The European Commission should place greater focus on the long-term development of an EU able to better withstand geopolitical upheavals, counter their negative economic and social impacts and ensure that sustainable development guides its policies, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has said in a resolution on the EU's priorities for 2023.
The resolution on the EESC's contribution to the European Commission's 2023 work programme was adopted by the Committee's plenary assembly on 14 July, and highlighted the priorities that Europe's employers, workers and civil society organisations would like to see the EU focus on in the coming year.
Opining the plenary debate on the resolution, EESC president Christa Shweng said:
EU policy must focus where an added value can be generated. With the full involvement of the EESC we can bring economic, social and environmental benefits simultaneously, in particular in the follow-up of CoFoE.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, with the resulting product shortages, supply-chain disruptions and global spikes in energy, raw materials and food prices, have shown the importance of building a more resilient European economy. To do this, the EU needs to shape policies that strengthen the business environment, improve working and living conditions and facilitate the transition towards a climate-neutral and circular economy.
We need to accelerate the development of strategic and technological autonomy for Europe and make the EU as self-sufficient as possible. We need to promote a strong industrial base and resilient international supply chains without raising barriers to trade and cooperation, said Mariya Mincheva, EESC rapporteur for the Employers Group. "EU energy policy must be realistic and not put an extra burden on vulnerable consumers and workers, nor undermine the competitiveness of European businesses."
Solidarity and social convergence must also steer future EU policies. The EESC stressed that the price to pay for the response to the war in Ukraine must be shared out fairly. For this reason, it warned against reactivating the strict requirements of the Stability and Growth Pact too soon, and recommended exploring unemployment insurance schemes to address systemic problems which have been exacerbated by the ongoing crisis.
Our Member States need appropriate fiscal space and we should explore and use all the tools at our disposal to prevent unnecessary suffering by the population and shocks to our economy," said Stefano Palmieri, rapporteur for the EESC Workers Group. "Guided by solidarity, the next Commission work programme must rise to the challenges ahead, ensuring sustainable growth for the future.
The powerful impact of the energy and cost of living crisis must not let the EU lose sight of sustainable development as its long-term goal: reaching climate neutrality by 2050, combating poverty and social exclusion and strengthening the health sector to manage the increasing demand for care and possible future pandemics.
The work programme must deliver European food and energy security at affordable prices, poverty reduction and active support for the participation of individuals and civil society in the transition process, said Kinga Joó, rapporteur for the EESC Civil Society Organisations Group, stressing the need for a socially fair transition to a low-carbon society.
Finally, in the resolution the EESC insisted that it was imperative to follow up on Europeans' wishes and proposals for the EU as expressed at the Conference on the Future of Europe, and stressed that the EESC was ready and willing to be their champion.
If a Convention is organised, the Committee should be given a prominent role, added Ms Joó.
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