At the July plenary session of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), its president Christa Schweng and the newly elected president of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) Vasco Alves Cordeiro discussed renewed prospects for joint action and cooperation between the two committees.
Opening the debate, EESC president Christa Schweng noted that the two committees had always defended the European project and provided valuable input into it.
At this critical time, when Europe is being pushed from all sides, it is more important than ever to join forces and bring Europe closer to its citizens, she said.
Mr Cordeiro agreed on the political importance of the joint work by the EESC and CoR, especially in these difficult times for the EU.
From building the recovery after the pandemic to strengthening European democracy, from facing the war against Ukraine and its social and economic consequences to defending cohesion policy: our two committees have a joint interest and responsibility to speak with a clear voice and move the European Union forward, he said.
A stronger and fairer Europe for all and a stronger Cohesion Policy into the future are the two main objectives of the newly elected CoR president, which the EESC shares and supports. A stronger Europe from the democratic point of view is a Union with strong values and foundational principles, such as freedom, respect for human dignity, the rule of law and democracy, and a fairer Europe fighting for gender equality and an inclusive society. The second priority, Cohesion Policy plays a key role in strengthening economic, social and territorial cohesion in the European Union. Mr Cordeiro stated that the CoR would firmly defend cohesion policy ahead of the future battle for the post-2027 EU budget.
The best way to defend cohesion policy is to just use it wisely and promote it, he added.
Ms Schweng stressed the importance of citizen participation in the EU process,
which is an issue on which we should work closer together; we both advise other EU institutions to improve EU decision-making by contributing with a diverse set of points of view. We should play to our strengths together. According to Ms Schweng, when following up on the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE) we can put this closer cooperation in practice.
The Conference represents a great opportunity but also a tremendous responsibility towards the citizens - said Ms Schweng.
We need to be clear about empowerment of citizen participation, Mr Cordeiro added.
During the ensuing debate, the president of the EESC's Civil Society Organisations' Group Séamus Boland, said:
We in the EESC share with our colleagues in the Committee of the Regions a common goal, which is to ensure that the people we represent have access to public services when they need them. Working in union, we can be a powerful voice in articulating the needs of people who are often left behind because of poverty or exclusion.
The president of the EESC's Employers' Group, Stefano Mallia underlined the role of cohesion policy to boost growth and prosperity and the need to create an economic environment where innovative businesses of all sizes can thrive. Following Mr Mallia, a stronger Europe means strong economies, a resilient single market and better conditions to face new challenges.
The president of the Workers' Group, Oliver Röpke welcomed the firm commitment of the newly CoR elected president for a stronger and fairer Europe and stronger democracy. He also stressed the complementary role of both committees. He pointed to the cooperation with the CoR on CoFoE implementation and said that both committees would strive for citizen participation.
Both Committees presidents stressed their commitment to work together for a fairer and stronger Europe and to make the voice of those who act on the ground heard.