Energy, transport and services of general interest, combined with the digital revolution, can drive European growth in a sustainable and all-inclusive way. This was the message of the hearing that was held on 22 May 2019 by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and its Section for Transport, Energy, Infrastructure and the Information Society (TEN).
According to the Committee, sustainable European systems of energy, transport and services of general interest are vital for addressing global challenges in a modern, digitised and smart environment. Likewise, the active participation and engagement of European civil society and citizens are crucial when it comes to assessing and addressing the challenges, consequences and impacts of digital transformation.
All Europeans should have access to secure, sustainable and affordable energy. This is the primary objective of the Energy Union and this objective can only be achieved through a fundamental transformation of the EU energy system, said Pierre Jean Coulon, president of the TEN section and of the study group responsible for the own-initiative opinion that the EESC is currently drafting on this topic.
Digitalising the energy sector is crucial for the EU, since it enables energy consumers to be at the centre of the issue and contributes to a new design for energy markets.
The transport sector accounts for 6.3% of EU GDP and directly employs around 13 million people in the EU: more than 7% of total EU employment, including about 2.3 million people in automotive manufacturing.
Today Europe is still a world leader in the sector, stressed EESC member Alberto Mazzola, rapporteur of the opinion.
However, to maintain this, the EU needs to take comprehensive action for a more efficient and competitive system, especially in decarbonisation and digitalisation.
Services of general interest
Services of general interest are subject to specific public service obligations and can be provided either by the state or by the private sector, like public transport, postal services and healthcare.
The main strategic line is implementing a people-centred approach, pointed out EESC member Evangelia Kekeleki, co-rapporteur of the opinion.
People today expect more transparent, accessible and responsive services from this sector and part of the problem is that, despite their best intentions, many governments continue to design and deliver services based on their own requirements and processes instead of the needs of the people they serve.
The ongoing EESC opinion
The main conclusions of the hearing will feed into the EESC opinion, which is due to be discussed and adopted at the EESC plenary session of July 2019. The final document will include recommendations to the new European Commission and European Parliament on ways to achieve shared goals.