The European project should be strengthened so that it can deal more effectively with a changing world

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The European project should be strengthened to deal more effectively with a changing world: this was the main conclusion reached at the round table on "European policies for a world in transition: challenges ahead of the upcoming European elections”, held on 4 March at the European Commission Representation in Madrid. This event, organised by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) in conjunction with the European Commission Representation in Madrid, was moderated by Eva Contreras, Servimedia's chief economics editor. Several EESC members took part.

The main topics discussed were decarbonisation in relation to agriculture and its contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals, digitalisation and the need for more investment and innovation in intangible assets and the need to involve civil society more closely in finding solutions.

These issues were addressed against the backdrop of a stronger and more integrated European Union, because "without markets to generate economies of scale", such as the European internal market, "it is very difficult to compete with digital giants”, said Antonio García del Riego, EESC member representing the Spanish Confederation of Employers' Associations (CEOE). Similarly, Julio Linares, chair of the CEOE Commission on the Digital Society, remarked that "when dealing with the digital transformation, we are playing with our future" and Europe must be able to prioritise and increase coordination.

José Manuel Roche, EESC member representing the Union of Small Farmers (UPA), made the case for agriculture, as did Javier Alonso, head of climate change at the Farmers' and Stockbreeders' Coordinating Body (COAG). Mr Roche specifically emphasised the role of agriculture as the backbone of the regions and therefore as a factor contributing to social cohesion. He also called for professionalisation and warned of the detrimental effect that populist claims could have on the Common Agricultural Policy, which is a structural and integral part of the European project. Likewise, Javier Alonso stressed that agriculture is part of the solution to challenges such as decarbonisation and climate change and he called for the "administration to support the process".

María Nikolopoulou, EESC member representing Spain's Comisiones Obreras [Workers' Commissions], highlighted the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and 2030 Agenda, describing them as “an opportunity to mitigate systemic risks". Ms Nikopoulou went on to express her confidence that the result of the upcoming European elections would help to "raise awareness" of this challenge, which requires the involvement of the whole of society. José María Zufiaur, EESC member representing the Spanish General Workers' Union (UGT), stressed the importance of involving civil society in all areas of the European decision-making process, such as those already mentioned. He concluded that there is still a long way to go to achieve real European integration in social, economic and political terms.