The EESC appreciates the proposed roadmap for completing the European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) but its support is not full and enthusiastic, since a number of social, political and economic issues, highlighted in our previous opinions, were not taken into consideration. The completion of the EMU requires first of all strong political commitment, efficient governance and better use of the available finances, in order to actually cope with both risk reduction and risk sharing among Member States. For these reasons the EESC underlines that the principles of responsibility and solidarity at EU level should go hand in hand.
Opinions in the spotlight
The EESC supports the Commission's Fin Tech Action Plan and considers that the development of FinTech can deliver a number of benefits to both European businesses and their clients. Measures included in the action plan on improving cyber security and the resilience of the financial sector are important, but should be supplemented by rules to ensure uniformity in the development of FinTech in the EU. Similarly, the Committee believes that the level of regulation for FinTech should be equivalent to that in the financial sector.
The EESC calls on the Commission to identify possible rules for companies offering cloud services with regard to their responsibility for securing the data they host.
The EESC believes that AI and automation processes have enormous potential to improve European society in terms of innovation and positive transformation, but they also pose significant challenges, risks and concerns.
The EESC welcomes the fact that the package of regulations on the future multiannual financial framework includes the InvestEU proposal to strengthen investment activity in the EU, including long-term investment projects that are of high public interest, while also respecting the sustainable development criteria. In order to guarantee that this programme operates successfully, the Committee underlines the importance of the involvement of civil society organisations and social and economic partners. The EESC appreciates the European Commission's efforts to create an umbrella financial instrument by the InvestEU programme that will result in unified management, enhanced transparency and potential for synergies. The EESC appreciates the fact that, in addition to promoting sustainable infrastructure, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and research and innovation, the InvestEU programme also focuses on social investment and skills.
The Commission communication on Steps towards completing EMU can provide a great opportunity to launch a debate at political level and with civil society to draw up conclusive proposals which go further than the current ones. It would be more useful to draw up a proposal for the European Semester as part of a comprehensive agreement on economic governance that goes beyond the status quo, changing macroconditionality and strengthening the Interparliamentary Conference. Democratic legitimacy is not tackled seriously by any of the Commission's operational proposals. The tripartite social dialogue could contribute to this matter. On the basis of its own roadmap, the EESC is committed to putting forward, possibly with the Commission, a plan on stage two (Completing EMU 2017-2025) to discuss these issues in the Member States, beginning with the euro area countries.
In its Opinion, the EESC draws attention to significant inefficiencies still existing in both the formulation and implementation of SME policies, warns against a bureaucratic approach still prevalent in EU policies and calls for a visible, coordinated and consistent horizontal policy for SMEs, based on a multiannual action plan. The EESC also proposes that the Commission assess whether the current definition of SMEs corresponds to their heterogeneity, sectoral dynamics, specific features and diversity during the last decade.
The EESC welcomes the Commission's proposal to amend Regulation (EC) No 1406/2002 establishing a European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), as it fits in with general efforts to monitor the EU's external maritime borders much more effectively than in the past. However, it would once again stress that time is of the essence in implementing the proposed measures.
The Committee welcomes the proposal to expand the activities of EMSA; however, it has serious doubts as to whether EMSA has the human and financial resources to perform these additional activities properly.
The EESC is in favour of the Commission's proposal which introduces a new approach to safety rules, based on risk assessment and performance.The EESC also supports the proposal to give EASA greater responsibility for security, in cooperation and in agreement with the Member States.The successful implementation of these changes in working methods and culture require adequate resources and a transparent and inclusive approach.
The EESC is pleased that the Maltese Presidency has chosen "High quality education for all" as an priority theme. However, the EESC fears that the value of this initiative could be lost when austerity measures still apply to many of our societies, hindering them to fully benefit from high quality education. Europe should not forget the essential role played by high quality education for all in building up a European society committed to upholding fundamental rights and values.