Exploratory opinions

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In a letter sent by secretary of state Clément Beaune to the Committee president in September 2021, the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union asked the EESC to draw up seven exploratory opinions on subjects reflecting its political priorities. These exploratory opinions will enable the EESC to contribute to the big debates of the French Presidency.

Opinions adopted at the January 2022 plenary session


Innovative financial instruments as part of the development of social impact companies (INT/965)

The French presidency of the Council of the European Union asked the EESC to draw up an opinion on the role of innovative financial tools in the development of enterprises with a social impact.
This opinion was drafted in parallel with the finalisation of the European Commission's Social Economy Action Plan, which was unveiled on 9 December 2021.

Opinion adopted at the Plenary in January

The EESC:

  • considers it important to introduce and support forms of investments aimed at generating social impact, creating high-quality jobs and attracting private investors and new capital, but recommends that these investments be developed in a way that generates additional and multiplier effects, while never replacing public social expenditure on essential services;
  • supports (i) the social impact assessment tools and indicators being co-built upstream on a project-by-project basis, thus ensuring that the specific characteristics of social economy organisations are respected and (ii) that a European definition of social impact is developed;
  • recommends that investments aimed at generating social impact be designed to strike a balance between the social impact (positive changes generated by the investment), the level of return (responsible and sustainable for the investor) and the level of risk to the social enterprise;
  • believes that it is essential to establish an EU-level body to steer and monitor innovative social economy financing initiatives and enterprises aiming to achieve social impact goals.

Web page of the opinion INT/965


Social dialogue as a tool to promote health and safety at work (SOC/703)

The EESC received a request from the French presidency of the Council of the EU for an exploratory opinion on Social dialogue as a tool to promote health and safety at work.
In 2021, the European Commission presented the new EU Strategic Framework on Health and Safety at Work (OHS) for 2021-2027 and proposed a fourth revision of Directive 2004/37/EC on carcinogens and mutagens, protecting workers from the risks of exposure at the workplace. Despite these initiatives, the role of social dialogue in prevention policies remains insufficient.

Opinion adopted at the Plenary in January

The EESC:

  • sees social dialogue (SD) as instrumental in achieving the three key objectives: anticipating and managing change in the world of work brought about by the green, digital and demographic transitions; improving prevention of workplace accidents and work-related illnesses; and being prepared for any potential future health crises;
  • thinks that the 2002 European Framework Agreement is not suited to meeting the new challenges posed by teleworking and recommends therefore that new guidelines be drawn up, with a particular focus on preventing psychosocial risks (PSR) and musculo-skeletal disorders (MSDs);
  • considers that, under Article 155(2) TFEU, agreements between the social partners shall be implemented in the Member States, and
  • asks the Commission to discuss with the social partners the implementation of autonomous agreements and the process of joint request for Council decision, respecting the autonomy of social partners and following the procedure of article 155 TFEU.

Web page of the opinion SOC/703


How will the industrial ecosystems identified contribute to the strategic autonomy of the EU and the well-being of Europeans? (INT/964)

The French presidency of the Council of the European Union asked the EESC to prepare an opinion on how the industrial ecosystems identified by the Commission will contribute to the EU's strategic autonomy and the well-being of its citizens.
The Commission introduced the concept of industrial ecosystems in its Communication on A new industrial strategy for Europe COM(2020) 102 final, published on 10 March 2020. The concept was further developed in the Staff Working Document accompanying the Communication on Europe's moment: Repair and Prepare for the Next Generation SWD/2020/98 final, published on 27 May 2020.

Opinion adopted at the Plenary in January

The EESC:

  • supports the EU's ambition to assume greater responsibility for its own security, reduce one-sided dependencies in critical areas and strengthen its capacity to set and implement its own priorities, moving to a state of economic competitiveness and enhanced resilience.
  • recommends that the EU increases its R&D&I spending and other related funding instruments, putting it at least on a par with other regions in the world.
  • believes it is important to achieve real upward convergence of EU economies, particularly in terms of productivity, social standards, occupational health and safety and environmentally-friendly production.

Web page of the opinion INT/964


Food security and sustainable food systems (NAT/844)

Following the publication of the European Green Deal, the European Commission published the Farm to Fork Strategy. This strategy must provide all the necessary guarantees to ensure the EU's food security and thus guarantee that the people of Europe have a food supply of sufficient quantity and quality, by supporting the competitiveness of the food sector while taking into account sustainability challenges.

