Monsieur le Commissaire,
It is a great pleasure and an honour to greet you at this Extraordinary Group meeting of the Employers' Group of the European Economic and Social Committee.
I would like to greet you first and foremost as the Commissioner responsible for some of the most important portfolios for us, such as the Single Market, industrial policy, SME policy and even Space policy.
I would, however, also like to greet you here as an important partner, a partner for a thriving and strong European economy.
As Employers, we feel that with you, we can speak the same language and this is crucial in these times of unprecedented challenges. You have served as French Minister of Economy, Finance and Industry. You have been a professor at Harvard Business School where you taught, among others, leadership and corporate accountability.
However most importantly you have been at the helm of businesses, taking day to day decisions to keep businesses growing and creating value.
You know how important it is for us entrepreneurs to have a legislative environment that allows us to operate with certainty, flexibility and security.
Your impressive background in politics, academia and business provide us with the opportunity to discuss constructively how to frame policies for change. You know very well the challenges we are facing and that the stakes are high, but you also know that entrepreneurs thrive in making change happen.
We are all very much looking forward to listening to what you have to say to us and to exchanging views with you on a number of key issues.
In preparing for this meeting, I have held various meetings with my colleagues present here today and they will be raising a number of issues on which we would like to have clarity whilst also putting forward suggestions for key policy initiatives, such as the revised industrial policy and the better regulation package which are both expected in the coming weeks.
I would, however, like to touch very briefly on the vaccine rollout for which you have now been made responsible.
Your hands-on approach to securing a rollout of the Covid-19 vaccines in a timely and consistent manner is extremely welcome. It is clear that it is only through a massive and timely delivery of vaccines to our citizens that we can start to regain a certain amount of stability and confidence, both ingredients of which are extremely important for a speedy and strong economic recovery.
We are fully aware of the difficulties being faced, but we are confident that industry is reacting in the right manner. Production capacities are being pooled together and with your steady hand, we are confident that the right policy decisions will be taken.
In a statement we issued a few weeks ago, we urged the Commission and the Member States to maintain a sense of collaboration and solidarity as it is these two elements which had brought us this far in such a short span of time.
As you said in a recent speech, with vaccines being developed in record time, we have won the science battle. We now have to win the industrial production battle.
The Employers’ Group is firm in its conviction that protectionism is never the way forward and that any such action is likely to backfire and create new problems for the continued development and production of vaccines.
It is crucial that our economy remains open, ensuring actual coordination to return to a full and well-functioning EU internal market as soon as the sanitary situation allows it.
At the same time, whilst the vaccine continues to be rolled out we need to make progress on the use or otherwise of common vaccination certificates and vaccination passports which could also play a crucial role in bringing further confidence to the market.
I am well aware that this is a sensitive and somewhat controversial issue which however needs to be tackled with an open mind and an understanding that what we are facing is unprecedented and therefore requires unprecedented approaches.
We are confident that if we approach this challenge together as a European Union we will overcome this very difficult time and we will emerge stronger and in a better shape to face the significant challenges and opportunities related to the digital and green transitions on which I am sure we will exchange views.
These are just a few of the many issues we need to tackle together in partnership. I will not hide away from the fact that we, as employers are somewhat preoccupied by some of the agenda items of this Commission.
Lest I be misunderstood – business can and wants to propose solutions for the manifold simultaneous transitions taking place. We firmly believe that business and enterprise is an indispensable partner to adapt our societies to the future and we should be given the room to play our role.
Human centred AI, effective climate policy or other public goods cannot be brought about by business or the market alone but neither can they be brought about without business.
We are looking forward to hearing from you following which we will then open the floor for an exchange with our Members.
Mr Commissioner, the floor is yours!
Speech by EESC Employers' Group President Stefano Mallia at Extraordinary Employers' Group meeting with Commissioner Thierry Breton