Dear readers,

September feels like a new year to me. Much more than January. September marks the end of the summer break and a return to routines of work, meetings, travel or school. This year I feel this even more than usual. Vaccination rates are giving us hope that we can again move around our regions and our continent. New cultural norms of behaviour and hygiene practices have combined to give us the possibility of a new beginning.

Already we are approaching next month the one year anniversary of this new mandate for the EESC. And yet many members will make their first visit to our building in Brussels this month and next.

There is a sense of expectation and opportunity. Civil society needs to raise its voice and be heard clearly. That's where the EESC can continue to make a difference.

We have faced a difficult 18 months with this pandemic. We have faced a difficult summer with devastation across many parts of Europe as a direct consequence of climate change. Extreme flooding tragically resulting in loss of life (210 lives lost, mostly in Germany) and huge disruption to people's lives. Damage and loss of life from flooding was also experienced across Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

Italy and in particular Greece experienced wildfires that reflected the dry conditions of the land. The extraordinary temperature of 47.1 Celsius was reached in Greece. The images of parts of Europe under water and others on fire shows us the urgency of our need to come together to solve our challenges. Fire fighters from Germany, Poland, Romania and others rushed to offer assistance to the Greeks in a strong show of solidarity.

In the months ahead we have a busy schedule. The Conference on the Future of Europe will see all our members busy bringing all voices to the Conference. The slogan 'The future is in your hands' reminds us that only through active participation can the future we need be designed.

To facilitate this, I look forward to our Connecting EU event in Lisbon in November. This is an EESC initiative to stimulate our active network of civil society actors all over Europe. We typically have 120 participants, including communications representatives from civil society networks, COCOM members, journalists and other institutions. I am pleased to also remind you of our Civil Society Prize, which this year will reward those active on climate action.

We can all make a difference. Let's make the most of the opportunities to engage, and ensure we are both active and effective.

Cillian Lohan

EESC Vice-President for communication