EESC elects Austria's Christa Schweng to its top post

United for the future of Europe: the new president is determined to rebuild the EESC's unity and reputation and demonstrate its added value in influencing policy shaping at EU level.

Austria's Christa Schweng has become the 33rd president of the European Economic and Social Committee and the fifth woman to head the EU body representing organised civil society since its establishment in 1958. The two new vice-presidents elected to join her at the helm of the EESC are Giulia Barbucci (Italy) for budget and Cillian Lohan (Ireland) for communication.

Ms Schweng brings to her new post extensive experience in and knowledge of social and employment issues, gained over twenty years in advisory work both at EU level and in her native Austria.

She has been a senior adviser to the Social Policy Department of the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber since 1994.

A convinced European, she has been with the EESC for 22 years as a member of the Employers' Group.

Following her appointment, Ms Schweng said: "This term of office will be marked by COVID-19 and, sadly, by times of uncertainty and economic and social hardship, in which businesses struggle to survive and workers lose their jobs. In the current context, more than ever, we need to join forces, develop a vision for a new, post-COVID-19 Europe and do our utmost to ensure that our Committee provides a powerful contribution to Europe's recovery and future resilience. This will go hand in hand with rebuilding a more united, effective and highly regarded EESC."

In this spirit, the motto of Ms Schweng's presidency is "United for the future of Europe".

The new president vowed to act immediately to restore the EESC's reputation and rebuild trust in the institution after it recently reiterated its firm commitment to fighting harassment in the workplace.

"We need a Committee that is united and meets the highest ethical standards, a Committee with an excellent image," Ms Schweng said, adding that the EESC's Code of Conduct for Members and the Rules of Procedure will be reinforced at the start of her term of office.

Since the EESC presidency changes halfway through the term of office, the tenure of the new Bureau headed by Ms Schweng, who takes over from her predecessor Luca Jahier, will last two and a half years, until March 2023.

The president's programme will be based on the following priorities, which are in line with her vision of a post-COVID-19 Europe that enables its citizens to thrive and live in an open and values-based society: a Europe that prospers economically; a Europe that is socially inclusive; and a Europe that is environmentally sustainable.

The fourth priority is making sure the EESC plays a vital role in the Conference on the Future of Europe, which is an important initiative intended to give Europeans a sense of ownership of their EU by enabling them to debate major EU topics and so improve how the European Union works.(ll)