For the first time in the history of the European Union, twelve years after its accession, the Slovak Republic will take up the presidency of the Council on 1 July.
As we all know, the Member State holding the presidency has fairly limited powers. However, it is responsible for keeping the impetus going and coordinating meetings and their agendas and undertaking communication activities aimed at the media and general public – everywhere in the EU of course, but particularly in the Member State itself. The presidency is also a way of showing that the Union is not an external superpower that imposes itself on Member States “from above” or “from Brussels”: it is a union of States, where each has its role to play.
The Dutch Presidency wants a Union that focuses on the essentials: jobs, growth and connection. Many challenges lie ahead: a.o. unemployment, poverty, an ageing population, the flow of refugees, the rapid change in the global economy, scarce resources, energy costs and the impact of climate change. The Dutch Presidency intends to promote a Union that connects, a Union based on fundamental values supported by its citizens.
The EESC has high hopes on the Dutch experience in European construction. It welcomes the consultation at the outset of the Dutch Parliament and the National Economic and Social Council (SER) and promises the full cooperation of the organized civil society that it represents in this construction.
While the European Union is seeking a new breath without actually achieving to reach it, Europe continues to move forward. The organised Civil Society, rooted in ground realities, builds it day by day, relying on the creativity and the common sense of convinced women and men. In the recent years, the European Economic and Social Committee has carried out numerous actions to improve the lives of Europeans and brought to the highest authorities concrete tracks of advancement, without hesitating to conduct internal reforms in order to achieve. It is all these successes - which were made possible only because they have been conducted by involved actors, mainly the EESC members - that President Malosse, in this time of stock of office, wanted to highlight through this short work. These success stories reflect a greater will of involvement from citizens, an awareness that change is at hand. This work is also a call for the European civil society to find at last its role within the Brussels chessboard - that of the new European engine.
The presidency is returning to Luxembourg, a founding Member State that not only plays joint host to the institutions but, thanks to its pivotal position in the centre of Europe, in fact helped to create the fledgling predecessor of today’s European Union. The Grand Duchy will undoubtedly bring to bear its unique and successful experience both in genuinely integrating itself into Europe, and in integrating Europe within its borders.
Representatives of the European organised civil society have put forward a pack of recommendations for the European Commission's review when crafting its annual Work Programme for 2016. In the view of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), the main priorities for the EU in 2016 should be to deepen economic integration and convergence, provide a strategic framework for the Energy Union and launch a democratic renewal of the European project.
Since its adoption in May 1992, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has been ratified by 195 countries. These states meet once a year at the Conference of Parties (COP), also known as the UN climate summits. After over two decades of negotiations however – during which global emissions have increased by almost 50% – there is growing consensus that tougher action is needed to cut emissions and cap global temperature increases accordingly.
It's our Europe! It's our voice! But how to put this into practice?
The new EPTAC in 23 official languages facilitates public participation across the European Union, the world’s biggest transnational democracy, with its 28 member states, 500 regions and more than 100 000 municipalities.
More than 50 ECIs have been filed since 2012, including the successful proposals to prevent water privatisation and initiatives to develop a pan-European education system, provide more support to Greece and setting a speed of 30 km/h in towns across Europe.
At its 498th plenary session, the EESC adopted its "Action Plan for Europe" (142 votes in favour, 96 against and 12 abstentions). The tangible steps and proposals contained in the action plan are based on three pillars which address the shortcomings of the European Union as it currently operates: an economic Union, a social Union, and a democratic and civic Union.