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The fight for equality is a battle we must all wage together

Dear readers,

This month, each year, we celebrate International Women's Day, but this year 8 March is once again a sad reminder of how much work still needs to be done to ensure that women are able to participate fully in society.

Women are under-represented in political and economic decision-making bodies, have lower rates of employment and earn less than men.

Moreover, the current pandemic and the global economic crisis have clearly demonstrated that women, together with young people, are the groups paying the highest price and that many of the hard-won gains made over the past few decades are in danger of being undone. Lastly, women bear the burden of unpaid domestic and care work, and forced cohabitation in times of lockdown often leads to an increase in cases of gender-based violence.

Diary Dates

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 the March edition, we asked Baiba Miltoviča, president of the Section for Transport, Energy, Infrastructure and the Information Society, to share her views with EESC info readers on the role of rail transport in connection with the objectives of the European Green Deal, in particular in 2021, which has been declared the European Year of Rail. (ehp)

Developing a more resilient and effective rail system

EESC info question: This year has been designated European Year of Rail. The main purpose of this project is to contribute to the achievement of the objectives of the European Green Deal in the field of transport, specifically focusing on the role of rail transport.
With this in mind, what is your view about a dynamic approach to increasing the use of rail transport?

Baiba Miltoviča, TEN section president

The European Union has declared this year the European Year of Rail to encourage citizens to make more use of train services in their daily lives. The main reasons that prevent people from choosing train services on a daily basis differ from one European country to another, the key reasons being uncompetitive ticket prices, a lack of comfort and connections, as well as long travel times...

Guess who is our guest..

The surprise guest

Every month we present a surprise guest, a well-known person who gives us their point of view on current events: a breath of fresh air to broaden our horizons, inspire us and make us more aware of today's world. For our March edition we are pleased to welcome Herman van Rompuy, the first president of the European Council, who offers us a perspective on Europe's current challenges.

Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Policy Centre, is a Belgian and European politician, and a former prime minister of Belgium (2008-2009). In his capacity as president of the European Council (2009-2014), he played a key role in the EU's response to the financial crisis and in strengthening the framework of European economic governance.


Herman van Rompuy: ''This is no time for doomsayers''

Since 2008, we have had one crisis after another - what is known as a "multiple crisis". Many people are simply wondering what will come next, showing how fear and uncertainty have grown. It is true that most crises are imported. But still. The Union overcame all those dangerous hurdles that sometimes threatened its existence. We are good at that. But at the same time we also have positive challenges: are we as good at dealing with those?

When I see how the Union is using the Recovery Fund designed to combat the social and economic impact of the pandemic in order to accelerate the environmental and digital transitions, I have hope! We are combining crisis management with a long-term vision, and this is the hardest thing to do in today's politics, which is obsessed with short-term thinking and action.

The old poet speaks softly

We are pleased to present to you a series of haikus, grouped under the title “The old poet speaks softly”, originally written in French language, offered to us by their author, Herman van Rompuy.


Conference on the Future of Europe: EESC committed to actively contributing to success of Conference

Statement by EESC president Christa Schweng

I welcome the signature of the joint declaration between the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council that sets out the Conference on the Future of Europe. The European Economic and Social Committee is looking forward to actively contributing to the debate, being invited as an observer.

Not just green and digital: the future of Europe must also be more democratic

Reconstruction after the pandemic must be an opportunity to rebuild Europe on a new foundation of democratic participation. It would be a huge mistake if the fate and future of so many were to be decided by so few, the EESC 2021 Civil Society Days heard.

The EESC Civil Society Days, entitled "A Sustainable Recovery for the Future of Europe's Citizens'', took place on 1-5 March, offering  five days of interactive online debates involving over 1 400 people, with viewers connecting from as far afield as Africa, Asia, and North and South America.

The New Migration and Asylum Pact: short on solidarity and weighing heavy on states of first entry

The European Economic and Social Committee has welcomed the new Migration and Asylum Pact but says that  proposals will be hard to implement and cannot be called a clear step towards a resilient and forward-looking common EU strategy on migration and asylum.

In two opinions, in which it analyses several proposals for regulations governing asylum management and asylum procedures, the EESC states that the new pact might not be able to ensure the fair and efficient processing of asylum applications.

Civil society is ready to help the EU deal with the challenges posed by digital finance

Digital finance urgently needs to be regulated and the European Commission is on the right track to do so. This is the main message of three EESC opinions adopted at the February plenary session, in which the Committee throws its support behind the Commission's latest proposals for regulation of the digital financial sector.

EU recovery – involvement of organised civil society is key

The National Recovery and Resilience Plans (NRRPs) would be more efficient and effective if civil society organisations were involved more quickly and more extensively.

