Press Release 07/2012
21 February 2012
Civil Society representatives address the economic crisis with President Barroso and Vice-President Almunia
The 478th plenary session of the European Economic and Social Committee, to be held on February 22-23, will address civil society's main concerns about the current economic crisis and its social consequences.
On Wednesday, President José Manuel Barroso is going to explain the European Commission's position on the Europe 2020 Strategy and outline the preparation of the Spring European Council. President Barroso and EESC President Staffan Nilsson will sign the renewed EC/EESC Cooperation Protocol. Also on Wednesday, President Nilsson will mark the mid-term of his mandate and look at challenges ahead.
On Thursday, the Vice-President of the European Commission Joaquín Almunia will discuss the reform of State aid with the EESC.
Venue: European Commission's Charlemagne building: meeting room S3, 1040 Brussels
Start: 14:30, Wednesday, February 22
The opinions and topics to be voted at the upcoming plenary session include:
Annual Growth Survey 2012
With a view to the Spring European Council, the Committee discusses its opinion on the Annual Growth Survey (AGS) and highlights its priorities for action at both national and EU levels for 2012. The need for forward-looking, growth-enhancing reforms and for these to be concretely implemented in all member states is emphasised. Additionally, the Committee reiterates the necessity for all three aspects of growth - smart, sustainable and inclusive - to be interlinked and mutually reinforcing.
Concern regarding grave austerity measures within the AGS is expressed in the draft opinion. The opinion suggests a carefully crafted balance between fiscal consolidation and growth. A Committee consensus, concerning the European semester, purports the need for full involvement of organised civil society.
How to involve civil society in financial regulation
Inadequate regulation and supervision of financial markets are considered main causes of the financial crisis. Consequently, this matter should be recognised as a major concern to civil society, whose interests are largely under-represented in the sector. The EESC is well positioned to rectify the lack of civil society involvement since it includes representatives of financial industry associations, consumer organisations and trade unions. The opinion not only encourages European institutions and member states to count on civil society; it urges civil society to make their voices heard and calls upon the financial industry and other actors, including academia, think tanks and media to also play their part.
Growth and sovereign debt in the EU: two innovative proposals
The EESC considers the Euro problem to be primarily political rather than economic. Therefore, the solution lies in changing economic policies, boosting competitiveness and consolidating fairness, solidarity and cohesion. The EESC's proposal advocates the introduction of two complementary but distinct EU bonds: Union bonds for stabilising debt and Eurobonds for recovery and growth. Additionally, a share of the net inflows into Eurobonds is suggested to be used to finance a European venture capital fund.
Measurable EU targets for specific groups in employment policy required
In the coming years Europe will navigate an exceedingly fraught employment situation. Austerity measures pose risks of increasing poverty and social exclusion, affecting the most disadvantaged groups, especially young people. The EESC claims that, despite the crisis, national and EU funding for employment should be maintained or even increased, where needed. Tackling unemployment should take high priority in the new guidelines of the European Council. A speedy, targeted and coordinated investment should be carried out to ensure a high employment impact, accompanied by measurable targets for women, young people, older workers and other vulnerable groups.
A Convention to protect the social acquis in upcoming treaty amendments
The EESC welcomes Commission and Member States’ efforts to improve economic and budgetary coordination for the EU. However, the EESC dismisses the current structure of the European Economic Governance, as it primarily focuses on economic policy, leaving social aspects aside. Converse to and in contrast with EU2020 goals the austerity measures will have negative repercussions for access to and quality of services, and could damage growth, employment and social inclusion. The posed risk assumes that the increasing national and regional disparities can reduce economic and social cohesion and in turn constitute a threat to European integration. The EESC stresses the importance of assessing the social impact of the new economic governance rules and calls for a Convention to be set up with representatives of European and national parliaments, social partners and the EESC to establish a strategy for securing social progress during future treaty amendments.
"Trans-European network" is likely to be the buzz-phrase of the February plenary session, as the Committee intends to adopt a range of opinions on telecoms, transport and energy networks in Europe. It will tackle the financing of these networks head-on and is expected to embrace the idea of EU bonds for infrastructure projects. "This should trigger a multiplier effect by leveraging the public and private capital required for investment needs estimated at EUR 1 000 billion", said Raymond Hencks (Luxembourg, Workers' Group), rapporteur for one of the opinions.
For further information please contact:
Head of the EESC Press Unit
Tel.:+32 2 546 8722
European Economic and Social Committee
Rue Belliard 99, 1040 Bruxelles, Belgium
Tel.: +32 2 546 8788 – Fax: +32 2 546 9764
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