Elected with an overwhelming majority, Georges Dassis is the 31st president of the European Economic and Social Committee, an institution that he will head with two vice-presidents, Michael Smyth (budget) and Gonçalo Lobo Xavier (communication) from 2015 to 2018.
"This mandate will be useful to the people of Europe, and will be devoted entirely to them. We intend to mobilise all the forces of civil society to make the European Union attractive and more present in the daily lives of Europeans. First, there is a need to alleviate extreme poverty and invest in youth employment, infrastructure projects, research and innovation, something that needs to be done on a massive scale. Europe must not be equated with a race to the bottom, but to the top. It must improve life for all citizens in the north, south, east and west: this is what we mean by harmonising progress", said Georges Dassis.
The president’s programme thus offers a very practical slant on European Union policies, inspired by opinions adopted by the Committee and addressed to the European institutions, in line with the Committee's mission according to the Treaty. Far from taking the Union as "a given", it underlines the severe crisis assailing Europe: economic recession and social decline has dramatically undermined people's faith in the EU. Calling for entrepreneurial spirit, work and solidarity, the programme continues to put the emphasis on social, economic and territorial cohesion as the foundation for a fair and equitable Union. Instruments such as the European minimum income or taxation must be used to serve this purpose.
The programme supports the investment plan for Europe, requesting the addition of a special investment plan for growth and jobs, and the adoption of specific economic convergence measures such as a mechanism for joint debt issuance of debt and a temporary fund for eurobills.
The digital single market, the creation of a European transport area and the development of a genuine Energy Union are also priorities for the new EESC president, alongside contributing to the sustainable development of the Union particularly with respect to climate change constraints, which must be incorporated into all EU policies.
In his programme, the president reiterated his commitment to a strong Europe in the world, a Europe that must defend not only its economic interests, but more importantly its social and environmental requirements. The Union needs to take in asylum seekers and put in place a new migration policy, based on the principles of solidarity and respect for human rights. The fight against traffickers through closer cooperation between Member States must be an integral part of this policy.
To address these challenges, objectives and emergencies, Member States must also provide the European Union with the means to act, in the shape of a budget that matches its ambitions.
The vice-president for budgetary matters, Michael Smyth said: "I intend to continue our constructive cooperation with the Budgetary Authority and maintain a rigorous and transparent financial management of the EESC. For the Committee, over the next five years, we will need to focus on social issues in areas such as social entrepreneurship and job security – and of course on migration issues."
Gonçalo Lobo Xavier, elected vice-president in charge of communication, said: "This mandate will provide the Committee and its members with an opportunity to work towards a better Europe, a more inclusive Europe. My clear priority will be to create the optimal conditions for EESC members to communicate the results of their work efficiently to a wide public and to the European institutions, which play a key role in the lives of European citizens."
· Georges Dassis (EL): EESC president, former president of the Workers' Group from 2008 to 2015 – CV
· Michael Smyth (UK): vice-president of the EESC, former president of the EESC's ECO Section from 2010 to 2013 – CV
· Gonçalo Lobo Xavier (PT): vice-president of the EESC, former president of the Europe 2020 Steering Committee from 2013 to 2015, Employers' Group – CV
· The September 2015 renewal of the Committee involved electing a president and two vice-presidents on 7 October, chosen from each of the three groups (Employers' Group, Workers' Group and Various Interests' Group) on a rotating basis, for two-and-a-half-year terms. The president and vice-presidents of the Committee are elected during the inaugural assembly session (6-8 October 2015). After his election, the president presented the work programme for his term of office. The president is responsible for the orderly conduct of the Committee’s business, and represents the EESC in its relations with other institutions and bodies. The two vice-presidents – elected from among the members of the two groups to which the president does not belong – are responsible for communication and the budget respectively.
· The EESC is made up of 350 members from its 28 Member States. Nominated by their national governments, they are appointed by the Council of the European Union for a period of five years. They then work independently in the interests of all EU citizens. These members are not politicians but employers, trade unionists and representatives of various activities, such as farmer, consumer and environmental organisations, the social economy, SMEs, the liberal professions and associations representing persons with disabilities, the voluntary sector, gender equality, youth, academia, etc.
For more information, please contact:
Caroline ALIBERT-DEPREZ, EESC Press Unit
Tel: + 32 2 546 9406 / +32 475 75 32 02