Competitiveness is not an end in itself. It is only a sensible objective if it improves people's well-being in practice. The EESC therefore recommends that an updated definition of competitiveness ("competitiveness 2.0") be used in future, taking into account "the ability of a country to deliver the beyond-GDP goals for its citizens". The EESC urges that future discussions refer not to "competitiveness boards" but to "boards for competitiveness, social cohesion and sustainability". The EESC asks the Commission to present concrete proposals on how the following necessary requirements with regards to these boards can be safeguarded: accountability, legitimacy and transparency; representation of balanced unbiased expertise; non-binding character of proposals of the boards; inclusion of the dual role of wages, both as a cost factor and as the main determinant of domestic demand.
Fighting against tax avoidance and aggressive tax planning, both at the EU and at a global level, is an important political priority for the European Union. The EESC welcomes and endorses the Commission proposal, which aims to make the taxation system more transparent as this measure will boost public confidence. The EESC suggests that the Commission should aim for a more ambitious package. It proposes the disclosure of a wider range of data, the gradual reduction of the turnover threshold of EUR 750 Million and that the disclosed data is made publicly available in one of the official languages of the EU in order to achieve the objective of giving the public genuine access to data for the whole single market.
The EESC welcomes the Commission proposal for a Council Directive to improve double taxation dispute resolution mechanisms in the EU. Double taxation is one of the biggest tax obstacles to the Single Market. There is an urgent need for mechanisms ensuring that cases of double taxation are resolved more quickly and more decisively when they arise between Member States. Therefore it is urgent to implement this proposal.
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.
State aid modernisation is of strategic importance for the EU in a highly competitive globalised economy. The EESC shares in its opinion the Commission's vision but considers that this ambitious reform needs clarification in certain respects. The importance of this reform and of the EESC's opinion is illustrated by the fact that the rapporteur was invited to meet personally with the Commissioner Almunia.
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 welcomes the package on the modernisation of VAT on cross-border e-commerce, and endorses both its objectives and its focus on addressing the concerns of SMEs. The Committee welcomes the proposed extension of the MOSS to goods as it creates conditions for the possible removal of the Low Value Consignment Relief (LVCR) scheme. Furthermore, the amendments to the VAT rates applicable to e-publications rules would eliminate the distinction between physical and non-physical publications, and ensure neutrality in this market.
A number of topical industrial developments and trends are currently at the focus of attention. At the same time it should be recognised that people must live everywhere in Europe, including in many regions that these innovative trends are not likely to reach even in the next 50 years. Without undermining their importance and while supporting the political efforts promoting these trends, it is necessary to recall that these businesses are the key element in the creation of new activity and value in resource-constrained areas and are crucial to enhancing economic prosperity and cohesion across Europe. Against this background, the main objective of the opinion is to identify and analyse the particular challenges these businesses face and find solutions and possibilities to support them.
The EESC welcomes and endorses the rationale behind the establishment of the Reform Support Programme. However, the EESC believes that, in order to launch the programme successfully and obtain the expected benefits, better responses are needed to a number of still open questions.