In this opinion, the EESC calls for society to begin an economic transition from over-exploitation of resources and a throw-away culture to a more sustainable, job-rich era, based on quality rather than quantity. In order to cope with the fundamental shift to a new economic model with major systemic consequences in many areas, it is recommended that a new cross-cutting and permanent body be set up in the EESC to analyse these developments.
Opinions in the spotlight
The EESC still considers that Turkey remains a very important partner and that the political will exists to increase levels of cooperation, but only provided that compliance with the fundamental European values and the principles of democracy, the rule of law and human rights is ensured. The EESC believes that ongoing developments have rendered the current Customs Union (CU) agreement obsolete and that the parties to the agreement will have to start serious negotiations on strengthening their economic ties by establishing a new type of trade agreement that reflects current needs. The recent adjustments and best practices implemented in various trade agreements have transformed models for sustainability, transparency and the involvement of the social partners and civil society in international trade agreements.
With this opinion the EESC welcomes the package of measures to adapt copyright to the requirements of the digital economy, by aiming to eliminate fragmentation while, at the same time, enhancing protection for creators. The EESC supports the exclusive related right of publishers to authorise or prohibit the digital use of their press publications for a period of twenty years and urges to harmonise the "freedom of panorama" exception by means of European rules. The EESC also refers to the ECJ judgment stating that, under certain conditions, the lending of a digital copy of a book has similar characteristics to the lending of printed works.
Rural development is a horizontal issue that affects practically all policy areas.
The EESC welcomes the Cork 2.0 Declaration that offers strong ongoing support for a rural policy at EU level. The EESC sees itself as a natural partner when it comes to implementing the declaration, and requests that the Commission continue producing progress reports on said implementation.
Rural regions in the EU are not homogeneous and situations vary between and within Member States. These differences mean there is a need for focus and a strategic approach when using available EU funds. This must be based most importantly on initiatives from those living in rural areas.
The EESC believes that the collaborative economy may offer a new opportunity for growth and development for the countries of the EU. The Committee underlines that given the particularly fluid and rapid nature of change in this sector, it is crucial for fiscal regulatory systems and tax regimes to be adapted in an intelligent and flexible way. The EESC urges the Commission and the Member States to work together to adopt an overall legal framework for the collaborative economy that can coordinate and standardise the tax rules that apply to these new forms of economic activity.
The introduction of digitalisation in business is having a momentous impact on the production systems, labour conditions and organisational models of the labour market and the society in general. Quality basic education, high-standard and effective training, lifelong learning, up- and re-skilling for all will be the necessary tools for grasping the job opportunities of the future and fostering enterprise competitiveness. In this context, it is important to keep a human-centred approach and to find ways to accompany vulnerable people who will not be able to respond to the growing demands of the new technological era.
The EESC supports transparent and predictable working conditions for all workers, including in atypical employment, as a concrete step towards implementing the European Social Pillar. The definition of worker and employer should be clarified in the Commission's proposal and on-demand workers be guaranteed a minimum number of hours or pay. The EESC finds the provisions relating to minimum requirements relating to working conditions acceptable, but recommends clarification of certain aspects, recommending a strong role for social dialogue and that responsibility be left up to the national level.
The Commission's initiative follows one of the recommendations of the Agricultural Markets Task Force that the EU should legislate in the areas of UTPs for agricultural products, and responds to some of the conclusions of the 2016 EESC opinion on "A fairer food supply chain".
The EESC welcomes the Commission's proposal for a regulation and considers it to be an important first step towards promoting fairness and transparency for business users of online intermediation services. The EESC believes that this proposal is particularly important because it constitutes the first attempt to regulate B2B relations in the area of e-commerce, and recommends that it be approved swiftly in order to plug a clear legislative gap.