Dear readers,

Welcome back after the summer break!

I truly hope that you enjoyed your break, relaxed and recharged for the busy months ahead. As we enter a critical phase for the EU, with key agreements and laws to be finalised before the European Parliament election campaign gains momentum, the EESC is dedicated to addressing pressing issues on civil society's agenda. 

Coming out of a summer marked by unprecedented heatwaves, devastating wildfires and floods in the EU it is abundantly clear that urgent action is paramount. Europe is in dire need of a comprehensive action plan on water. The EESC is working on a cross-cutting opinion to ensure adequate water financing, infrastructure and strategy, thus safeguarding accessible drinking water for all. Just as the Green Deal has become synonymous with the EU's commitment to climate action, the emerging Blue Deal must aspire to redefine the global benchmark for sustainable water management. 

Interestingly, EU citizens called for an update of the EU's rules on drinking water over a decade ago. The potential of the European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) remains untapped, and we must collectively improve our responsiveness to citizens. This is why, at our September EESC plenary session, we will hear from the organisers of the "Fur Free Europe" ECI, which has garnered 1.5 million supporters from across the EU. The plenary will also discuss a targeted revision of the EU budget, which faced an unanticipated crisis requiring swift and effective adaptation to address the new pressing priorities.  

Continuing to speak up for civil society, my political manifesto's pledge to amplify youth voices remains central. In July, the EESC became the first EU institution to implement the EU Youth Test, a significant milestone that underscores my dedication. I would like to thank all EESC members for their support in making this crucial decision. Going further, we are now setting up an EESC Youth Group and selecting opinions for the initial round of the EU Youth Test. 

The coming months will also see ties being strengthened with civil society beyond our borders, in particular the EU candidate countries. The EESC has doubled down on our relations with EU candidate countries so that we can engage them in our day-to-day work. Our recent plenary session reaffirmed this commitment and the upcoming Western Balkans Civil Society Forum in Thessaloniki – the same city where the European future for the Western Balkans was affirmed two decades ago – is promising. 

At the same time, we are gearing up for the biggest democratic exercise in the EU – the European Parliament elections in June 2024. In this context, let me bring your attention to the "EurHope initiative" and an online consultation which will set up the youth agenda ahead of the elections. The support of civil society in gathering the voices of European citizens, especially young ones, is key to building democratic resilience and shaping the future of Europe.

Oliver Röpke

EESC President