Addressing the European Commission's report on trends and issues to watch, the EESC stressed that it could have helped much more if it had been involved in the foresight exercise from the start.
The EESC opinion on the 2022 Strategic Foresight Report (SFR), adopted at the March plenary session, stressed that the EESC can strengthen the EU's analysis and foresight capacities. As the eyes and ears of civil society, it is best placed to pinpoint emerging trends. As a demonstration of this, the EESC also volunteered early input to the forthcoming 2023 SFR.
The rapporteur, Angelo Pagliara, set out some of the thinking behind the opinion:
Many of the issues in the Commission's report have already been addressed by the EESC in its opinions in previous years, and we have very strong expertise and experience. So, come to us, involve us more, because we can really help you.
The 2022 SFR looks into how best to align the EU's climate ambitions and its potentially clashing digital goals, and identifies ten key areas where action is needed to maximise synergies and consistency. In this respect, the EESC calls for a strategic foresight agenda geared towards a new development model that combines economic, environmental and social sustainability and puts people at the centre.
We need to take into account the effects of the twin transition on people and especially the most vulnerable, says Mr Pagliara,
because when they realise that it could have a negative impact on them, they'll be the first to turn against it, so it's important to put forth all the tools that can help gain public acceptance.
In the EESC's view, Europe's digital divide also deserves attention:
We are looking to strengthen digitalisation, but the fact is that there are deep cleavages between between the north, south, east and west of Europe, and we ask the Commission to look at possible action in this area, stresses the rapporteur.
One of the key weaknesses that the EESC pointed to in the 2022 report is the lack of a clear picture of risks and scenarios should the EU fail to meet its objectives when it comes to the availability of raw materials, rare earth metals and water resources.
Looking ahead to the 2023 SFR, which the Commission is expected to publish in the second quarter of 2023 focusing on a socially and economically sustainable Europe, the EESC singled out the following areas for special attention:
- supply systems and the resilience of Europe's agri-food sector;
- fostering a strong, cohesive and innovative European industrial system that is capable of generating quality jobs;
- the need to achieve strategic energy autonomy and to support businesses and workers, following on from what was done during the pandemic crisis.
In drafting its opinion, the EESC has pooled the expertise of all its thematic sections, which cover a number of key policy areas (social, economic, industry and industrial change, consumers, energy, the environment and external relations), offering a well-rounded take on the challenges addressed.