The EESC is concerned to note the euro area's economic downturn and the gradual end to a fall in unemployment, wedded to the persistent higher incidence of risk factors affecting economic performance. It is the European Green Deal that the EESC sees as the backbone of the future EU and euro-area economic configuration – the potential start of a fundamental change and a turning point. If managed successfully, it could move Europe up a gear economically and socially; if not, its failure could fatally jeopardise the integrity of the EU.
The absence of economic and social convergence among Member States and regions is a threat to the political sustainability of the European project and all the benefits it has brought to European citizens. Developing economic and labour market resilience with economic, social, environmental and institutional sustainability should be the principle guiding policies. This will foster upwards convergence and fairness in the transition towards a climate-neutral economy while managing the challenges posed by digitalisation and demographic change.
Although considerable progress has already been made towards completing EMU, there is still a need to significantly reinforce all four of its pillars, taking care to maintain the balance between them, as neglecting one or more of these pillars could result in dangerous disparities. Resilience to crises is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for completing EMU: it also requires a positive vision, as set out in Article 3 of the EU Treaty. The EESC generally calls on the European institutions and national governments to take much more ambitious action in the context of EMU reform in order to achieve a more integrated, more democratic and socially better developed Union.
The EESC welcomes the Investment Plan for Europe for its contribution to the promotion of investment in the EU. The Committee calls for clearly set investment targets, regulatory simplification and further guidance in order to achieve greater geographical and sectoral balance. The EESC advocates for strengthened financial capacity for the InvestEU programme within the Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 and calls for more efforts to raise awareness among European businesses and citizens about the benefits obtained from the Investment Plan for Europe.
The EESC notes that the international role of the euro has not yet recovered to the pre-financial crisis level. Whereas the European Commission's proposed measures are welcome and deemed necessary by the EESC, they may not go far enough given the extent of the euro area's social and economic challenges. Social cohesion, economic upward convergence and the promotion of competitiveness and innovation should be the basis on which the euro area's economy gathers pace and supports a stronger international role for the euro.
The EESC is of the opinion that building economic resilience, an objective that underlies the recommendations of the European Commission on the economic policy of the euro area, is of the utmost importance for the euro area economies. However, the Committee would like to stress that the pursuit of economic resilience should go hand in hand with increased labour market resilience, that is, the capacity of labour markets to weather shocks with limited social costs.
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 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 EESC agrees with the aims of the Council Recommendation and with some of its proposals. However, it expresses its disagreement with the proposal for the aggregate fiscal stance of the euro area to be neutral, as well as with the way that the recommendation on salaries is formulated.