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Editorial

May this year bring more predictability, peace and joy

Dear readers,

We entered 2021 still gripped by COVID-19, lockdown and havoc in the jobs market but with hope for a better future thanks to the vaccine. This year will be about securing doses for everyone and convincing people to get a jab. As this progresses, the focus will be more and more on recovery and shaping a post-COVID-19 Europe.

Portugal, which took over the Presidency of the Council of the EU on 1 January, is clearly taking this broader, forward-looking approach. Lisbon's priorities concentrate on fighting the economic crisis and counteracting its impact on citizens through a fair, green and digital recovery.

Diary Dates


24 - 25 February 2021, Brussels
EESC plenary session


18 - 19 March 2021, Brussels
Your Europe, Your Say! 2021

One question to...

One question to…

In our section "One question to…" we ask EESC members to respond to a topical question that seems to us to be particularly relevant.
 

For a strong EU-US partnership

By Dimitris Dimitriadis, President of the External Relations Section

The New Transatlantic Agenda is currently at the heart of the political agenda for all European institutions. Our Committee, particularly the External Relations Section, is very much in alignment with it, as demonstrated by the recent meeting of our Transatlantic Relations Follow-up Committee, featuring very prominent guests who stressed the importance of robust and solid civil society dialogue, and by the EESC president's declaration and my statement on the 2020 US election expressing hope for a strong partnership in facing global challenges.

Guess who is our guest..

Surprise guest

Each month we introduce you to our surprise guest. This will be a well-known European figure who has been in the news and who will give us their take on the world: a breath of fresh air to broaden our horizons, inspire us and allow us to update our knowledge.

The surprise guest, Professor Danuta Hübner shares her opinion on Brexit with our readers

A consultative referendum in which the citizens of the United Kingdom were asked whether their country should leave the European Union took place on 23 June 2016. By a very small majority, the British people supported the idea of leaving the EU. The outcome differed across the country: in Scotland, Northern Ireland and also in London, the people’s will was not to leave. Nevertheless. the referendum was followed by the UK government’s commitment to get Brexit done. First, on 1 February 2020, the Withdrawal Agreement entered into force, allowing for an 11-month transition period. This provided legal certainty to all those affected by Brexit. Then, as of 1 January 2021,  when the agreement on the future relationship took effect,  the UK officially became a third country. 

EESC News

Portugal's EU presidency to focus on delivering on the MFF, the Brexit deal and vaccination

On 1 January 2021, Portugal took over the presidency of the Council of the EU, with the motto "Time to deliver: a fair, green and digital recovery".

The Portuguese presidency will face the challenging task of transferring from paper to real life the deals clinched in the last stretch of the German presidency on the EU's multiannual budget (MFF) and Recovery Fund, implementing the post-Brexit agreement with the UK and overseeing Europe's vaccination against COVID-19.

EESC welcomes prominent Irish disability advocate Sinéad Burke

On 2 December, the European Economic and Social Committee hosted a debate with Irish disability advocate and writer Sinéad Burke at its plenary session dedicated to the empowerment of persons with disabilities and their inclusion in all spheres of economic, social and political life in the EU and beyond.

Unity rights of people with disabilities

We invite you to relive some of the key moments of a virtual press conference on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2020, organised by the Press Unit on 2 December 2020.

EESC demands a change to EU electoral law

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has called on the European Parliament (EP), the Council of the EU and Member States to urgently amend the 1976 Electoral Act in a way that guarantees that all EU citizens with disabilities have a genuine right to vote in the EP elections in 2024.

Congratulations for securing a comprehensive EU UK partnership

Joint declaration by Christa Schweng, President of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and Jack O'Connor, President of the EESC's Brexit Follow-Up Group

Congratulations to the European Union and United Kingdom negotiators for successfully concluding a most complex and difficult negotiation to deliver a Trade Agreement which is vitally important to the people of both the UK and all of Europe.

2021-2027 EU budget – EESC pleased to see views of civil society having an impact

The EESC welcomes the adoption by the EU's Heads of State and Government of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2021-2027 on 10 December 2020. The compromise on the European budget and the recovery fund plus a rule of law mechanism takes into consideration the proactive and comprehensive contribution of the EESC in favour of a more ambitious MFF for the EU.

#DigitalServicesAct, #DigitalMarketsAct: Time for our democracy to catch up with technology

The European Commission's latest initiatives to regulate digital services and markets will ensure that providers take responsibility for the services they offer and that digital giants do not impose their own rules on Europe's markets, said Commission executive vice-president Margrethe Vestager at the EESC's December plenary.

National public services are essential for democracy and the rule of law in the EU

The EESC advocates a set of common principles for public services in order to help Member States comply fully with democracy and the rule of law.

New EU Pact on Migration and Asylum: a missed opportunity for a much-needed fresh start

The new EU Pact on Migration and Asylum was strongly criticised during a high-level conference held by the EESC. Representatives of civil society, think tanks and the European Parliament found that the new pact does not deliver the changes needed to create a proper common European migration and asylum system.

Single European Sky – the Commission's new proposal may not be enough

The European Commission and aviation stakeholders should come back to the discussion table to clarify the ambition of the new Single European Sky (SES) Regulation, says the EESC in a newly adopted opinion.

Blockchain technologies and the mining industry: a shared future

Blockchain

Blockchain technologies could offer useful solutions to the mining industry of the future, but the digital transition should take into account the social consequences. This was the main message from the online round table organised by the EESC's Consultative Commission on Industrial Change (CCMI) on 14 December 2020.

Empowerment is the key to a successful European Climate Pact

EU Climate Pact

The EESC is pleased to see its recommendations reflected in the European Commission's proposals for a European Climate Pact that supports existing and new climate action via peer learning, education, capacity building, the removal of barriers, and easier access to finance.

The EESC joins in the EU's drive to renew ties with the US

Following the US election, the EESC's Follow-up Committee on Transatlantic Relations met on 15 December in a bid to re-establish a strong partnership with US civil society.

News from the Groups

EU companies ready to take on twin green and digital transitions

By the EESC Employers' Group President Stefano Mallia

Climate neutrality and digital leadership will not be an easy task for Europe. The transformative agenda of the European Green Deal is as demanding as it is compelling. Some CEOs perceive it as a Herculean task, but EU employers are ready to switch gear and accelerate the roll out of the green and digital transitions.

The necessary balance between social, economic, and environmental issues in the industrial transition

By the EESC Workers' Group

Industrial change may mean better jobs and working conditions, with sustainable growth and inclusiveness. Or it might mean rampant inequality and poverty, soaring unemployment for certain groups, and eventually a fracture in social cohesion that will endanger the EU and democracy itself.

Self-employed people living in poverty: an often forgotten group

By Ronny Lannoo, member of the EESC Diversity Europe Group and of Belgian SME organisation UNIZO

The self-employed are often associated with "making a fast buck" and success. This caricature overshadows the many challenges entrepreneurs face. Self-employment always goes hand in hand with risks, in both the business and the private sphere.

Soon in the EESC/Cultural events

An EESC exhibition celebrates the social dimension at the heart of Portugal's EU presidency

Just as Portugal is taking the reins of the EU and  is pushing the social agenda up the list of priorities, the EESC is hosting a virtual exhibition of work by Portuguese artist Maria Reis Rocha which pays tribute to human connection and solidarity.

EESC to bring together youth from across Europe to brainstorm way out of climate crisis

The EESC's youth event Your Europe, Your Say! (YEYS) 2021 will model the United Nations' climate change conference (COP), with students giving their take on how to deal with the climate crisis and come closer to the 2050 climate-neutral ambitions.