In a little less than three weeks, more than 400 million Europeans, the largest electorate in the world after India, will go to the polls to elect 751 members of parliament in an election that is probably the most decisive for the future of Europe since 1979, the first time we went to vote for our transnational parliament. For the past two years, EU and national leaders have been working relentlessly to define a vision for Europe. Several scenarios were outlined by the European Commission. Discussions and consultations were organised, plans sketched, solutions formulated.
As we approach the European elections and the political discourse increases in toxicity, the time has come to restore the true meaning of the European Union to avoid it becoming once again the scapegoat of countries' inability to face the transformations of the 21st century.
The process of making decisions on the future of Europe will be clarified during the informal summit of heads of state and government in Sibiu on 9 May. In the run up to this summit and the upcoming European Parliament elections, on 20 March 2019 the Committee adopted an exhaustive opinion entitled Listening to the citizens of Europe for a sustainable future, which sets out the EESC’s vision for the future of Europe from the point of view of European civil society.
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.
My agenda this week is under the sign of migration: I will visit the Red Star Line Museum, open the 5th Meeting of the European Migration Forum and have a meeting with his Excellency John Issam Darwish, Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop of Furzol, Zahle and the Bekaa, to talk about his work with refugees along the Lebanese border.
The EESC will switch off the lights in support for Earth Hour. This important annual event reminds us to take joint action for a better future on our planet. We can no longer turn a blind eye to climate change and its impact on our environment and people's lives. The latest UN report is another wake-up call.
Today, once again, we stand together in solidarity to remember the innocent victims and their families, who were struck by the devastating terrorist attacks in Brussels three years ago. It is with great sadness and grievance that we prepare to mark the anniversary of this barbarous attack.
Hundreds of thousands of people are joining Greta Thunberg today for a Global Strike for Future. We can only support the appeal of these young people, who resolutely aim to forge a sustainable Europe, a sustainable planet.
This week at the Conference of Committee Chairs in Strasbourg, I reiterated once again to MEPs that we need to rapidly move toward a rEUnaissance Dare a Sustainable Europe. I laid out the EESC's efforts on the issue and our concrete plans following Sibiu and the EU elections.