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Millions are fleeing war or persecution worldwide. As we commemorate their strength and courage on World Refugee Day, we try to be calm quoting the record high number of 68.5 million displaced people - 3 million higher than the total population of the UK - 25.4 million refugees, 40 million internally displaced and 3.1 million asylum seekers.
"It is not an easy task to deal with digitalisation in a way that all the layers of the society reap an equal benefit," underlined in his opening speech the President of the European Economic and Social Committee Luca Jahier. "Precisely therefore we, at the European Economic and Social Committee, promote the idea of ‘digital justice’ - we want that no-one is left behind from the digital revolution."
We are here today in Krakow, to try to talk freely about our history, our cultures and our expectations for the future of the European Union. I hope these exchanges, along with other points on our rich agenda in Poland, will inspire us for the discussions on the EESC role in the Future of Europe debate which we will have in the afternoon. We have planned our stay in Krakow in a way to be able to gain a different perspective on the European debate, to enrich it with a Central European flavour.
Congratulations to Vice-President Jyrki Katainen for the new Commission's proposal on the InvestEU Programme adopted today. This much-needed instrument builds on the Juncker Plan, the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) and efficiently addresses the issue of social investments.
The responses to the multiple crises that the European Union has been confronted with have increasingly led European citizens to become disenchanted not only with the European Union itself but also with democratic institutions in general – both at the European and national level. There is a serious risk of EU citizens no longer seeing the added value of the EU for their living and working conditions as well as for their future perspectives and those of their children and for losing a common sense of belonging.
Anniversaries are a time for celebration. For togetherness and joy. A moment to pause, to look back and take stock of achievements which will drive our future. We are here to dare the future of Europe.
The subject of Culture is close to my heart– it is one of the four priorities of my presidency alongside peace, sustainable development and youth. These are the pillars of the new European Renaissance we must urgently strive for.
Culture is not only a driver of economic growth and social cohesion, it has been one of the drivers of European identity for many centuries.
The EESC is hosting today its first high-level conference to discuss the proposal for the next “Multiannual Financial Framework” (MFF), covering the period 2021-2027, on the basis of the European Commission's proposal of 2 May. We are only at the beginning of a process, with the ball now being with the Council and the European Parliament that will, hopefully, in early 2019, adopt an MFF that will allow the EU to move forward. The EESC will thoroughly analyse the Commission´s proposals and will draw up an opinion on this important package by September.
The European Union and the Western Balkans have a shared interest in working more closely together to guarantee all our citizens economic and social development, as well as security. The future of the region is a European future. The EU and the Western Balkans economies have benefited from closer integration as trade doubled in the last 10 years. The EU is today the first trading partner of the region, the biggest investor and the most credible and reliable political and geostrategic partner.
It is clear that our Union, this unique model of democratic exchange, collaboration and compromise, allowing for the longest period of peace in the history of Europe, is facing numerous challenges. We must get to work now, before it is too late. Our democratic system, our Europe is worth the fight. It may be challenging, sometimes frustrating - as we human beings are - but I am convinced that it is the best that we can imagine.
In an inspiring speech, delivered on 18 April at the EESC plenary, which marked the end of the presidency of Georges Dassis and welcomed the new presidency of Mr Jahier, the new president set out the four priorities of his programme: sustainable development, promotion of peace, strengthening the role of culture and giving a voice to Europe’s young people.
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