The Grassroots View - Episode 8 : "When the world of work comes tumbling down"

When COVID-19 struck Europe, it not only brought hospitals to the verge of collapse but created havoc in its wake on many different fronts: European GDP slumped, industrial production plummeted and thousands lost their jobs. The future does not look rosy either. In episode 8 - "When the world of work comes tumbling down" - we look at what the EU could do on the employment front, where it has only limited powers. We spoke to Professor Caroline de la Porte from the Copenhagen Business School, who gave us a brief overview of the employment guidelines, a tool that enables the EU to help coordinate Member States' employment policies. EESC member Ellen Nygren told us about the EESC's proposal on how the employment guidelines should be revised in the light of the COVID-19 crisis so as to make sure that the Member States, among other things, give help to self-employed Europeans – such as the Portuguese musician, Tiago Rodrigues. He shared with us his story of how he and his 5EX Band became jobless overnight.

Dessine - moi... (Draw me...)

Our "Draw me..." section is becoming radiant with colour, gathering more and more shades of emotion, thoughts and observations on life and the passage of time. The testimony of EESC members proves that this long and difficult period of crisis is leaving its mark on our memories. We are very grateful to those who have shared their thoughts on this time of crisis with our readers.

Thanks to Irini Pari, Tellervo Kylä-Harakka-Ruonala, Reet Teder, Tatjana Babrauskiené, Gunta Anča, Kinga Joó, Sofia Björnsson, Evangelia Kekeleki, Michalis Antoniou, Philip von Brockdorff, Peter Schmidt and Cristian Pîrvulescu.

All these articles are available by clicking on the following link: (eh)


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Dear readers,

It's that time of the year again, and the EESC should be launching its trademark Civil Society Prize to reward outstanding projects by civil society and individuals that have promoted our common European values and reinforced our European identity. Each year we pick an important theme for the prize and celebrate the achievements of civil society in that particular field of its work. In 2019, we crowned the winners of the 11th Civil Society Prize competition, having looked for champions of women's empowerment and gender equality.

Diary Dates

28 August 2020, Brussels, Belgium
Public hearing
Best practices in diversity management and the future of EU diversity policies for migrants and ethnic minorities

8 September 2020, Brussels, Belgium
Public hearing
The rule of law and its impact on economic growth

15-16 July 2020, Brussels, Belgium
EESC plenary session

Dessine - moi...

Evangelia Kekeleki: "Ensure that all Member States have equal access to vaccine therapies and diagnostic tests"

I didn't find it particularly difficult to stay at home during the lockdown. There were a number of things I'd been putting off doing for years. So I had the chance to get down to them and was glad to be able to sort them out. The family photos and mementoes that I'd collected from our parents' houses were all mixed up, so I sorted through them. Putting them in order like this was very emotional. I kept myself busy with activities I'd missed, such as handicrafts, baking, cooking, making traditional Greek liqueurs, jams and preserves - things I don't normally have the time for when I'm trying to keep up with the hectic demands of my job.

Tellervo Kylä-Harakka-Ruonala: "From the Winter War to poetry"

It was the 80th anniversary of the end of the Winter War between the Soviet Union and Finland. The national commemoration was cancelled due to coronavirus, but bells were ringing at 11 a.m. in all Lutheran, Orthodox and Catholic churches across the country. I went outdoors to listen to their chimes and saw Helsinki almost desolate.

Sofia Björnsson: "Farmer solidarity in Sweden"

I work for the Federation of Swedish Farmers (LRF), and at the beginning of the pandemic we worked very hard to secure food supply.

Irini Pari: "The crisis has shown us yet again that our futures are interconnected"

As I am writing this testimony, the gates of lockdown are timidly opening up and questions are starting to arise: what kind of world are we stepping into? What marks or scars will this epidemic leave on our economies, our societies and our lives? Have we learned anything? Will we do things differently?

Tatjana Babrauskienė: "If this quarantine has done anything, it's given people time to recharge and think about how important our relationships are"

Tatjana Babrauskienė is a Lithuanian member of the EESC and of the Lithuanian Education and Science Trade Union. EESC Info has asked her to share her thoughts on COVID-19 as seen from her country.


