The Grassroots View - Episode 2: Has the European Citizens' Initiative been an instrument of democracy?

As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Lisbon Treaty, we debate the question:  Has the ECI been a democratic success? With us Pablo Sanchez, one of the champions of the first successful ECI Right2Water; EESC member Antonio Longo, who explains what the EESC has done over the years to help make the ECI simpler and more transparent, and prof. Alberto Alemanno, outlining the ECI's sticking points and proposing a radical overhaul of citizen participation in the EU. (dm)

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Dear readers,

A resounding failure. The COP25 missed an important opportunity to advance the rule book for the Paris Agreement on cutting emissions - showing mediocre determination on migration, adaptation and finance to tackle the climate crisis.

The negotiations in Madrid were expected to send a clear signal that governments were willing to double down on tackling the climate emergency. Yet, despite the sound of alarm bells coming from science and weekly strikes by millions of young people worldwide, major emitters of greenhouse gases blocked progress at UN talks.

The voices of our children calling for urgent climate action were not heard. The disappointment is significant, but we must not give up: Europe must take the lead and be the frontrunner on climate action and sustainable development.

Diary Dates

In short

Croatian EU Presidency: the start of many new beginnings and a vow to make Europe stronger

On 1 January 2020, Croatia will take the reins of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union for the first time since it joined the EU in 2013.

Croatia's debut on the European stage comes at a time that could hardly be more exciting.

Not only does it coincide with the beginning of the EU's new institutional cycle and the start of the new Commission led by Ursula von der Leyen, but the country will also be at the helm of the EU during the very final stage of Brexit, with the UK set to leave the Union at the end of the first 30 days of its Presidency.

"Au Revoir, Not Adieu"

Interview with Jane Morrice

Member of the Diversity Europe Group from the UK, former journalist, EESC member 2006-2020, former EEC vice-president responsible for communication (2013-2015).

YEYS 2020 – EESC will host a youth summit on climate

Students from 33 schools all over Europe will gather in Brussels on 19 and 20 March 2020 to take part in a new edition of Your Europe, Your Say! (YEYS), the EESC's flagship event for young people. This time, the event will follow the model of a United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP).

EESC is on Instagram!

We decided to give the younger audiences of Instagram a view of the EESC from a different angle. We bring you "behind-the-scenes" stories of our members, their dreams and passions and our work.

Follow @eu_civilsociety for a look #InsideEESC!


Andrew Caruana Galizia: "We need to work together to make sure that European values are upheld"

The son of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was killed in 2017 while reporting on government corruption, addressed the EESC's December plenary session and said that a European rule of law monitoring mechanism could help defend journalism against all forms of pressure.

Luca Jahier: "The future of Africa is the future of Europe"

The EESC hosted a debate on development cooperation policy at its December plenary session, stressing that it is essential to improve relations between the EU and African civil society in order to progress from help to development to partnership.


We need an EU strategy on social and affordable housing

The EESC calls for more robust EU housing policies and, at a public conference held in Brussels on 4 December 2019, asked the EU to adopt urgent common measures in this field. The real danger of excessive housing costs no longer affects only the most disadvantaged, but also an ever-growing part of the rest of the population.

EESC concerned over outcome of COP25

As in previous years, the EESC attended the COP25, the annual Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which this year took place in Madrid, Spain, ending on 15 December 2019. Unfortunately, countries failed to agree on many of the expected outcomes, including rules for setting up a global carbon trading scheme and a system for channelling new finance to countries affected by climate change.

Sustainable development: EESC proposes measures to boost private sector contribution

Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) requires more than political commitment. Increased investment, especially by the private sector, is needed to address current societal challenges.

In a recently adopted opinion, the EESC underlines the importance of private business in achieving the SDGs and advises the EU and its Member States to adjust their investment and tax policies to enhance growth prospects and thereby private sector contributions to accomplishing the SDGs.

EESC urges the Commission to make the new strategy for disability rights far more ambitious

The European Economic and Social Committee has adopted an own-initiative opinion in which it sets out its recommendations for the EU's Disability Rights Agenda for the next decade. It urges the European Commission to take them on board when drawing up a strategy that is bound to affect the lives of more than one hundred million people with disabilities living in Europe.

Digitalisation – a key challenge for SMEs in the Mediterranean region

In an information report adopted at its December plenary session, the EESC stressed the need to support the digital transformation of SMEs with measures adapted to the specific needs of different types of company.

The social economy can be the economic model to tackle both climate and social crisis

Such was the message to the European institutions from the social economy actors meeting in Strasbourg – European capital of the social economy 2019, for the 4th European Day of Social Economy Enterprises, just as the European Parliament gave the green light to Ursula von der Leyen's new team.

It is time to reinforce environmental criminal law

The EESC believes that the Environmental Crime Directive must be implemented more effectively in order to ensure the best possible environmental protection in the EU. The most important reason behind the adoption of the Environmental Crime Directive (ECD) in 2008 was to ensure effective, proportionate and dissuasive criminal penalties in all EU countries.

A strong European brand of products and services to enhance European competitiveness

The coming years will see new prospects and challenges for European products and services, according to the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC). Providing innovative, highly specialised products and services with well-recognised and certified key characteristics can boost European competitiveness, says the EESC.

News from the Groups

The future of Europe: Challenges ahead

By the EESC Employers' Group

Future challenges relating to globalisation, digitalisation, climate change, Brexit and other matters were the topic of the seminar on the Future of Europe – challenges ahead, which took place in Malta on 3 December. The conference was organised by the EESC Employers' Group together with the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry.

Delivering on the Social Pillar: Minimum standards for unemployment insurance

By the EESC Workers' Group

There will be major repercussions for European labour markets in the near future, notably as a result of the transition to a climate-neutral, globalised and digital economy. The European response could include minimum standards for national unemployment insurance schemes, which could be an effective and pragmatic tool for achieving social convergence in the EU. The core of this proposal entails ensuring a fair amount of financial support, coupled with a sufficient entitlement period for as many workers as possible in the EU.

Diversity Europe Group discusses Agenda for Europe: towards 2025

By the EESC's Diversity Europe Group

On 6 December 2019, the Diversity Europe Group held a thematic debate with high-level speakers from the European Commission on the topic of Agenda for Europe: towards 2025. With the new European Commission taking up office on 1 December, the event provided an opportunity for a timely insight into its five-year agenda and for its representatives to comment on the EESC resolution on the Commission's 2020 work programme, which was adopted by the Committee at its October plenary.