First of all, I wish you a happy New Year full of success and peace!
The Presidency of the Council of the European Union starting in January 2017 will be the first time for the Republic of Malta. For that reason the European Economic and Social Committee Plenary Session will feature a presentation on the priorities of the Maltese Presidency on 25 January by Dr Ian Borg, Parliamentary Secretary for the EU Presidency 2017 and EU Funds. At a time when European Union cohesion is being put to the test it falls to Malta to play an important part in contributing to unity rather than dividing or making unilateral decisions. I am convinced that Malta is capable of successfully ushering in a new era for Europe. I am particularly pleased to see that the Maltese Presidency priorities include proposals made by our Committee.
The other key debate of 25 January will focus on the European pillar of social rights on the occasion of the adoption of an EESC opinion (SOC/542) on the same topic with the participation of Marianne Thyssen, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility and Maria João Rodrigues, European Parliament's rapporteur on the same topic. Creating a pillar of social rights should draw upon and expand the EU's social acquis to signal the direction to be taken by policies in a number of areas crucial to the smooth and fair operation of the labour markets and social protection systems. The Committee supports this proposal from the Commission, in the interest of the European citizens, the EU as well as its institutions, and hopes that the Maltese Presidency will help move things in the direction.