Participatory democracy and the Lisbon treaty
On 17 March 2010, part of the plenary session was given over to a debate on the theme of participatory democracy and the Lisbon Treaty. Members were invited to speak on behalf of the groups following speeches by Mr Libor Rouček and Mrs Isabelle Durant, vice presidents of the European Parliament.
Statements by Group II members
After welcoming the EP vice-presidents, Ágnes Cser stressed the importance, for the European Union, of two fundamental elements: the "cross-border" element - which meant something very special for someone, like herself, who had been born behind the "iron curtain" - and the concept of "social capital". After describing the Committee as a "living bridge" between civil society and the institutions which wielded power, she called on the members of the European Parliament to maintain as close a relationship as possible with it: it was obvious that there had to be other ways of consulting citizens than elections that were only held every five years.
Ágnes Cser concluded her statement by referring to poverty: she pleaded for the dissemination of information to the poorest members of society about their rights. She appealed to Parliament to create a network that was accessible to all, in all languages, so that the least fortunate citizens were made more aware of their rights. This would be a major contribution to participatory democracy.
Xavier Verboven first of all called on his colleagues to vote for the Committee's draft opinion. However, he recommended that they make sure they did not confuse participatory democracy and citizens' initiatives: care should be taken not to make the error of wanting to replace the former by the latter.
For participatory democracy was a set of values and ideas supported by representative organisations founded on a very broad base and within which proposals acquired a certain maturity. A citizens' initiative was considered to come from isolated individuals. However, steps should be taken to ensure that one never lost sight of the general interest. Unless that was done, any "citizens' initiative" could, paradoxically, harm participatory democracy.
Inter-institutional dialogue between the European Commission and the EESC – The EU 2020 strategy
On 18 March 2010, part of the plenary session was given over to a debate on the prospects for the inter-institutional dialogue between the European Commission and the EESC and for the Europe 2020 Strategy, which was attended by Mr Maroš Šefčovič, vice-president of the European Commission responsible for interinstitutional relations and administration
Statements by Group II members
Dumitru Fornea first of all stressed the importance of Mr Šefčovič's responsibilities within the Commission: it was up to the commissioner responsible for inter-institutional relations to ensure that, when developing the future strategy of the European Union, the Commission took due account of the contributions of various European actors, including civil society organisations.
He then turned to the strategy for 2020, First of all it was important not to repeat the errors made when implementing the Lisbon strategy, because what Europe needed was concrete measures. This meant preserving and extending Europe's industrial base, reviewing its trading policies and reconsidering the role of the States in the economy.
In his view, not enough attention was paid to agriculture in the draft strategy. Moreover, while it was laudable to aim at having a European labour force made up of 60% of highly skilled workers in 2020, the other 40% of workers should not be forgotten, as they too had a right to a job.
Dumitru Fornea also stressed that as a trade unionist, he would have liked to be able to speak only about social policy. However, the cruel reality was that our social policies would remain only dreams unless we gave ourselves the means to defend our industry, our agriculture and our services: the first thing to do was to create jobs.
Dumitru Fornea closed his speech by welcoming that fact that the old philosophy of the Commission ("we work for you") had given way to a new philosophy ("let us work together"), and by reminding the Commission that the key to success could be expressed by two Latin words: constantia, constancy, and labor, work. .
Ágnes Cser, for her part, regretted that civil society had not been able to play more of a part in developing the draft strategy. For example, she had noted that it did not put sufficient emphasis on solidarity, particularly with respect to women and children. Twenty million children were living below the poverty line, and because of government deficits plans were being made to reduce public spending in sectors such as health that were vital for disadvantaged members of the population.
Civil society should therefore still be able to achieve corrections in the draft strategy, even during the development phase.
The European Union and cross-border cooperation with Ireland
On 17 March 2010, members were invited to speak on behalf of the groups following a speech by Mr Martin Mansergh (TD), Member of the Irish Parliament and Minister of State within the Irish Government.
Statements by Group II members
After thanking her colleague, Bill Attley, who had encouraged her to take the floor, Sally Anne Kinahan first of all pointed out the merits which Mr Mansergh too had been able to bring into play with respect to his country, to the workers, to the European Union and to the Peace Process: she congratulated him, among other things, for having supported the Lisbon Treaty and the minimum wage and, like the trade union movement, for having fought sectarianism and worked for peace.
Moving on to the present, she stressed that in these times of crisis people were generally too attached to neoconservative ideologies and to deregulation, when it was the workers who paid the price and the banks were bailed out at the cost of jobs. Ireland had every interest in being an integral part of Europe, in committing itself to fundamental rights, in ceasing to have the lowest wages and in investing in areas such as social policies and worker training.
All the opinions presented by Group II rapporteurs were adopted.
Opinions with Group II or category 2 CCMI members as rapporteur or co-rapporteur are listed below.
Proposal for a Council Regulation amending Regulation (EC) No. 708/2007 concerning use of alien and locally absent species in aquaculture
COM(2009) 541 final – 2009/0153 CNS
CESE 56/2010 fin – 2009/0153 CNS
Rapporteur: Mr Valerio SALVATORE (GRII-IT)