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Europe needs to do better to boost its economy

Short-sighted national interests, a growing number of anti-European parties with quick answers but no solutions, pressure from outside the EU and – last but not least – many concerned, anxious people who are increasingly losing trust in their political leaders and in the European project; this is Europe today.

Most worrying of all, between 2008 and 2015 the single market, which is a key element of European integration and prosperity, only grew by 0.4 percent and in the Eurozone even shrank by 1.6 percent, while other economies such as the US, Australia and Japan managed to increase their domestic demand and growth by 8.8 percent, 17.9 percent and 3.8 percent respectively. Furthermore, abuses like social dumping, in particular in cross-border provision of services, undermine workers’ and honest companies’ trust in the Eurozone single market and public support is on the wane.

At its January plenary session, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) adopted an opinion on threats and obstacles to the single market. “The single market is the major achievement and cornerstone of Europe’s integration and welfare. Completing it while ensuring compliance with its rules and safeguarding the fundamental economic and social rights must be a priority”, said rapporteur Oliver Röpke (GRII/AT).

Europe’s freedoms need clear and coherent governance

European integration must follow the path of a balance between economic, social and environmental development, and economic and social convergence between member states needs to be accelerated.

The EESC has always championed the free movement of goods, services, capital and people, but this cannot happen in an ‘ungoverned space’. “We need a better balance between market freedoms and fundamental social rights in primary law in order to strengthen fundamental social rights in the internal market”, said Mr Röpke.  “A well-functioning single market requires compliance with European and national legislation including in cross-border activities.”

According to the EESC, particular attention must be paid to:

Fair competition

  • Every market operator needs to comply with European and national legislation – particularly the ‘same remuneration for same work at the same place’ principle – as well as with national labour laws, when carrying out cross-border activities.
  • Bogus posting of workers must come to a halt.
  • Unfair practices in public procurements must be banned.

The elimination of market barriers

These include:

  • insufficient recognition of qualifications and diplomas;
  • technical constraints at local level;
  • regulatory obstacles due to differences in national legislations and
  • inadequate coordination of e-government solutions at EU level.

The closing of regulatory gaps in taxation policy

  • The EESC supports moves towards a common consolidated corporate tax base, country-by-country reporting as well as ongoing efforts to tackle tax avoidance and tax havens. The introduction of a common minimum corporate tax rate could put an end to the race for the lowest tax rate.
  • Action needs to be taken against tax havens.

The concerns of European citizens

  • People feel insecure and left alone with their concerns. They increasingly lose confidence in the EU’s and national policy makers’ ability to keep their promise to protect social standards and income and guarantee fair taxation and social charges.

A reminder to the European Commission

People’s welfare must be at centre stage

“We call on the Commission to ensure that the highest social standards apply in all member states. Therefore we criticise in particular the Commission for its proposal for a directive on single-member private limited liability companies as it puts micro-enterprises, SMEs and the self-employed under pressure”, said Mr Röpke. Furthermore, while backing the Commission’s REFIT and better law-making approach, the EESC re-affirms its view that high consumer and labour standards are not an unnecessary burden.

The social dialogue is the cornerstone of Europe’s social peace

Referring to the Commission’s refusal to continue with the Social Partners framework agreement on health and safety of hairdressers, the EESC criticises the Commission’s approach as being at odds with the principles and values of the social dialogue and as extremely short-sighted. In this context, the EESC draws attention to the joint declaration of the European social partners on a new start for the social dialogue.

More on the opinion can be found here.


European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) / Expatica