, use is being made of innovative products and solutions supported by modern technology, meaning that this forward-looking proposal also forms part of the implementation of a digital single market. The proposal also adds a cross-border dimension, which contributes to the effective integration and deepening of capital markets.
Europeans need more (and better) Europe. The powers and financial resources currently allocated to the EU have been increasingly misaligned with the concerns and expectations of Europeans. The EESC, in accordance with the European Parliament's position, therefore proposes that the expenditure and revenue figure reach 1.3% of GNI. The proposed level of commitments of 1.11% of the EU's GNI is too modest to credibly deliver on the political agenda of the EU.
The EESC recognises the high European added value of the programmes where the MFF 2021-2027 concentrates the main increases in expenditure. However, the Committee questions the fact that these increases are made at the cost of strong cuts in cohesion policy (-10%) and the Common Agricultural Policy – CAP (-15%).
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.
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.
While welcoming the existence of the Horizon 2020 program, the EESC is worried that funding for research into Societal Challenges has been significantly reduced. Moreover, the EESC is exceedingly concerned about the large disparities between Member States in terms of national funding for research and innovation.
The EESC endorses the European Strategy for Low-Emission Mobility (the strategy), including its aims and methods, and its holistic approach, which provides coherence between transport and other policy areas. It would have liked this approach to be further developed in terms of the links between the strategy and the communication on the upgrading of the internal market. This also applies with regard to the prospects of the digital economy and the development of a sharing economy and a circular economy. It underscores the potential effects of these developments on transport patterns, and draws attention to their social implications.
The EESC welcomes the package on the modernisation of VAT on cross-border e-commerce, and endorses both its objectives and its focus on addressing the concerns of SMEs. The Committee welcomes the proposed extension of the MOSS to goods as it creates conditions for the possible removal of the Low Value Consignment Relief (LVCR) scheme. Furthermore, the amendments to the VAT rates applicable to e-publications rules would eliminate the distinction between physical and non-physical publications, and ensure neutrality in this market.
The opinion deals with the prevention of "radicalisation" of young people. For the purpose of this opinion, radicalisation is understood as a process through which individuals or groups become extremists eventually using, promoting or advocating violence for their aims. The opinion highlights activities undertaken by civil society and calls for continuing to work on a coherent EU-concept, including sustainable and effective European support, funding and coordination.