Civil society should take lead in upholding endangered European values

Twelve speakers, including journalists and academics, from 12 EU countries discussed their views on how best to reassert Europe's values at the EESC's 12 Civil Society Media Seminar, held in Athens on 22-23 November.

The EESC president, Luca Jahier, reminded participants of the importance of Europe's values for ordinary people – employers and employees, young and old, unemployed and people with special needs, migrants and other minorities. "What is clear to me is that Europe's values must prevail against illiberalism and any erosive factors, since it is because of our values that we have made Europe a better place". For his presidency, Mr Jahier has chosen the slogan "rEUnaissance", because "we need to place our faith in Europe - there is no better solution than working together for a sustainable and prosperous Europe," he concluded.

The EESC vice-president for communication, Isabel Cano, who hosted the event, referred to Europe's values which are enshrined in the Treaties, stating: "The Union's aim is to promote peace, its values and the well-being of its peoples. But we need to ask ourselves whether we have taken these obligations seriously enough. Are we doing enough for social and European cohesion? Are we doing enough to promote equality, ensure that our young people have real prospects for the future and make people's daily lives easier? Is the solidarity between Member States strong enough? Since most of these questions cannot be answered with a clear yes, we also need to ask ourselves whether we are always aware and mindful of these values in our political deliberations and decisions.

Mr Katrougkalos, Greek Foreign Minister for European Affairs, referred to migrants who had become the modern scapegoats for demagogues looking to distract attention from the real problems facing European society today, namely austerity policies and increasing inequality which make the rich richer and the poor poorer. "The highest tax rate in the 1960s for incomes of EUR 1 million was 60%, whereas now it is 30%. This is a blow to the welfare state's ability to maintain its social structures," said Mr Katrougkalos.

A report on the main findings will be published in the next few weeks and made available on the EESC's website. (sma)