Speech by President Séamus BOLAND, EESC plenary debate with with Valdis Dombrovskis

Debate on Recovery & Resilience, linked to the adoption of the resolution "Involvement of Organised Civil Society in the National Recovery and Resilience Plans – How can we improve it?", with Valdis Dombrovskis, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission for an Economy that Works for People


Dear Vice-President,

Thank you for taking the time to discuss with us this afternoon, you are most welcome at the Committee.

I would like to begin my commentary by stating loud and clear that when we are speaking about Europe's recovery and resilience, in the same breath we should be using the words 'Civil Society Organisations'. In effect, we cannot have a sustainable qualitative recovery, without an effective and qualitative dialogue with CSOs. This argument has been strongly voiced in both of the EESC resolutions.

This does not only mean better resourcing CSOs. It also means giving these actors and the EESC, an active role in civil and social dialogue at the beginning and middle of the process - and not only at the end.

Ultimately, politics and policies must be rooted in society. And hence, it is worrying to learn from CSOs, that the social dimension is not sufficiently present in the national recovery plans. This despite EU commitments to the European Pillar of Social Rights. And despite the negative cascading effects of the war in Ukraine on our economies. Price inflation for food and energy are just two of the factors which are already increasing poverty within the EU.

The reality is that the EU is facing a geo-political crisis and we must adapt the national recovery plans to this new reality. All Member States should use the funds to invest more in social policies and in the EU Green Deal. We must protect consumers and reduce poverty. We need clean and renewable energy. And we need maximum energy autonomy for the EU.

Mr Vice-President, allow me a short interlude to remind colleagues that 2022 is the 100-year anniversary of the publication of the famous novel 'Ulysses' by the Irish author James Joyce. I mention this because I see parallels between on the one hand, Joyce's efforts 100 years ago to change Ireland by changing the way the Irish saw themselves. And on the other hand, today's opportunities resulting from the national recovery plans. Both involve societal shifts and require changing perceptions, ambitious and behaviour. None of which are possible, without bringing on board citizens.

And one particular group of citizens which are often neglected, are the young! This year is of course the European Year of Youth. And what I find missing in the national recovery plans is the youth perspective, both in the implementation and in the monitoring. The EC recently published the first Eurobarometer survey on 'Youth and Democracy' and it seems that the highest priorities of young people are security, employment, fighting poverty, inequalities and climate change. All of which make sense to me, your humble not so young youth advocate!

In conclusion, Mr Vice-President, it is evident that Europe's recovery and resilience must go hand in hand with more effective civil society participation, greater youth involvement and a revision of priorities, so as to better take into account the new geo-political realities in which the EU finds itself today. Thank you for your attention.

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Speech by Séamus Boland

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