By the EESC Workers' Group

"The social agenda should be at the heart of a post Covid-19 reconstruction plan in Europe. We must focus on deep reform of the Stability and Growth Pact and establishing a Golden Rule that gives countries room for investment in social infrastructure", said the President of the Workers' Group, Oliver Röpke.

Mr Röpke was introducing the EESC's and Workers' Group webinar on how to rebuild a fairer Europe to cope with the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, which was organised with the support of EESC Vice-President for Communication Isabel Caño. Oliver Röpke stressed that the focus of any recovery plan should be on the principles of solidarity, sustainability and workers' protection and participation.

For the webinar participants - which included European Commissioner for Jobs, Nicolas Schmit, European Parliament's S&D Group President, Iratxe García, and ETUC General Secretary, Luca Visentini - the biblical dimension of this crisis, which had caused thousands of people to lose their livelihoods, meant that it could not be business as usual again.

Commissioner Nicolas Schmit insisted that the recovery plan must aim at economic and social convergence while including major objectives such as the Green and Digital Deal, and instruments to mitigate poverty and unemployment risks, such as the SURE mechanism that supported national short work schemes with loans, a youth guarantee and minimum wage initiatives at EU level, in close cooperation with the social partners.

S&D Group President, Iratxe García, stressed that it was more necessary than ever to have an ambitious agreement on the MFF to provide for a broad recovery plan based on the Social Pillar and the SDGs. She called for stronger EU competences in health policy, in particular to improve European resilience to similar pandemics in the future. "We need a European health union", she insisted.

ETUC SG Luca Visentini warned that postponing important initiatives launched by the Commission before the pandemic such as the Green Deal, the Social Pillar and a fair digital transition, as advocated by businesses and the financial sector in order to "focus on the essential" would seriously jeopardise recovery, as would a return to budget austerity. (mg)