As EESC President, I welcome the new strategic agenda for 2019-2024 adopted on Thursday by the European heads of state and government. There is no other alternative than to strengthen the role of the European Union in an increasing volatile and unsettled changing world. At the last European elections, citizens have given us five years to build the Europe of tomorrow. We cannot waste this new chance and deliver business-as-usual. Now it is the right time to show great European leadership to deliver a genuine #rEUnaissance and ensure a strong sustainable development vision for tomorrow's Europe.
Culture is a powerful tool to build bridges between people and reinforce mutual understanding. Artistic freedom, enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU as well as the Treaty of the EU, is essential for development of our open democracies and our European values and identity. I, therefore, welcome the Council conclusions on an EU strategic approach to international cultural relations and a framework for action of 8 April.
A commemorative ceremony is challenging. For one, the subject is still a minefield. For even now, the collective memories of the countries we come from relate different narratives and nourish different sensitivities of lost territories, people slaughtered senselessly and vain promises. Some commemorate the independence of their country. Furthermore, the line is tight between pathos - and doing justice to the horrors of one of the deadliest conflicts in the history of humanity. But we can grow stronger though joint commemoration.
Europe, its institutions and civil society appear to be a laughably inadequate defence against this sea of troubles. We need to get a grip. The next, crucial stage is just around the corner: the European elections. We have to put forward a European project that galvanises people, one that even lets them dream.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Language competences are vital in order to foster mobility of workers and students and ultimately to improve the employability of the European workforce. Thus it is necessary to work in all possible ways on improving the language competences of Europeans.
We need good language policies and practices which can lead to successful language learning. In recent years, the EESC has drawn up three opinions for the European institutions on Europe's multilingualism strategy. Also, multilingualism policy has always been part of the EESC's political priorities.