23 April 2012
Civil Society's perspective on cohesion policy
The 480th plenary session of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), to be held on 25-26 April, will address civil society's concerns about cohesion policy and its social and economic consequences.
On Wednesday, EESC Members will share their views on cohesion policy with Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for Regional Policy, and Michel Delebarre, former President of the Committee of the Regions.
Venue: European Commission's Charlemagne building: meeting room S3, 1040 Brussels.
Start: 2.30 p.m., Wednesday, 25 April.
You can follow the Plenary Session live on: http://webcast.ec.europa.eu/eutv/portal/player/index_player_streaming.html?id=14214
The opinions and topics to be voted on at the forthcoming plenary session include:
EESC to adopt 5 opinions on the Commission's cohesion policy package:
The five opinions to be adopted by the EESC reflect a broad support for the Commission's October 2011 Cohesion proposals, but seek to reinforce the involvement of civil society in the EU's cohesion policy. ECO/314 on the Common Provisions Regulation (rapporteur Ioannis Vardakastanis, Group III) reiterates the EESC's demand for a stronger partnership, argues for simplification of administrative procedures, underlines the positive impact of thematically focussed intervention and pleads for the establishment of common indicators. As far as the European Regional Development Fund is concerned, opinion ECO/316 (rapporteur Etele Baráth, Group III) highlights its potential impact on convergence objectives and competitiveness; whilst agreeing on thematic concentration, the opinion also recommends greater flexibility to make the territorial approach easier to apply. In ECO/315 on the Cohesion Fund (rapporteur Carmelo Cedrone, Group II) the EESC further endorses the Commission's decision to concentrate on key thematic areas as a means of reducing waste, directing resources towards specific activities and boosting the multiplier effect that can generate growth and jobs. ECO/317 on the Commission's proposal on Territorial Cooperation Regulation (rapporteur Viliam Páleník, Group III) builds on the aforementioned points and in ECO/318 (rapporteur, Luis Miguel Pariza Castaños, Group II) the EESC concurs with the EC's approach regarding changes to the European Grouping Territorial Cooperation and the proposed multilevel governance system, in which social partners should have a major presence.
Towards an EU criminal policy
The EESC welcomes the Commission's overall approach and approves of its proposal to put a policy in place to guide EU actions relating to criminal matters. At the same time, in its opinion (rapporteur Edouard De Lamaze, Group III), the EESC expresses its concerns about the degree of protection of fundamental rights in relation to EU criminal sanctions and emphasises the need to give more attention to the criminal liability of legal persons; this is still a controversial topic among Member States.
On the way to full harmonisation of audit services
Following the economic crisis, the EU decided to undertake a regulatory reform in various domains of the financial sector. The EESC will approve an opinion at this particular plenary session, on statutory audit and statutory audit of public-interest entities (rapporteur Peter Morgan, Group I). Although the EESC welcomes the Commission proposals, it disagrees with the audit-only firms approach. The formula to determine when an audit firm is disbarred from offering non-audit services should be discarded.
The EESC also has a major concern about the applicability of the regulation on statutory audit of public-interest entities to SMEs. According to the Commission proposal, if an SME has shares listed on a stock exchange, it is defined as a public interest entity and is therefore subject to the extensive and prescriptive provisions of the regulation, which are clearly designed for the auditing of banks.
Public procurement in times of crisis, a great opportunity to boost the single market
In Europe, public authorities spend around 18% of GDP each year on supplies, works and services. Given this volume of purchases, public procurement can be used as a powerful lever for achieving the single market. Given the current budgetary restrictions and the economic crisis, public authorities must ensure the optimal use of funds in order to foster growth and job creation. That is why the EESC has decided to back the reform of the public procurement legislation and the modernisation of the procurement system. In the opinion on public procurement and concession contracts (rapporteur Miguel Ángel Cabra de Luna, Group III), the EESC seeks to include social and environmental criteria when awarding public contracts, give special consideration to social enterprises and foster the participation of SMEs.
The CAP post-2013
The EESC will adopt an opinion on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) after 2013 (rapporteur Dilyana Slavova, Group III). The EESC backs the effort to close the gap between the level of support received by farmers in different Member States. The redistribution of financial resources among Member States should be balanced and fair.
Furthermore, the European agricultural model cannot operate at world market prices and conditions without sufficient financial resources. The extreme price volatility experienced in recent years points to the need for more effective market management instruments. According to the EESC, better supply-demand coordination and rebalancing of market power along the food supply chain are needed.
Finally, the EESC wants to see flexibility between direct payments (Pillar I) and rural development (Pillar II).
Cooperative enterprises, serving common economic and social goals
On the occasion of the UN's international year of cooperatives 2012, the EESC wishes to promote and protect cooperative enterprises as an essential part of European industry. In times of crisis, cooperatives are in fact more resilient and stable than other forms of enterprises; despite this, they have also developed new entrepreneurial initiatives. According to the EESC opinion on cooperatives and restructuring (rapporteur Marie Zvolská, Group I), cooperative enterprises should be taken into account in all EU policies contributing to smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and should have better access to EIB/EIF financial mechanisms.
Following the Danish Presidency's request, the Committee will adopt an opinion on the promotion of sustainable production and consumption in the EU. Working on the assumption that our way of life needs an overhaul, the opinion drafted by An Le Nouail Marlière (Group II) will set out the policy tools and instruments that are the most conducive to making that happen. A new tax policy, ways of phasing out non-sustainable products and greening of public procurement procedures will all be tackled. As sustainability is as much about behavioural change as about anything else, another opinion, which was requested by the Presidency and drafted by Edgardo Iozia (Group II), will deal with energy education. It will present innovative education tools and teaching and training methods that make the most of new information and communication technologies. The Presidency has also asked the EESC to look at the future of the European environmental policy. In its opinion, drawn up by Lutz Ribbe (Group III), the Committee is expected to call for a better coordination of various policy initiatives and careful balance between economic and environmental considerations.
For more information, please contact:
Karin Füssl, Head of the Press Unit
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