Last week will remain engraved in our memories. TV channels around the world broadcast images of children separated from their parents at Texas borders and here in Europe the conflict over migrants and refugees has reached the highest possible level of confrontation. Have we lost our humanity? Have we forgotten our values?
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Social justice is an aspiration common to people of all faiths and value-based philosophies. Helping the poor and needy is a moral – if not also economic and social- imperative that we all share. If there is no solidarity, there is no social cohesion and thus no competitiveness. The European Economic and Social Committee has been calling for an improved social dimension for a long time, and welcomed the Proclamation of a European Pillar of Social Rights as a first step.
Millions are fleeing war or persecution worldwide. As we commemorate their strength and courage on World Refugee Day, we try to be calm quoting the record high number of 68.5 million displaced people - 3 million higher than the total population of the UK - 25.4 million refugees, 40 million internally displaced and 3.1 million asylum seekers.
"It is not an easy task to deal with digitalisation in a way that all the layers of the society reap an equal benefit," underlined in his opening speech the President of the European Economic and Social Committee Luca Jahier. "Precisely therefore we, at the European Economic and Social Committee, promote the idea of ‘digital justice’ - we want that no-one is left behind from the digital revolution."
We are here today in Krakow, to try to talk freely about our history, our cultures and our expectations for the future of the European Union. I hope these exchanges, along with other points on our rich agenda in Poland, will inspire us for the discussions on the EESC role in the Future of Europe debate which we will have in the afternoon. We have planned our stay in Krakow in a way to be able to gain a different perspective on the European debate, to enrich it with a Central European flavour.
Congratulations to Vice-President Jyrki Katainen for the new Commission's proposal on the InvestEU Programme adopted today. This much-needed instrument builds on the Juncker Plan, the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) and efficiently addresses the issue of social investments.
When we talk about inequality, we should remind ourselves that a good slice of Europe's economy is making profits for people other than investors or owners. Cooperatives, mutual societies, non-profit associations, foundations are part of this very vibrant community that makes the social economy.
The EU and China share common views in many areas. The ever-increasing interdependence in this globally connected world that will put demands on us in terms of closer cooperation to face common challenges. Especially in the area of trade and investment, firstly, we must ensure that growth is sustainable, inclusive, and benefits all. We must take measures to make sure we operate sounds and stable financial systems, and commonly and strongly continue to defend the multilateral, open and rules-based trading system we have so carefully built over the last 50 or more years. In this context, the EU’s and China’s active and constructive engagement is paramount to ensuring that the WTO remains the core of the open trading system.
The responses to the multiple crises that the European Union has been confronted with have increasingly led European citizens to become disenchanted not only with the European Union itself but also with democratic institutions in general – both at the European and national level. There is a serious risk of EU citizens no longer seeing the added value of the EU for their living and working conditions as well as for their future perspectives and those of their children and for losing a common sense of belonging.