COVID-19 has blatantly exposed all the cracks and fissures in the European health systems and shown the EU to be unprepared for dealing with major health emergencies. But the first building blocks of the future European Health Union, recently proposed by the Commission, look promising and may give the EU the right weapons to fight pandemics in the future
At its March plenary session, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) adopted an opinion issued by the Consultative Commission on Industrial Change (CCMI) which proposes supporting investment in the exploration and extraction of critical raw materials, as well as in the use of secondary materials from wastes, as this is essential to the green transition in the EU.
The first COVID-19 lockdowns saw the number of teleworkers in the EU workforce skyrocket from 5% to 40%. One year later and with telework here to stay, it is still difficult to deliver a proper assessment of its impact on employers, employees and society as a whole. The EESC points to the need for more research to be carried out and for a long-term perspective to be taken, with a view to harnessing the benefits and mitigating the risks of this form of work
With the new blueprint, the European Commission shows it is determined to stop Europe from losing out to the US and Asia in both basic and applied research, patents and high-tech products and services, says the EESC in a report adopted at the March plenary.
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) welcomes the Commission's new Action Plan on non-performing loans, but believes that it lacks new proposals fit for COVID-19 times, leaving Europe to face an extraordinary time with rules written for ordinary times.
At the request of the EU Portuguese Presidency, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has evaluated the achievements of the past 25 years of EU railway policy and singled out areas for improvement, tapping into the potential of the European Year of Rail 2021.
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) addresses the state of play of the Energy Union and the national energy and climate plans, warning that the 2050 EU energy and climate objectives can only be reached with a change of pace in the transition and that citizens must really be put at the heart of the process.
In a debate at the EESC plenary session on 25 March, the Executive Vice-President of the European Commission for an Economy that Works for People, Valdis Dombrovskis said that most of the national recovery and resilience plans (RRPs) are still at an early stage and that "there is still a lot of work to do before the plans are mature enough". He also stressed that trade policy has a key role to play in getting the EU economy back on track.
At its March plenary session, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) hosted a debate with Olivér Várhelyi, Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, to discuss the state of play of the accession of the Western Balkan partners. EESC members showed their convincement that integrating the Western Balkan partners in the EU is a geostrategic investment in peace and economic growth.
- Conference on the Future of Europe: EESC is committed to actively contributing to the success of the Conference
- Not just green and digital: the future of Europe must also be more democratic
- Developing a more resilient and effective rail system
- EESC pledges to deliver a substantial contribution on the Commission's new initiatives
In a plenary session debate with the Commissioner for Equality, the EESC welcomed the new EU Disability Rights Strategy for the next decade, describing it as a key moment for the rights of persons with disabilities. Its implementation is even more important in light of the COVID-19 pandemic which is taking its heaviest toll on Europe's most vulnerable, including persons with disabilities.
The EESC president
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) is pleased to announce the 23 winners of its Civil Solidarity Prize, a one-off contest launched as an alternative to the annual EESC Civil Society Prize to reward not-for-profit initiatives carried out by individuals, civil society organisations or private companies to tackle the COVID-19 crisis and its manifold consequences. The...
Now more than ever, climate change is on everyone's mind, and young people all around the globe have been taking action to save the planet. The EESC is joining the movement and wants to ask the young participants about the best ways to protect our planet for the future. The 2021 edition will model an international climate-change conference.
Opinions in the spotlight
Batteries placed on the EU market should become sustainable, high-performing and safe all along their entire life cycle. This means batteries that are produced with the lowest possible environmental impact, using materials obtained in full respect of human rights as well as social and ecological standards. Batteries have to be long-lasting and safe, and at the end of their life, they should be repurposed, remanufactured or recycled, feeding valuable materials back into the economy.
In September 2020, the European Commission presented the Action Plan on Critical Raw Materials, which also contains the 2020 List of Critical Raw Materials.
Teleworking has the potential to support work-life balance and should be a means of promoting gender equality. For this, the burden of the unpaid care and domestic work performed by women must be fully shared with men. Then, the rules applying to the workplace must be applied to the home office, including on health and safety and protection against harassment and violence. As there is no consolidated European framework on telework, it is necessary to assess existing rules' effectiveness.
EESC opinion: Teleworking and gender equality - conditions so that teleworking does not exacerbate the unequal distribution of unpaid care and domestic work between women and men and for it to be an engine for promoting gender equality
The pandemic expedited the shift to teleworking, and it became essential in tackling the health crisis. Lessons learned from the pandemic could lead to regulations in the EU and in the Member States be amended and new regulations created so as to promote the positive aspects of telework and protect the fundamental rights of workers. The Member States, with the involvement of the social partners, need to ensure that there is an appropriate national framework for teleworking, setting out the rules of play for companies and workers interested in adopting this form of work.
- The EESC welcomes the Commission's communications adopted in 2020 in connection with the enlargement of the EU to the Western Balkans and agrees that integrating the Western Balkan partners into the EU represents a geostrategic investment in the peace, stability, security and economic growth of the entire continent. The Western Balkans are an integral part of Europe and a geostrategic priority for the EU.