The EESC welcomes the new funds, very different to each other, that will give continuity to the work undertaken, and approves of the increase in their financial allocation. Equal treatment and anti-discrimination policies represent the pillars of European policies, including those concerning the integration of third-country nationals. The removal of the word "integration" from the title is worrying, as this could be seen as reflecting diminishing concern for this aspect. The Committee welcomes the importance given to flexibility in both funds, as this entails acknowledging the importance of better reflecting the needs of each Member States within the framework of joint action.
Opinions in the spotlight
The EESC fully backs the objective of switching to a greener, resource-efficient and circular economy. It is happy to see that the Commission has come forward with a broader set of proposals covering all the stages of the product lifecycle compared to the previous circular economy package; however, it raises concern over the lower level of ambition, which is likely to lead to lower economic and environmental benefits.
The EESC welcomes the "Action Plan on VAT", and calls for a definitive VAT system that is clear, consistent, robust and comprehensive, as well as proportionate and future-proof. The Committee welcomes the strong focus on closing the VAT gap and tackling the susceptibility of VAT to fraud. There should be results delivered without delay, including by improving cooperation between tax administrations. “Bona fide” enterprises should be protected and no new excessive measures should be imposed on them. The future system of reduced rates must combine flexibility and legal certainty, be transparent, and for the sake of simplicity the number of reduced rates and exemptions must be limited.
While supporting the pilot project to set up a financial expertise centre for consumers and end-users of financial services, the EESC feels it would be useful to call for a number of conditions to be met: legitimacy, financial independence, transparency and accountability, public visibility, as well as balance between financial sector professionals and users.
This own-initiative opinion is a joint proposal of the two EESC bodies with a cross cutting and horizontal approach: the SDO and the Europe 2020 Steering Committee (SC).
The 2030 UN Agenda, or the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, will be one of the top global priorities over the next 15 years, yet it received very little mention in the Commission Communication "Trade for all". Trade is specifically mentioned with regard to nine SDGs (but only once in the MDGs). UNCTAD estimate that, to meet the 17 goals and the 169 targets, at least an extra US$2.5 trillion a year will need to be found - effectively from the private sector. This opinion would seek to look into this further and aim to evaluate how much of that will need to come through trade and investment.
This opinion is part of a wider package of four EESC opinions on the future of the European economy (Deepening of the Economic and Monetary Union and Euro area economic policy, Capital Markets Union and The future of EU finances). The package of opinions underscores the need for a common sense of purpose in the Union governance, which goes far beyond technical approaches and measures, and is first and foremost a matter of political will and a common perspective. Against this background the Committee advocates the exploration of tools to improve economic governance in the EMU, for instance by creating a permanent Euro Finance Minister, while ensuring full democratic accountability. Bundling competences would enhance coherence of EMU policies.
In its opinion, the EESC acknowledges the positive role that apprenticeships can play in improving employability and providing for skills that are relevant to the labour market, for both young persons and adults. The Committee appreciates the fact that Member States are invited to promote the active involvement of social partners regarding apprenticeship schemes. Furthermore, the Committee also believes that apprentices themselves and other relevant stakeholders – such as youth and parent organisations and students' unions should also be actively involved. Also, the EESC considers that apprentices should be able to influence their learning experience, to create more productive learning experiences. The EESC also calls for initiatives that explore the potential of transnational mobility of apprentices in the EU.