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The EESC welcomes the Investment Plan for Europe as a step in the right direction, which however faces serious questions about the Plan's size and timescale, the high degree of leverage expected and the potential flow of suitable projects. The Plan proposes that contributions to the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) from Member States will not be included in budget deficit calculations and this is to be welcomed, but it begs the question as to why ongoing strategic public infrastructure expenditures are not treated in the same way. Strategic public investment which underpins present and future economic development should be incentivised by a more benign European fiscal framework.
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 welcomes the Commission's proposals on adapting the European regulatory framework to reflect changes made to international standards on preventing and combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism. It also approves the inclusion of gambling service providers on the list of professionals subject to requirements and notes that the present proposal contains a certain number of requirements that go beyond international standards. The EESC welcomes the proposal to harmonise the sanctions applicable at European level but has reservations regarding the purely "administrative" nature of the sanctions foreseen.
The Committee welcomes the increased attention brought to social investment, a greater targeting of European funds to sound employment and social policies, a dedicated youth employment initiative and youth guarantee scheme, and better cross-border mobility. It also welcomes the foreseen strengthened social dialogue as part of the European Semester process. It particularly supports the idea to step up closer surveillance of employment and social imbalances within the EMU through a systematic monitoring of rates of unemployment, of young people not in employment or training or education, of household income, poverty and inequality. The proposed scoreboard should pro-actively detect asymmetric developments and spill-over into overall economic performance and trigger a timely and effective adjustment mechanism and policy response.
The European economic governance rules, conceived in crisis, played an important role in fiscal consolidation and economic policy coordination, but the cost was high in terms of growth and employment. The quantitative easing measures now being embarked upon by the European Central Bank need to be matched by greater political initiatives by the Member States. In the review of the Multiannual Financial Framework in 2016, there is a need to back urgent structural reforms of common EU interest with some form of fiscal capacity. A reasonable deviation from the 3% deficit parameter should be considered as a temporary exception for a given number of years and not be automatically liable to sanctions. A lack of implementation of country-specific recommendations (CSRs) could be countered by real involvement of civil society and the social partners in drawing up CSRs.