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Finland assumes today, for the third time in its history, the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. We all agree there is no other alternative than accelerate sustainability. The faster the transition, the better it will be for prosperity and democracy in Europe. I strongly welcome the clear message from President Antti Rinne “A key priority of Finland’s Presidency is the EU’s global leadership in climate action.”
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. Now it is the right time to show great European leadership to deliver a genuine #rEUnaissance and ensure a strong sustainable development vision for tomorrow's Europe.
On 13 and 14 June 2019, the 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 was “The ESCs role in sustainable development and the implementation of the Social Pillar”.
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.
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.
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.
The creation and emergence of Industry4Europe in the European political arena shows the strong capacity we have when we need to deliver. You have done it well! I refer to your extremely concrete joint call to the candidates for the 2019 European elections. In it, you are rightly calling the future Parliament and the future European Commission to put industry at the top of the European political agenda. The manufacturing sector weighs for more than 20% of the European GDP and it is an essential driver of employment.
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. We believe that the Circular Economy Stakeholder Platform is a powerful living bridge, linking the EU institutions with grassroots civil society organisations, promoting and sharing circular economy solutions for all citizens, for the well-being of present and future generations.