Dear Madam President, allow me to start by congratulating you for your appointment yesterday as the leader of this house.
There is no doubt that you have been elected as President of this house in very unique and particular moment. Please rest assured that you will find all the support you need from my Group, the Employers' Group.
May I also thank the you President Sassoli for being with us in person for this inaugural session. I take this as a clear signal of your commitment towards civil society and the importance of the role that civil society must play in these very difficult times.
I also thank the other speakers for the strong words they have expressed this morning and for their commitment to work hard to overcome the incredibly difficult challenges we have in front of us.
Allow me however, Madam President, to salute in particular Mr Geert Pawels, the CEO of Lineas, the largest private rail freight operator in Europe for the brave actions he and his company are taking during this pandemic where nothing is normal and uncertainty is the only certainty we have.
In spite of all this, he and his company have continued to invest in new services, undertake new partnerships, embrace the path towards a greener economy and above all continue to provide hundreds of jobs! This in my mind is the kind of company we need to support in any way possible if we are to face up to what could otherwise turn out to be an unprecedented economic and social disaster.
We speak about a COVID recovery, but first we must focus on surviving.
We are convinced that businesses that manage to face these challenges and succeed will be key to the recovery of the EU economy as a whole. Therefore, we call for a Europe that strengthens the competitiveness of European enterprises, encourages entrepreneurship and provides favourable conditions for innovating, investing, operating and ultimately creating jobs.
We just cannot afford months of discussion or layers upon layers of bureaucracy. Now is the time for swift decision making.
Then, we must together construct a sustainable recovery, which must take advantage of the harsh lessons being learned during the COVID crisis as well as taking into account the lessons learnt from the 2008 financial crisis.
The Employers' Group has actively promoted this belief over the past months when rapid action was required. Apart from being heavily involved in key initiatives being taken by the EESC in relation to the COVID crisis, we put forward the proposal of a health union. This proposal was taken up by the Commission.
We also wrote to all members of the European Council, as well as the presidents of the major European institutions and called for a fast and forward-looking decision on the recovery budget. The responses we received from the highest political levels confirmed that we can have an impact on the decision-making in Brussels. This I believe is the kind of momentum we need to maintain.
We also have a much larger and more important challenge ahead of us - climate change, which will force us to embark on a transition to a cleaner economy. Make no mistake, as employers we will embrace this transition however as the EESC we must ensure that this transition is well balanced between the social, environmental and economic realities we are all facing.
In my view it would be a major error to ignore the economic realities our companies are facing whilst at the same time expect them to take on considerable burdens in transiting to a cleaner economy.
And here I would also like to call on all the three groups in this house.
I believe that all three groups within this House have the right mind frame and understanding of the seriousness of the current situation to permit a more open approach towards the work we will be carrying out in the months ahead.
We will of course always have our differences, and that is what makes us richer. However, I believe that the current circumstances also dictate that we (myself included) will need to move out of our comfort zones, out of the old certainties that normally characterise our work and be ready to agree on positions that look towards the greater good rather than just the sectoral good.
Having said this, I must say that the first few months of cooperation between us the new Group Presidents already provides positive pointers in this direction and for this I thank both Seamus and Oliver.
I want to conclude my intervention today by reiterating once again Madam President, the full commitment of the Employers' Group towards addressing the incredible challenges we have ahead of us.
We will do this by making use of all the expertise and knowledge contained within the Group but above all we will do this with our European partners, Business Europe, CEEP, Copa-Cogeca, EuroChambres, Eurocommerce and SME United.
In my mind there is no doubt that it is only by pulling together, nation with nation, institution with institution, European organisation with European organisation, company with trade union, citizen with citizen, that we will overcome this incredibly difficult period.
Stefano Mallia, President of the EESC Employers' Group
The speech was held at the debate "Recovery for the future of Europe – The role of the European Economic and Social Committee" at the Inaugural Plenary Session of the EESC on 29 October 2020.