This is the key message of the Resolution on the Involvement of Organised Civil Society in the National Recovery and Resilience Plans – What works and what does not?, which was adopted at the EESC February plenary session and presented during a debate with Christa Schweng, EESC president and Johannes Hahn, European Commissioner for budget and administration.

The EESC calls for simpler and fair taxation in the EU and beyond

The European Economic and Social Committee  broadly supports the Commission's legislative proposals on more efficient and fair taxation and praises their coordination at global level.

In its opinion adopted by the plenary assembly on 24 February, the EESC gives full support to the European Commission's package for fair and simple taxation.

EU economic strategy for 2021 should pay more attention to social issues

The European Economic and Social Committee has adopted its position on the EU's economic priorities for 2021.

It welcomes the steps taken in the strategy to address the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic in the context of the European Green Deal, but is disappointed that the strategy proposed by the European Commission devotes too little attention to social issues. It also warns against phasing out support measures too early and advocates establishing new fiscal rules that will reflect social and economic realities after the pandemic.

The renovation wave strategy is a win-win-win for the European Union

The European strategy on A Renovation Wave for Europe is an absolute necessity, and is indispensable for the European Union and its citizens. In an opinion drafted by Pierre Jean Coulon and Laurențiu Plosceanu and adopted at the February plenary session, the EESC backs the proposal on building renovation put forward by the European Commission as a way of "greening our buildings, creating jobs, and improving lives".

EESC pledges to deliver a substantial contribution on the Commission's new initiatives

Statement on the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan, pay transparency and the Strategy for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2021-2030

We are looking forward to working on the European Commission's three major initiatives: a Communication on the European Pillar of Social Rights Action Plan, a proposal for a Directive to strengthen the application of the principle of equal pay for equal work or work of equal value between men and women through pay transparency and enforcement mechanisms and the Strategy for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2021-2030.

News from the Groups

Europe is well equipped to fulfil its industrial ambitions

 By the EESC Employers' Group

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted that genuine resilience is dependent on securing a fully functioning Single Market.

This was the main message of EU Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton, who joined the extraordinary meeting Employers' Group on 1 March to discuss a wide range of topics from the vaccine roll-out to the revised EU Industrial Strategy and Europe's sustainable recovery.

International Women’s Day: Why it is still necessary

By Maria Nikolopoulou, member of the EESC Workers' Group

Does it make sense nowadays to celebrate International Women's Day?

It's been over 110 years since Clara Zetkin proposed the establishment of Working Women's Day, and more than 40 years since the United Nations declared the International Day for Women's Rights and International Peace. Societies have evolved in the past century.

EESC study on civil society response to COVID-19

By the EESC Diversity Europe Group

On 12 March, at its high-level conference on "Civil Society Organisations during and after COVID-19: what challenges and what future?", the Diversity Europe Group launched a new study entitled "The response of civil society organisations to face the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent restrictive measures adopted in Europe"

Soon in the EESC/Cultural events

8 March: International Women's Day

To mark International Women's Day, the European Economic and Social Committee is staging a 100% virtual exhibition entitled Artivism for Gender Equality.

The exhibition features a series of 25 posters that highlight struggles for gender equality and women's rights and reflect the 2030 Agenda and the UN Sustainable Development Goals, especially SDG 5 on gender equality.

The exhibition is being organised jointly with Women Engage for a Common Future, a non-profit network dedicated to a gender-just and healthy planet for all.

Don't miss the chance to discover it here along with the video from its live launch! (ck)

Joint Africa-EU photo exhibition linked to the EU Portuguese presidency

The Portuguese artist Ana Carvalho presents the Africa in Lisbon exhibition, depicting the presence and impact of African culture in Lisbon, while African artist José Pereira, based in Cape Verde, presents the Ubuntu exhibition, promoting a way of peaceful co-existence, acceptance of differences and solidarity.

On 2 March, the EESC launched the joint Africa–EU photography exhibition at a virtual event which included Cillian Lohan, Vice-President for Communication, Carlos Trindade, Chair of the ACP-EU Follow-up Committee, and the two photographers. The launch took place during the meeting of the ACP-EU Follow-up Committee, a permanent body which is part of the EESC External Relations section.

EESC Online Talks – Discover us online!

Did you know that the European Economic and Social Committee ensures that ordinary people across the continent have a say in Europe’s development?

Book your visit online, and find out why consultation, dialogue and consensus are at the heart of our work, representing organised civil society (including employers, trade unions and groups such as professional and community associations, farmers' organisations, youth associations, women's groups, consumers, environmental campaigners and many more..) (cl)