As the recovery of Europe's economies remains sluggish and fragile and the level of investment remains low, it should be a matter of priority to deploy every possible means to achieve a robust and stable economy. The Committee therefore endorses the goals of the action plan i.e. to mobilise capital in Europe and channel it to all companies, infrastructure and long-term projects. The Committee has serious concerns, however, regarding the relevance and effectiveness of the capital markets union for SMEs. They must be able to choose the funding channels that suit them best. At the same time the EU's economic and financial stability should be one of the priorities of the capital markets union. There should thus be more simplification, transparency and comparability of financial instruments.
Opinions in the spotlight
The opinion, as adopted by the SOC section, recalled that labour mobility is a cornerstone of the internal market and can help to bring employment opportunities and prosperity to European citizens and companies. When conducted under fair conditions and when it offers a positive option, such mobility can be enriching and beneficial for workers, employers and society as a whole.
Therefore, special effort is needed to guarantee and promote the free movement of workers in the EU abolishing any discrimination based on nationality, avoiding unjustified restrictions for both workers and businesses.
If the message of this opinion should be summarised in a sentence, this would be: "Enough is enough; rules must be respected".
Steel industry is at the forefront of granting MES to China. However, the opinion does not tackle the legal and political side of granting MES to China (CCMI/144). It focuses on the Commission's communication and puts forward specific additional measures to provide Europe's steel industry with the level playing field it needs to preserve growth and jobs.
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 Mid-term evaluation of the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) is one of the evaluations on which the Commission is consulting the EESC.
The CEF was proposed as a financing programme for the completion of trans-European infrastructure networks in the fields of transport, energy and information and communications technology (ICT).
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) welcomes the opportunity to take part in the evaluation of the CEF programme. Transport, energy and ICT are also the core of the EESC Smart Islands Project. Therefore, the EESC's response is based on the above mentioned project, which analyses primary data collected through fact-finding missions taking place in the EU in the course of 2015 and 2016.
The EESC welcomes the Commission's proposal for a new market design, a risk preparedness regulation and the new organisation of the energy regulators' cooperation. The Committee highlights that well-functioning electricity markets are a precondition for fulfilling the goals of the Energy Union. For the markets to function well, significant changes in the market design are necessary, particularly due to the increasing use of variable renewable electricity. The EESC appreciates the general approach of the market design package, especially the goals of putting consumers at the heart of the energy market, increasing electricity supply and strengthening regional cooperation.
Many atypical forms of work are now being developed and the associated social risks should be dealt with by means of coordinated efforts by all stakeholders. Automation and robots are having an increasing impact on work. While they have the potential to stabilise the economy in an ageing society, they are also affecting jobs: it is therefore essential that social dialogue on this point takes place at an early stage. In future, lifelong learning and professional training will be a necessity for everyone, but long-term developments can best be tackled through general education.
In its opinion, the EESC welcomes the commitment to the renewed European Solidarity Corps (ESC) with an increased budget and target for participation. It also appreciates the merging with the EU Aid Volunteers. The Committee believes that in the future, the EU needs to develop two independent support programmes, one for youth and one for volunteering.
The EESC makes a series of concrete recommendations, such as: 1) the employment strand of the ECS needs to be subject to strict regulation and regular review; 2) there should be no age restriction on the ESC as it should be a support for volunteering; 3) the ESC should be restricted to the not for profit sector; 4)the main civil society platforms in the field (the European Youth Forum and the European Volunteering Centre) should be centrally involved in the regulation and oversight of the ESC.
The EESC welcomes the Commission’s proposals and recommends that they be swiftly adopted and implemented by the Member States. The Committee agrees with the Commission's proposal to allow Member States to use two reduced VAT rates and recommends that the Member States continue to apply reduced rates to certain classes of goods and services of general interest.