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As EESC President, I welcome the new strategic agenda for 2019-2024 adopted on Thursday by the European heads of state and government. There is no other alternative than to strengthen the role of the European Union in an increasing volatile and unsettled changing world. At the last European elections, citizens have given us five years to build the Europe of tomorrow. We cannot waste this new chance and deliver business-as-usual.
Millions are fleeing war or persecution worldwide. As we commemorate their strength and courage on World Refugee Day, we can hardly stay quiet as we see the number increase every year, reaching in 2018 the record of 70.8 million displaced people – 11 million higher than the total population of Italy - 29.4 million are refugees or asylum seekers.
On 13 and 14 June 2019, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), together with the Consiglio Nazionale dell'Economia e del Lavoro (CNEL) organised the yearly “Annual meeting of the Presidents and Secretaries-General of the Economic and Social Councils of the EU and the EESC” in Rome. The topic of this year's conference “The ESCs role in sustainable development and the implementation of the Social Pillar” reflected the urgent need for an economic and social transformation towards sustainable development.
Today's event, in the presence of the Italian president Sergio Mattarella and Minister for Foreign Affairs Enzo Moavero Milanesi, gives us, representatives of European civil society, a unique opportunity to clearly set out our vision of the European project.
Less than two weeks ago, the citizens of Europe expressed their democratic right and voted in the European elections. For the first time in the EU elections' history, the turnout was higher than in the previous round and higher than in any European election since 1994. Clearly, the legitimate concerns over climate change and environment were on top of the agenda of voters in many European countries and also in all the four main political forces.
After just coming back from a demanding mission in Ethiopia, with a high-level EESC delegation, the images and contents overlap in a whirlwind of emotions and convictions, which I could sum up in this way: in a world where autocrats seem to be gaining ground, here is a country that is going in the opposite direction and could claim the title of good news of the year and, perhaps, lion of the African Renaissance.
A delegation of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), composed of President Luca Jahier, Jaroslaw Mulewicz (Chair of EESC ACP-EU Follow-up Committee) and Carlos Trindade (Chair of EESC Permanent Group on Migration) is visiting Ethiopia this week (27-31 May) to bring EESC support to local civil society and to discuss the EU strategy in Africa.
The final results of yesterday’s European elections are trickling in one by one, giving us a chance to set the political backdrop for the next parliament.
Recent events are showing us that we must not let down our guard and believe that the 60 years of peace in Europe are to be taken for granted. Our Fundamental Rights, which are enshrined in Article 2 of the Treaty of the European Union are not to be taken for granted. It is inadmissible that last year saw the largest number of anti-semitic acts in decades, leading to an increasing sense of emergency among Jewish communities worldwide.
Recently, I visited the Red Star Line Museum in Antwerp, which was particularly important to me.The Red Star Line Museum is a special place as it focuses on the insightful stories of the many passengers who travelled from Antwerp, the Red Star Line's main European port, to America between 1873 and late 1934. Their touching stories show that migration and human mobility have always existed. We cannot deny that migration is a constant part of European history and cultural exchange.
Culture is a powerful tool to build bridges between people and reinforce mutual understanding. Artistic freedom, enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU as well as the Treaty of the EU, is essential for development of our open democracies and our European values and identity. I, therefore, welcome the Council conclusions on an EU strategic approach to international cultural relations and a framework for action of 8 April.
The project of accelerating the circular economy transition has been an excellent example of EU synergy in action. The ambitious circular economy initiatives adopted by the Commission, coupled with our Committee's access to a widespread civil society network, are paving the way toward a more sustainable European economy.
Civil society intends to play its part in the run up to the European elections scheduled for 23-26 May. To mobilise members and civil society organisations at all levels, the European Economic and Social Committee organised an event titled Civil Society for rEUnaissance on 21 February 2019.
This is an important day. We are gathered here a little over ninety days before the European elections to ask the question: are we brave enough to grasp the urgency of the moment?
I welcome the much-awaited reflection paper of the European Commission "Towards a Sustainable Europe by 2030". I wish to congratulate First Vice-President Timmermans and Vice-President Katainen for this result. Now there is another window of opportunity to further push the sustainable development agenda, which must become the EU's top priority for the next decade. Let us be clear though: this is only the beginning of the road towards an ambitious and successful implementation of the sustainable agenda.
Luca Jahier, President of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), and Antonio Tajani, President of the European Parliament (EP), signed on 5 December a joint declaration in view of the European elections that will be held in May 2019.
The EESC has been and will continue to advocate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Agenda at a European level and beyond, transitioning to a society that is sustainable in economic, social and environmental terms. It is essential that organised civil society is fully involved and mobilised in relation to a future EU Sustainable Development Strategy.
Quote of the day
Instead of the extremes, we must give the 'voices of the good' centre stage.