The EESC considers that:
- Europe is facing three major issues: (1) the depletion of the earth's natural resources, including climate change and biodiversity loss; (2) social inequalities, including youth unemployment, and people left behind in regions with declining industries; and (3) public loss of trust in government, the political establishment, and the EU and its governance structures, as well as other institutions.
- These three major issues need to be understood against the background of two megatrends: digitalisation and globalization. Whether these will have a positive or negative impact depends how they are politically managed.
- Commission should prepare a long-term strategy for Europe's sustainable development, with the aim of fostering measures that strengthen its economy in order to realise social and environmental benefits.
- "No action" is not an option. Implementation and realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), together with the Paris Agreement, and well-managed transitions to the low carbon economy and the digital economy, will resolve the major issues facing Europe and make Europe a winner of this new industrial revolution.
- Such a strategy should be geared to the long term, and that it be explicit, horizontally and vertically integrated, manageable and participatory. Therefore the EESC considers it crucial to ensure that the transition to 2050 is designed and conducted with the full involvement of civil society representatives.
Due to the world-wide crises, and to the changes in the economic and social environment, Europe 2020 cannot deliver and has to be reformed. An enhanced, renewed strategy should be established with a much broader perspective and time-frame. EU civil society should take the lead in proposing an ambitious EU strategy which is communicated through a new narrative for the future and appeals to the young.
Such a strategy must make use of comprehensive, coordinated development activities to regain the momentum for addressing the challenges of the new economy, providing sustainable economic growth, strengthening the foundations of social welfare and democracy, supporting the coexistence of different cultures and showing due regard for the environment.
This own-initiative opinion is a joint proposal of the two EESC bodies with a cross cutting and horizontal approach: the SDO and the Europe 2020 Steering Committee (SC).