Speech at the Civil Society Days opening session

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Dear Brikena, Distinguished Speakers, Dear Participants,

On behalf of the European Economic and Social Committee, I would like to warmly welcome all of you to this event. Unfortunately, in the current sanitary situation, we do it remotely and we cannot enjoy the usual interactions that are part of the advantages of such events.

But this also has a good side: it allows more participants to take part in our today's discussions. And that is very important indeed: because the very objective of the Civil Society Days are to bring together citizens, civil society organisations, members of the European Economic and Social Committee, EU institutions and experts to discuss on important issues.

This year's topic is "A Sustainable Recovery for the Future of Europe's citizens". We will have the opportunity to discuss all together about the recovery that is so much needed, about how to make our economies and societies resilient and sustainable, and we hope that our ideas will already be a very first contribution to the Conference on the Future of Europe. We have the great chance and honour to have with us Ms Dubravka Šuica, Vice President of the European Commission, who has a leading role on the Conference.

Before starting, I would like to thank all the organisations and EESC sections and members who have set up a stimulating programme for us. This is an example of the good cooperation that is happening thanks to our Liaison Group that Brikena and I co-chair:

- On the one side, we have the members of this Committee, who are chosen by the Member States and the Council because they represent key civil society organisations in the 27 Member States: employers organisations, trade unions and other organisations that support young people, farmers, consumers, people with disabilities, environmental associations, etc.

- On the other side, and the civil society organisations, platforms and networks that are member of our Liaison Group and work in a variety of sectors.  

All together, we represent businesses, workers and citizens who are active in various organisations and who play a key role in coping with the countless pandemic-related challenges at European, national, regional and local level. We are happy about the focus that EU institutions put on the voice of citizens, in relation to the forthcoming Conference on the Future of Europe.

Civil society organisations and citizens must be involved in the current recovery and reconstruction process, so as to make sure that no one is left behind on our way towards a sustainable Europe. Including their voices will bring quality and legitimacy to the process and facilitate the implementation of reforms.

We have indeed great challenges to tackle. First of all, we need to focus on the recovery from the economic and social hardship caused by the pandemic. At the same time, we should not simply go back to the pre-Covid situation. We should take this opportunity to make a strong move towards a sustainable and digital economy, in which new jobs are created, social recovery is ensured and fundamental rights are defended.

We have several tools that we can use, like a well-functioning and fair Single Market, a pro-active trade policy and an unprecedented the Next Generation EU Recovery Plan. We must now ensure that the funds really reach those in need – be it the unemployed or businesses, and especially SMEs which are also most of employers in Europe.

Member States have shown an unprecedented solidarity to respond to the Covid crisis; we now need to ensure a long-term improvement of our policies and our institutions and make sure we can act together as one beyond emergencies.

The Conference on the Future of Europe is the perfect occasion to discuss the functioning of the EU and the policies we want for the future. It is a great chance to connect with the organised civil society and citizens, bringing everyone together with a shared goal and restoring trust in the EU.

Our Committee intends to bring a substantial contribution to the debates, by involving workers, employers and organised civil society, by being multipliers and ambassadors and bringing the debates in our members' organisations. We will not only represent our members, but through our networks, the Liaison Group, the relations with the National Economic and Social Councils we will make sure to give a voice to all those sectors of civil society. 

Dear Participants, Distinguished Speakers,

I am grateful for your presence with us and I am looking forward to our discussions on how to tackle current challenges and make together our sustainable future.

Thank you.

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Speech at the Civil Society Days opening session