Speech by Diversity Europe Group President Séamus Boland on An Economy that Works for People

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EESC plenary debate with Valdis Dombrovskis, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission for An Economy that Works for People

Dear Vice-President,

When preparing my comments for this morning's debate, I remembered an extract from the book 'Sapiens: a brief history of humankind'. The author, Dr Harari, includes a chapter on why Europe was able to dominate the late modern world. His conclusion is simple: it was because of modern science and capitalism.

In the Europe of today, which enjoys a social market economy, I am very pleased that hard core capitalism is not at the centre of our economic and political systems, nor is it at the centre of our success and global outreach. What makes Europe unique today is precisely our respect for the individual, for the well-being of our people.

However, if we really want to make an economy that works for people, it is imperative that we re-think our growth and development models and firmly place the SDGs and poverty reduction at the heart of Europe's future and recovery. This fits within your remit Mr Vice-President, as in the mission letter to you, the President of the European Commission asked you to support (and I quote): investments and structural reforms… to speed up inclusive and sustainable growth and to integrate the SDGs.

So allow me to make some proposals in this direction. I will take these from a very successful conference that our Group organised just a few days ago, on the topic of the role of civil society during and after Covid-19. In a section of the conference's recommendations aptly named 'The future we want: civil society in the driving seat', we stressed that Covid-19 has ushered in a heightened sense of social cohesion and social activism. It has nurtured greater respect for the values of solidarity, social justice, inter-generational cooperation, gender equality, sustainability, just green and digital transitions.

It is now crucial to leverage public support for these values, in order to re-think our growth and governance models, to build a more equal and inclusive society based on citizen's well-being and to place civil society organisations at the centre of this reconstruction and recovery.

Imagining and building these resilient, equal and sustainable societies will require bottom-up initiatives, which embrace new definitions of development beyond GDP and which respect the opinions and rights of citizens. Moreover, it is essential that the limitations to rights introduced during the pandemic are not continued post Covid-19.

The first step in this reconstruction, will be ensuring that all parts of society are effectively involved in the design, participation, implementation and assessment of the EU National Recovery and Resilience Plans. Using existing consultation structures such as the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) and the European Semester process.

Finally, Mr Vice-President, allow me to conclude by saying that alongside Commissioner Schmit, your portfolio is fundamental to the everyday lives of European citizens. I can only but hope that your joint work, notably on important files such as the European Pillar of Social Rights, will reflect the European values to which we all espouse. Thank you for your attention.  


Speech by Séamus Boland