The EESC is convinced that islands, mountainous regions and sparsely populated areas face significant challenges and that there is a solid legal basis that obliges the EU to take action in order to tackle these challenges. In this context, the organised civil society has an important role to play and through this debate, the aim is to find the best practices and solutions so that these regions can perform better and recover from the multiple crises. Therefore the EESC- ECO section has decided to organise this public debate in the framework of the EESC own-intiative opinion on "Main challenges that EU islands, mountain and sparsely populated areas face.
Insularity is considered to be a permanent and unchangeable geographical feature which involves additional costs (transport, energy, waste management, public services, necessity goods and services) that hamper the development and competitiveness of the islands, while particularly exposing them to biodiversity loss and climate change. The organised civil society has an important role to play and tackle all these challenges and through this debate. The aim is to find the best practices and solutions so that EU islands can preform better and recover from the multiple crises.
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) will be producing an own-initiative opinion on the main challenges faced by EU islands and mountainous and sparsely populated areas, which is scheduled for adoption at the EESC's September plenary session. In this context, the EESC, along with the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CPMR) and the North Sweden European Office (NSEO), will be holding a public hearing in Umeå (Sweden) on 4 May 2023 entitled "Challenges and opportunities that the digital and energy transitions present to the northern sparsely populated areas and islands. How can these regions become drivers for growth and development?". The hearing is an event under the Swedish Presidency of the Council of the EU.
With this debate, the ECO section is providing ex-ante input to the European Commission, in preparation for the upcoming 2023 strategic foresight cycle that wants to shed light on the strategic decisions needed to ensure a socially and economically sustainable Europe with a stronger role in the world in the coming decades.
This hearing will focus on topical questions such as the possible avenues to help MSMEs be well informed and prepared to grasp the opportunities of the transition to climate neutrality, coupling it with the possibilities offered by the digitalisation and hedging the current geopolitical risks. It will also take into consideration the challenges faced by the Belgian companies and the opportunities offered to them if they successfully adjust to the climate neutral and digitalised world.
This joint high-level event focused on topical questions such as the challenges faced by Micro, Small, Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) to successfully adjust to the climate neutral and digitalised world. It has also analysed the possible avenues to help MSMEs to be well informed and prepared to grasp the opportunities of the transition to climate neutrality, coupling it with the possibilities offered by the digitalisation and hedging the current geopolitical risks.
While Europe and its societies are still in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic and with the Conference on the Future of Europe in its closing stages, the EESC will be holding its annual Civil Society Days in March 2022.
The Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE) cannot ignore the model of economic governance created by the social economy. Its existence is based on historical foundations anchored in many European countries where it is both a social and an entrepreneurial dynamic. In some other countries, it is the subject of renewed interest. The European Commission is devoting an action plan to it to unleash its full potential. The European Parliament has already dedicated many reports to it, but today it is necessary to take further steps. The social economy must be promoted in the work of the CoFoE, for its values and democratic principles, for its entrepreneurial diversity and for its role in enhancing active citizenship.
Following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 has proved to be an endurance test for human and social rights, democratic values, the rule of law and economic resilience in the EU. While navigating stormy waters, organised civil society is playing a key role in coping with the countless pandemic-related challenges at European, national, regional and local level.
On 17 February 2021, the European Economic and Social Committee has organised a hearing in the framework of its exploratory opinion requested by the Portuguese presidency on The role of social economy in the creation of jobs and in the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights.