On the occasion of Women's Day, a beautiful date to celebrate as it marks the victories of long battles fought by the generations of women who came before us, we should renew the commitment to walk the walk on gender equality.
Who can contradict President Emmanuel Macron's call for a European Renaissance? Europe has achieved so much in 60 years of peace, but we cannot take it for granted any longer and must do the utmost to preserve it. No one can disagree with the fact that such a long, uninterrupted period of peace on our continent has not happened for centuries. Likewise, our Single Market, despite economic ups and downs (the oil crisis of the 1970s and the extremely serious and long-lasting crisis of 2007), has generated economic growth and prosperity. The cost of non-Europe is clear.
The creation and emergence of Industry4Europe in the European political arena shows the strong capacity we have when we need to deliver. You have done it well! I refer to your extremely concrete joint call to the candidates for the 2019 European elections. In it, you are rightly calling the future Parliament and the future European Commission to put industry at the top of the European political agenda. The manufacturing sector weighs for more than 20% of the European GDP and it is an essential driver of employment.
The project of accelerating the circular economy transition has been an excellent example of EU synergy in action. The ambitious circular economy initiatives adopted by the Commission, coupled with our Committee's access to a widespread civil society network, are paving the way toward a more sustainable European economy. We believe that the Circular Economy Stakeholder Platform is a powerful living bridge, linking the EU institutions with grassroots civil society organisations, promoting and sharing circular economy solutions for all citizens, for the well-being of present and future generations.
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) held the Civil Society for rEUnaissance event on 21 February 2019 to discuss the key role that organised civil society must play for the future of Europe - just over 90 days from the European elections. The event brought together the highest representatives of the European institutions and civil society organisations from across the entire EU, among them 16‑year‑old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, European Committee of the Regions President Karl-Heinz Lambertz.
This is an important day. We are gathered here a little over ninety days before the European elections to ask the question: are we brave enough to grasp the urgency of the moment?
As British Prime Minister Theresa May is facing a new attempt by a cross-party group of MPs to prevent a no-deal Brexit and enable parliament to force ministers to seek a delay if there is no deal in place, we believe that the UK Parliament must make one last-minute effort to find common ground on the withdrawal agreement to avoid a hard Brexit.
The European Union has a strategy which, if embraced decisively by its Member States and European civil society, would enable it to embark on an upward economic, social, environmental and institutional course. This strategy is the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which is based on the EU Treaty itself.
I have been following closely the latest developments and I fully support the swift entry into force and full implementation of the Prespa Agreement between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on the change of name of the latter into Republic of North Macedonia. I hope that the resolution of this long-standing issue, which is an example of reconciliation for Europe, will pave the way for the opening of the EU accession negotiations with this Western Balkans country in June 2019, as foreseen by the Council Conclusions adopted in June 2018.