The new head of the EESC is a convinced European with EU experience spanning two decades and considerable expertise in social matters, who firmly believes that the EU's civil society has the power to contribute to Europe's post-COVID-19 recovery and future resilience.
Austria's Christa Schweng has become the 33rd president of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and the fifth woman to head the EU body representing organised civil society since its establishment in 1958. The EESC's two new vice-presidents are Giulia Barbucci (Italy), responsible for the budget, and Cillian Lohan (Ireland), responsible for communication.
This is the second time that an Austrian member has been at the helm of the EESC. The first Austrian national in this post was also a woman: Anne-Marie Sigmund headed the EESC between 2004 and 2006 and was the last female president before Ms Schweng.
Ms Schweng brings to her new post extensive experience in and knowledge of social and employment issues, gained over 20 years in advisory work both at EU level and in her native Austria.
She holds a master's degree in law from the University of Vienna and has been a senior adviser to the Social Policy Department of the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber since 1994.
She has also served on the EU's Advisory Committee on Safety and Health at Work since 1995 and on the management board of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work since 2001. Between 2001 and 2009, she chaired the SMEunited's Social Affairs Committee, of which she is still a member.
Ms Schweng has been with the EESC for 22 years, and here she has also focused on employment and social affairs in her work, as a member of the Employers' Group. She is the outgoing president of the EESC's Section for Employment, Social Affairs and Citizenship and chaired the section's Labour Market Observatory from 2013 to 2015.
She has been the rapporteur or co-rapporteur of a number of EESC opinions, mostly dealing with employment, health and safety at work or social security systems.
Ms Schweng was appointed to the EESC's top post on 28 October, on the second day of the Committee's three-day inaugural remote plenary session. This marks the beginning of the EESC's 2020-2025 term of office, with over 40% of its 329 members being new. Since the EESC presidency changes halfway through the term of office, the tenure of the new Bureau headed by Ms Schweng will last two and a half years, until March 2023.
United for the future of Europe as her motto, Ms Schweng says unity will be the guiding principle of her work as the new EESC president.
Only united can we successfully overcome the economic and social hardship caused by COVID-19. Only united can we shape a post-COVID-19 Europe, she stressed.
Her vision of a post-pandemic Europe is one that enables its citizens to thrive and live in an open and value-based society: a Europe that is prospering economically; a Europe that is socially inclusive; and a Europe that is environmentally sustainable.
Above all, the new president will make sure that under her leadership, Europe's civil society, by using the hands-on experience of the businesses, SMEs, NGOs, workers and consumers assembled under the umbrella of the EESC, will help turn this vision of Europe into a reality.