Ladies and gentlemen,
As President of the European Economic and Social Committee, it is a truly great privilege for me to be a patron of today's Forum. I am pleased that this event is taking place in our premises. It is quite symbolic as the European Economic and Social Committee is recognised as the house of the European organised civil society.
Although we are meeting on a somewhat festive occasion, we all share the same thought at the back of our minds - a thought of grief, sadness, anger and pain. But, at least speaking for myself there is also a thought of hope, courage, resilience and admiration.
Indeed, the brutal war of Russia against your beautiful, sovereign and independent country continues. We, at the EESC, have condemned the war in the strongest possible terms since the very first day. Throughout past nine months, the EESC as an institution and our Members and their respective organisations, we did our best to help Ukraine and its civil society as much as we have been able to. We have opened our doors to representatives of Ukrainian civil society organisations and I am happy to see some of you in this room.
We adopted two strong resolutions; one in March on the economic, social and environmental impact of the war in Ukraine and the other one in June. The second resolution strived to be forward-thinking and looked at the post-war relief and reconstruction of Ukraine.
In this document, we also called for granting Ukraine an EU candidate status – a decision the Council took a few days after the adoption of the EESC resolution. It served as a basis for a high-level Conference on Ukraine, which the EESC organised in Krakow in July. In our exchanges, we emphasized that the reconstruction of Ukraine should be sustainable, transparent, green and digital. We made clear that the recovery would not be successful without a genuine involvement of social partners and civil society organizations, without you.
Currently, the EESC is working on a variety of initiatives, including on food price crisis and integration of refugees from Ukraine. On the latter, surveys show that despite what one might fear, a solidarity fatigue has not set in. Europeans support measures aiming at helping refugees from Ukraine and our Committee will advocate for a continuous aid as long as it takes. Ukrainian women, men and children are paying the highest price for the freedom, fundamental rights and for the European future of Ukraine. Your government is currently putting all its efforts into securing safety of its people and into ensuring their basic needs, which is so the more challenging as the winter is behind the corner.
But your role remains the same. You are the watchdog of the actions of your authorities, you are the conscience, even in these extremely tough times. This terrible war has taught you to adapt to the most difficult circumstances and to step up your flexibility. Many of you were forced to revisit your fields of actions - think-tanks have launched advocacy campaigns, trade unions have turned into shelters, business federations have become fundraisers.
And your role will not but increase further. You have to succeed. You need to make sure that once this terrible war is over, the reconstruction goes in the right direction, in the direction which your country and its courageous people deserve.
In order to achieve this, you need to be well organised and inclusive.
We are here to help with our know-how and our own experience, including on post-war reconstruction. We, as European Economic and social Committee, are already involved in well-established bilateral civil society body, the so-called EU-Ukraine civil society platform, who is actually holding its 12th meeting at this very moment in the main EESC building.
Dear colleagues, let me wish you a successful event and reassure you that you can count on our support. A Ukrainian proverb says: "Under the lying stone water does not flow". I am convinced that you are able to move that stone and we stand ready to help you in all your efforts.