Opinion adopted at the Plenary in January

The EESC:

  • Promoting open strategic autonomy
  • Ensuring reciprocity of standards in trade agreements
  • Developing innovative technologies and seeds
  • Ensuring digitalisation
  • Promoting fair prices and income distribution along the chain
  • Supporting the value of food by promoting nutrition education for consumers, who are among the main levers to be activated at EU level to safeguard the competitiveness of European producers, with the aim of ensuring food security and sustainable food  
  • And to improve the EU’s protein autonomy, which is desirable from all points of view. In particular, imports of soya beans from third countries can be a source of deforestation, forest degradation and destruction of natural ecosystems in certain producing countries. The development of the production of legumes and pulses rich in protein in the Union would limit the use of imports and thus have a positive impact on the climate and the environment, as well as on farmers.

Web page of the opinion NAT/844


What conditions are needed for the energy and low-carbon transition to be socially acceptable? (TEN/760)

In the context of the changing energy landscape towards a more resilient and sustainable future, many cross-cutting measures have been proposed over the past year to enable our Union to become climate neutral by 2050. The French presidency of the Council of the European Union has asked the EESC to draw up and deliver an opinion exploring the conditions necessary to ensure the social acceptability of this energy transition.
This social acceptability is very complex. It brings together considerations on the understanding of the technologies proposed, the associated risks, possible alternatives, the assessment of the costs and benefits of the preferred options, the host territory provisions. Social acceptability makes it necessary to discuss such projects with the population, as well as with all stakeholders, and to look more broadly at the development of the area and the desired lifestyles.
The EESC will focus on the necessary improvements in terms of the independence and transparency of the process, accessibility of information, civil participation, accountability and transparency.

Web page of the opinion TEN/760


The benefits of the outermost regions for the Union (ECO/567)

The Commission intends to renew its strategic partnership with the outermost regions, adapting it to the EU priorities on the green and digital transition for a stronger recovery after the coronavirus pandemic. The new communication is expected to be published in April 2022. In this context, the French EU presidency, together with the other EU Member States, aims to prepare a response to this new strategic approach to the outermost regions for a green, digital and fair recovery and has asked the EESC to express its views.

Opinion adopted at the Plenary in January

The EESC:

  • recognises that despite the thousands of kilometres separating them from the European continent, the outermost regions (ORs) are an integral part of the EU and stresses that ORs represent Europe on a global level and provide it with a maritime area unlike any other power, and multiple geostrategic assets;
  • calls on the Commission to consider the considerable benefits that the ORs can provide for the future of Europe, to frame them as test-beds for promoting progress on a global scale (Europe's food and energy autonomy, the green transition, sustainable tourism, social inclusion, the involvement of civil society organisations, etc.);
  • underlines the importance of a robust and resilient food system that can operate in all circumstances and provide people with enough food at affordable prices;
  • calls on the Commission to ensure that the implementation of Article 349 TFEU does not hinder the review of climate, energy and transport legislation, which aims to bring current texts into line with the goals for 2030 and 2050, and
  • asks the Commission to overhaul the way it consults the public, to enable any individual or business to take part in consultations without first requiring them to be included on the transparency register.

Web page of the opinion ECO/567

 

Adoption scheduled for the March 2022 plenary session


Improving the European Union's capacity to react to extreme events outside the EU (REX/542)

The French presidency of the Council of the EU has asked the EESC to evaluate the EU Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM) in terms of how well it functions in responding to extreme events outside the EU, and to propose recommendations for improvement. The Mechanism goes beyond the strict borders of the European Union as it now brings together 33 participating states, i.e. the 27 Member States as well as Iceland, Norway, Serbia, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Turkey. It is involved in prevention, planning and operational response. In particular, it enables coordinated assistance to be organised for the benefit of any state in the world, which, faced with a major disaster, would seek assistance through the Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC).

In its report, the EESC will address the following aspects:

  • how to improve the role of the Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC);
  • the possibility of strengthening European capacities to deliver humanitarian aid autonomously through the UCPM;
  • the value of developing regional solidarity mechanisms similar to the UCPM in other geographical areas: the Mediterranean basin, the Indo-Pacific, sub-Saharan Africa or South America;
  • the inclusion of overseas territories in the UCPM;
  • the case for designing a European thematic centre of expertise with a type of risk approach capable of anticipating, and training and preparing for the impacts of climate change; 
  • the feasibility and usefulness of establishing a European Civil Protection Agency and a European Civil Protection Corps.

Web page of the opinion REX/542