As the President of the EESC, I warmly welcome the 2023 State of the Union Address of President Ursula von der Leyen. The speech passed on a strong message of a united Europe that needs to answer the call of history.
In particular, I warmly welcome a clear commitment that the future of Ukraine, Moldova and the Western Balkans is in the EU. President von der Leyen's vision for a successful enlargement is in line with the priority of my mandate and that of our house, which is based on the premise that the rule of law and fundamental rights will always be the foundation of our Union – in the current and in future Member States.
The extension of the Rule of Law Report to include also the accession countries is something that I can only strongly support. In addition to appointing "Honorary Enlargement Members" from EU candidate countries, promoting an “EESC Civil Society Health Test” to monitor the freedom of civil society in EU Member States and candidate countries is one of my political priorities. We look forward to supporting the European Commission in this endeavour and working together towards our common goal – an enlarged Union of freedom, rights and values for all.
In her Address, President von der Leyen has reaffirmed the importance of social dialogue, as a way to respond to the deep-rooted shifts in technology, society and demography. Social dialogue and decent work must be at the heart of our future and already is at the heart of the EESC's work. I am ready to further strengthen European social dialogue and I welcome the announcement of a new Social Partner Summit to be convened next year.
At the same time, President von der Leyen underscored that Europe needs to do more to keep its competitive edge, allowing our businesses to thrive in a fair global economy. I believe the EESC can provide extremely valuable civil society input to the report on the future of European competitiveness that will be written by Mario Draghi. I also welcome the announcements on the appointment of an EU SME envoy.
Lastly, I welcome President von der Leyen's commitment to and the European Union's pivotal role in setting global standards for the safe and responsible use of artificial intelligence. The EESC is ready to work with the Commission, and bring the voice of civil society to shape the policies that can ensure an ethical and secure deployment of AI. The EU needs to continue to take the lead on these matters.
Europe is entering a new, critical phase and the EESC is ready and prepared for this call of history, by building a more resilient, democratic and sustainable Europe that serves citizens and civil society.