The EESC strongly endorses the Commission's initiative to extend the duration and increase the financing of the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) and welcomes the positive results of the first year and considers the SME "investment window" a success. The Committee recommend that EFSI 2.0 should aim for ever greater involvement of private capital; stresses the importance of keeping a market-driven emphasis, reinforcing the additionality of the EFSI and calls for a more balanced geographically coverage across the EU. The EESC also recommends bolstering the European Investment Advisory Hub (EIAH) and the reinforcement of the social dimension of EFSI deployment. It is also in favour of using the EFSI to nurture the development of a shared industrial and dual technology base in the European defence sector. Finally, in the view of the Committee it is important to raise the visibility of EFSI funding.
Regulation amending the European Venture Capital Fund (EuVECA) and European Social Entrepreneurship (EuSEF) Fund regulations
The EESC welcomes and supports the Commission's initiative to anticipate the review of the Regulations on European venture capital funds (EuVECA) and European social entrepreneurship funds (EuSEF). The EESC believes that such a regulation can promote the establishment of a capital markets union. The EESC suggests that in order to expand participation in such investment funds, the hitherto very restrictive access criteria, as well as other restrictive conditions, to be significantly relaxed; the Committee proposes to increase the involvement of non-institutional investors and considers it equally important to create an environment in which the financing objectives of social investment funds can develop.
The Committee considers transparency essential as it is important for all parties, for the companies themselves, and for improving their image and boosting the trust of workers, consumers and investors. While the EESC recognises that most companies operating in the EU are indeed transparent and that investors and shareholders are increasingly paying attention to qualitative corporate social responsibility (CSR) indicators, it is important to focus simultaneously on both the effectiveness and scope of the information being filed and on its quality and veracity. The EESC believes that any further initiative on disclosure of information should include a common set of indicators and at the same time should take into consideration the nature of the company and the sector in which it is operating.
The EESC encourages the Commission to pursue its efforts to develop policy proposals aimed at promoting the creation of innovative and high growth firms. These policy proposals should strengthen the single market, reinforce the clusters and ecosystems in which innovative start-ups are created, develop the equity component of the European capital markets, encourage an academic agenda focusing on jobs for the future and minimise the cost and red tape involved in starting a new entrepreneurial venture.
The EESC believes that the fight against terrorism and its financing and efforts to combat money laundering and other related forms of economic crime should be permanent EU policy priorities. These efforts should be linked more closely with the efforts needed to combat tax fraud and tax avoidance. Therefore, the EESC considers creating public national registers of the beneficial owners of bank accounts, businesses, trusts and transactions, and access to them by obliged entities, to be a priority. Furthermore, all obligations laid down in the Anti Money Laundering Directive should be extended to all territories or jurisdictions whose sovereignty resides with the Member States. And free trade and economic partnership agreements should include a chapter on measures to tackle money laundering and terrorist financing, tax fraud and tax avoidance.
The Committee endorses the texts proposed by the Commission, postponing the application of the entire MiFID II rulebook by one year from 3 January 2017 to 3 January 2018.
The EESC accepts the need to amend Capital Requirements Regulation 575/2013 and approves the proposed amendments.
With this opinion the EESC takes the opportunity to comment on how the European market for retail financial services can be further opened up. The EESC welcomes that the Commission is on track and has an ambitious programme for implementing the Action Plan on Building a Capital Markets Union, also endorsing that consumers should be given the opportunity, whenever possible, to compare different products, so they can make an informed choice.
The EESC welcomes the establishment of economic priority programmes for the euro area at the start of the European Semester. To achieve a recovery of growth and employment a mix of financial, taxation, budgetary, economic and social policies is needed. In contrast to the recommendation of the Commission, the focus of fiscal policy should be designed to be more expansionist than neutral. The EESC advocates the reduction of taxation on labour insofar as it does not threaten the financial sustainability of social protection systems. The EESC calls for a coordinated effort to create a more business-friendly environment for SMEs through better regulation, adequate financing and facilitation of exports to markets outside the EU. There is a particular need to open up new funding opportunities for micro-enterprises and start-ups.