The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) welcomed Sebastian Reimer and Michael Laubsch, two of the initiators and promoters of the "Stop Extremism" European Citizens' Initiative, which has gathered around 1.6 million signatures, to be validated by the Member States.
In his introductory remarks, EESC president Luca Jahier reaffirmed the EESC's continuous commitment – something that emerged in a very practical way at the annual ECI day (see article below) – to improving the European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) instrument, making it more user-friendly and ensuring that it had a genuine impact. These efforts were finally bearing fruit.
Mr Laubsch said that with the Stop Extremism ECI, the initiators wanted to rouse people from their "EU fatigue" and bring together EU politics, the EU institutions and the people of Europe to discuss how to fight extremism. "Hate is starting to disrupt our society. Our fundamental rights need renewed support, especially from the public".
"It is not enough to counter extremism, we need to prevent it. This starts in schools, by empowering young people to be resilient when confronted with extremist discourse, especially on online social platforms. We must also address the socioeconomic problems that lead to exclusion and alienation", said Oliver Röpke, president of the EESC's Workers' Group.
A similar line was adopted by Gonçalo Lobo Xavier (Employers' Group): "We need to protect the European model. Freedom is an inalienable right, one which we dearly embrace. It is not only about imposing laws, but we must respect everybody's choices and everybody's freedom within the framework of our fundamental rights and values".
Finally, Cillian Lohan (Diversity Europe Group) said: "It is important to look at the causes of extremism and the rise of populism in the EU. The reality people are feeling is quite different from the views of those in power, and this creates a complete disconnection between those in power, governments and the citizens on the ground". (sma)