A strong emphasis on the EU's recovery, health union and digitalisation, a firm position on defending the rule of law and a focus on the future of Europe: these are the elements of this year's State of the Union that are very much welcomed by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and that particularly align with its priorities.
While the European economy is on track to recovery, structural reforms need to be continued for a greener, fairer, more digital and more resilient EU.
"Turning such reforms into actions will only be possible with the full involvement of organised civil society", said Christa Schweng, EESC president.
Therefore, implementing the reforms as set out in the national recovery and resilience plans, taking into account the needs of employers, workers and civil society at large, remains the EESC's priority.
The swift research, availability and rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines showed that Europe is delivering. A genuine Health Union as highlighted by the Commission's President Ursula von der Leyen is one of key priorities for the EESC's current term of office. The European Health Emergency preparedness and Response Authority (HERA), and further investment in the health systems of the Member States, respond to the EESC's earlier call for strengthening the European Health Union.
When it comes to investment in future technologies, the EESC stresses that the EU must develop its own vision and strategy for digital sovereignty, while remaining open to free trade and supporting the multilateral system.
Ms Schweng also welcomes the European Commission's firm stand on the rule of law. We must defend European values and the space of civil society against national laws that are in conflict with EU law. At its plenary next week, the EESC will adopt an opinion calling for further action to defend free and pluralistic media and guarantee independent journalism.
For the EESC, the future success of Europe's economic and social model will largely depend on our ability to partner and connect with the rest of the world, from our closer neighbours such as the Western Balkans to other geopolitical strategic partners.
The EESC stands ready to help transform promises into actions using the grassroots experience of our members. "The conference on the Future of Europe is a unique opportunity to shape Europe according to citizens' needs and those of young people in particular. To guarantee a fully transparent process it is necessary to provide citizens with a dashboard that allows for proper monitoring and follow-up of the proposals from the conference", said president Schweng.