Speech by President Séamus Boland on the priorities of the Belgian Presidency

Speech by President Séamus Boland on the priorities of the Belgian Presidency for the Economy and a Social Europe

Plenary debate with Yana Giovanis, Social attaché, Permanent Representation of Belgium to the EU

Dear Madam,

  • I would like to join my colleagues in thanking you for taking the time to be with us today – you are very welcome at our plenary;
  • I will concentrate my remarks on two of the priorities of the Belgian Presidency: firstly, the defence of democracy; secondly, your objective of boosting EU health and the care workforce.
  • I would like to begin by thanking the Belgian Presidency for requesting from the EESC an exploratory Opinion on the topic of 'Strengthening civil society and participatory democracy in the EU';
  • Within the Committee, you have found an enthusiastic partner to jointly promote democracy and the rule of law;
  • Looking ahead to the Defence of Democracy package and the European elections in 2024, civil society must be treated as an important partner in strengthening and defending European democracy;
  • CSOs can enable participatory approaches that are complementary to representative democracy;
  • The Exploratory Opinion will be adopted next month and includes specific proposals on how to promote citizen participation and dialogue with intermediate bodies, at both European and Member State level.
  • With regard to your objective of boosting EU health and the care workforce, I would like to inform you that in June, our Group will hold its second event on the topic of EU health (the first was under the Swedish Presidency);
  • Our event in Liège on 4 June will be very ambitious and will explore how the European Health Union could be strengthened over the next five-year period;
  • We will be looking at the EU's commitment to One Health; digital innovations and their impact on health; the role of social investments in the sustainability of health systems; as well as the global fight against health inequalities, looking in particular at the example of rare diseases;
  • You will be aware that recent Eurobarometer surveys have found that European citizens would like the incoming European Parliament to concentrate on the topic of 'public health';
  • This clearly echoes the requests of citizens during the Conference on the Future of Europe, when they called for the "Right to Health";
  • And at our conference in Stockholm last year, the recommendations stressed that it is imperative to move away from the perception of public health as a 'cost';
  • On the contrary, the event highlighted that the EU must move towards a more progressive approach, which values healthcare as a social investment;
  • And although healthcare remains a national prerogative, EU coordination and assistance are both necessary and strongly welcome;
  • We need more synergies, holistic approaches, pooling of expertise, better planning, cross-border cooperation and upward convergence among and within EU countries;
  • Thank you for your attention.

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Speech by President Séamus Boland on the priorities of the Belgian Presidency