Podcast - The Grassroots View- S2, E3: A new narrative for Europe

The COVID-19 crisis has shown the importance of solidarity between EU Members States, institutions and citizens. In the light of this experience, we discuss why the Conference on the future of Europe, which has just kicked off, is a new and important step in thinking together about our common European future.

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A dash of optimism for the summer

Dear readers,

We start this summer with far more good news than last year. By the end of July almost 70% of adults in the EU should have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Travelling is becoming possible, albeit still complicated. And the launch of the NextGenerationEU fund is picking up speed.

Diary Dates

13 July, Brussels

Climate and Sustainability Round Table with Youth

22-23 September 2021, Brussels

EESC plenary session

One question to ...

"One question to…"

In our "One question to…" section, we ask EESC members to respond to a topical question that seems to us to be particularly relevant.
For the July edition, we asked Cristian Pîrvulescu, president of the ad hoc Group on Fundamental Rights and the Rule of Law, to comment on freedom of speech.


"Freedom of speech is a right that we must cherish and defend"

EESC info: More and more, it would seem that social media are fuelled by violence. This pattern of behaviour can lead to verbal or physical violence against all forms of authority, be it political, law enforcement, institutional or private. It certainly seems that anything goes on social media, and whether the idea you're defending is true or false simply doesn't matter. For instance, someone might feel that their personal grievance is legitimate and go so far as to slap France's head of state.

As president of the ad hoc Group on Fundamental Rights and the Rule of Law, given this state of affairs, where do you feel that the line should be drawn as regards fundamental rights and individual freedom, particularly freedom of speech?

Nurturing a shared culture of fundamental rights in Europe

by Cristian Pîrvulescu, EESC member and president of the ad hoc Group on Fundamental Rights and the Rule of Law

The time when fundamental rights, the rule of law and democracy could be taken for granted on our continent is definitively over. It has become increasingly clear that these values need to be proactively defended against populism, hate speech, attacks against minorities, the shrinking space for civil society and the tendency by some governments to concentrate power. The EESC's ad hoc group on Fundamental Rights and the Rule of Law is dedicated to fostering a culture of fundamental rights in Europe.

Guess who is our guest..

Our surprise guest

Every month we present a surprise guest whose work and commitment are an inspiration for others. For the July issue of EESC info we have invited Dr Hans Henri Kluge, World Health Organization Regional Director for Europe, and Johan Strid, Director of The Ocean Race Summits, to share their thoughts with us.

"The future is not written in stone and the course of the COVID-19 pandemic is in our hands"

Interview with Dr Hans Henri Kluge, Regional Director for Europe of the World Health Organization.

How do you see the impact of the vaccination campaign in Europe?

Since 4 February 2021, more people have been vaccinated against COVID-19 globally than have been confirmed infected since the beginning of the epidemic. Over 477 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in the European Region to date (as of 17 June).

"We all have to do what we can to improve the health of the planet"

by Johan Strid, director of The Oceans Race Summit

"Why would The Ocean Race, a sailing competition, want to help drive new and improved policies to tackle some of the most urgent issues facing our blue planet?" I get asked that question often and my answer is that we all have to do what we can to improve the health of the planet and, for us more specifically, our field of play: the ocean. 

Herman van Rompuy: The old poet speaks gently

We are delighted to host a new selection of haikus by Herman Van Rompuy, former President of the European Council, as part of our series "The old poet speaks gently".


The Slovenian presidency of the EU comes at a critical time for Europe

On 1 July 2021 Slovenia took on the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, at a time when Europe is looking to recover, build back better and emerge stronger from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Conference on the Future of Europe: EESC consultations will reach every corner of Europe

The president of the European Economic and Social Committee, Christa Schweng, kicked off the Committee's official activities relating to the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE) with a live Q&A session. #CoFoE - Bringing the European project back to citizens set out organised civil society's views and expectations regarding the Conference. It also highlighted the importance of engaging with people outside the Brussels bubble and brainstormed in preparation for the upcoming citizens' consultations.

"The European Green Deal will be just, or will just not be"

At the EESC June plenary Frans Timmermans announced measures to shield the most vulnerable from the possible extension of carbon pricing to heating and transport fuels, and heard the EESC's proposals to improve corporate decision-making on the green transition through social dialogue.

Recovery and reconstruction after the pandemic must be the priority for the future of Europe

The EU's top priorities for the near future must include putting the European economy back on track to deliver a sustainable transition and bring prosperity to Europe's people and businesses. This is the main thrust of the Resolution on the EESC's contribution to the European Commission's 2022 Work Programme, adopted at the EESC's June plenary session.

The new EU cancer strategy is a tremendous opportunity to safeguard the health of Europeans

With cancer set to become the leading cause of death in the EU, Europe's Beating Cancer Plan is certainly timely. The EESC welcomes this plan which is a milestone in the fight against cancer. However, unresolved forms of regional and social inequality mean that there is still room for improvement.

Civil society must be given an active role in the defence of EU values

The European Economic and Social Committee has pledged its ongoing commitment to working together with the European Commission and other EU institutions on upholding and implementing the EU's core values, notably the rule of law, fundamental rights and democracy.

"Only by increasing its impact will the ECI be able to reconnect the EU with its citizens"

The 10th ECI Day, dedicated to the European Citizens' Initiative, took place exceptionally online and over two days. EESC president Christa Schweng, European Commission Vice-President Věra Jourová and European Parliament Vice-President Pedro Silva Pereira assessed the state of this unique instrument of participatory democracy.

Circular public procurement should be mandatory for governments in EU countries

With an annual expenditure accounting for around 14% (or EUR 2 trillion) of the EU's overall GDP, governments are Europe's biggest consumers. Their expenditure stems mainly from public tenders to purchase the works, services and supplies they need from companies.

Pay transparency: binding measures are necessary but not sufficient to reduce the gender pay gap

The EESC welcomes the Commission's initiative on binding pay transparency, but considers that the proposed directive should be strengthened in several areas and further measures taken to address the root causes of the gender pay gap.

Strengthening the international role of the euro is key to enhancing Europe's global position

The EU needs to set ambitious economic objectives to strengthen the euro. This has become even more important given the pace of change in the global economy and the EU's current position in terms of innovation, competitiveness and fostering an investment-friendly regulatory environment.

National Recovery and Resilience Plans: the EESC calls for real involvement of organised civil society in their implementation

The involvement of organised civil society is far from satisfactory in most EU countries, warned the EESC at the annual conference of its European Semester Group, held remotely on 31 May.

Towards more sustainable food systems – the transition must be inclusive and fair

Sustainable food Systems

To contribute to the 2021 United Nations (UN) Food Systems Summit, the EESC held an online hearing on 28 May to explore the vulnerabilities and inequalities of European food systems and to identify how to achieve more equitable and fairer supply chains. High-level speakers from the UN, the European Commission and the European Parliament shared their views on the changes needed to strengthen equity, fairness and a rights-based approach in the transition to more sustainable food systems.

Greening of transport must provide realistic alternatives

The EESC supports the greening of transport, but stresses that the energy transition must be fair and provide viable and realistic alternatives that take account of the specific economic and social features and needs of all parts of Europe, including rural areas.

EESC debates the updated European industrial strategy

On 17 June, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and its Consultative Commission on Industrial Change (CCMI) held a spirited debate examining the views of organised civil society following publication of the European Commission's update to the new industrial strategy. The debate, which is the first in a series of joint activities by EESC sections on the topic, questioned whether the updated strategy contains sufficient elements to enhance EU industry's resilience and strategic autonomy. 

Transatlantic partners determined to walk the walk

The EESC's Transatlantic Relations Follow-up Committee met just days ahead of the high‑level EU-US summit to discuss a wide range of subjects of importance to civil society, first and foremost climate change and trade.

New publication: EESC activities during the Slovenian presidency (July-December 2021)

In the second half of 2021, Slovenia will hold the EU Council presidency for the second time. And it is the second time that it comes at a critical moment for Europe.

News from the Groups

Employers' Group webinar on digitalisation calls for a Digital Rural Act

By the EESC Employers' Group

Following the recent adoption of the EESC opinions on the Digital Markets Act (DMA) and the Digital Services Act (DSA) at the June Plenary, the Employers' Group hosted a webinar on the "Challenges of the digital and the new EU economy" on 14 June.

Helping to close the gender pay gap before 2104

By the EESC Workers' Group

On average, women earn 14% less than men in Europe. In some countries the situation is slowly improving; in others it is deteriorating. The gap is expected to close on average by the twenty-second century in the European Union, but in countries such as France this is expected to take another 1000 years.

Media freedom cannot be taken for granted but must be actively preserved

By Elena-Alexandra CALISTRU, member of the EESC Diversity Europe Group

Few places in the world enjoy Europe's solid tradition of upholding the values of free, independent media. However, the advent of digital platforms, illiberal tendencies to shut down access to information, the growing threat to investigative journalists and the crisis generated by COVID-19 are all placing different but simultaneous pressures on the ecosystem that allows that exceptionally free media to exist and fulfil its democratic role.

Soon in the EESC/Cultural events

ESMA Museum and Memorial Site in Argentina: a symbol of human rights

The Workers' Group has presented the campaign to inscribe the ESMA Museum and Memorial Site in Argentina on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The ESMA Museum and Memorial Site in Argentina was a clandestine centre of detention, torture and extermination during the Argentine dictatorship of 1976-1983. A symbol of Argentinian history, it is at the same time an institution of international relevance as it provides yet more evidence of human rights abuses and crimes against humanity which must never be forgotten.

The campaign to make ESMA a UNESCO heritage site is supported by human rights organisations, the trade unions of the Mercosur and the Argentinian Embassy to the European Union.

The event was held online on 30 June and web-streamed on the EESC's web page and social media channels. You can find out more here. (ck)

A decade of climate change in Ciril Jazbec's pictures

To mark the beginning of the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU, the EESC presents an online exhibition by the awarded Slovenian photographer Ciril Jazbec, a Leica O.B. winner and recipient of the World Press Photo award for 2021.

The virtual photo exhibition "A decade of climate change" features a series of 25 images which are part of the artist's long term project "Climate Change Resilience".

The official opening is to take place on 8 July with a Live Art Talk web-streamed on Facebook and hosted by the EESC vice-president for communication Cillian Lohan in the presence of the Deputy Permanent Representative of Slovenia to the EU, ambassador Tamara Weingerl Požar, of EESC Slovenian member Neža Repanšek and of the artist himself.

The online exhibition will run from 5 to 30 July 2021. Do not miss the chance to visit it here. (ck)