Reet Teder: "It's good to be back"

When the crisis started in the middle of March, the whole situation was truly unique and unbelievable. Almost everything was closed everywhere in Europe and nobody knew at that time if the lockdown was actually helping or not. Saving lives was the most important thing and the economy had to be sacrificed.

Peter Schmidt: "We need to shift towards an economy of wellbeing"

German trade unionist Peter Schmidt gives us an insight into the challenges faced by trade unions in his country amid furloughs and dismissals on the one hand and essential workers putting their safety on the line on the other.

Kinga Joó: "Families have the ability to strengthen society's immune system"

On 10 March the EU-Serbia Joint Consultative Committee meeting in Brussels took place in a strange, heavy atmosphere. After the meeting everyone was in a hurry to get back on the road. I returned home knowing that major changes were about to hit Europe and with the feeling that this would be my last flight for a long time. In Hungary, during this period people's main reactions were uncertainty and disbelief. For many Hungarians the severity of the situation became clear when the government announced that the celebrations planned for 15 March, our national day, would be cancelled.

Philip von Brockdorff: "The pros and cons of life moving online"

The experience of the lockdown has been mixed, I would say. On the one hand, working from home has provided me with more time with my family than I've ever had. On the other, I've had to make arrangements to convert a room in my home into an office. Staying at home for long hours is frustrating at times, so I have tried to spend time on my favourite hobby: listening to music on my hi-fi system.

Michalis Antoniou: "The experience and role of the Cyprus Employers and Industrialists Federation during the COVID-19 pandemic"

In his address to the nation on March 15, the president of Cyprus announced preventive measures putting the country and large parts of the economy under lockdown. The message was that severe economic hardship was imminent and we all had to brace ourselves for the impact.

Gunta Anča: "A crisis is a fantastic opportunity to spot the weakest links"

Lockdown was a strange time of self-understanding. On the one hand, it was like a dream come true... to stay at home and have enough time to do all those things I'd always wanted to do, but didn't have time for. On the other, it made you realise how important socialisation is for people - to meet, talk, touch, see other human beings in reality and not on a screen. And how hard it is to live without all that.

Cristian Pîrvulescu: "The confinement period? More work, more stress, less rest"

How was the two-month lockdown in Bucharest? Strange! On 15 March, Romania took its first measures. From 18 March, everyone had to stay at home. Before 15 March, this was only a recommendation, which few people followed, increasing the epidemiological risks. The mandatory lockdown lasted until 15 May, when the state of emergency was replaced by a state of alert. But this was no holiday! On the contrary, I worked harder, working online for more than 12 hours, and sometimes 16 hours a day: classes and activities on the university's platform, and taking part in TV programmes, interviews, meetings and webinars.


EESC to award Civil Solidarity Prize to projects fighting coronavirus in each Member State and the UK

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has launched a Civil Solidarity Prize to reward initiatives undertaken by individuals, civil society organisations and privately owned companies in the EU and the United Kingdom to battle COVID-19 and cushion its devastating blows.

Expectations are running high as Germany assumes the EU presidency

On 1 July, Germany picked up the baton from Croatia at the helm of the Council of the EU in what will probably be its most challenging presidency so far, with Europe facing the biggest economic, social and health crisis in its modern history. 

EESC contribution to the European Commission 2021 work programme – A first step towards a more sustainable and fair society

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) adopted a Resolution on its contribution to the European Commission's 2021 work programme at its July plenary session. The document welcomes the proposals made by the European Commission to overcome the COVID-19 crisis and sees the next year as an opportunity to restructure and improve the EU’s economy and society.

EESC discusses migration with Commissioner for Promoting the European Way of Life

At its July plenary session, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) hosted a debate with Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas, who presented a number of upcoming initiatives falling under his portfolio of "Promoting our European Way of Life", including the New Pact on Migration and Asylum, the Skills Agenda, the EU for Health Programme and the new Security Union Strategy.

EESC President Luca Jahier pledges Commissioner Gentiloni his full support for Commission's COVID-19 recovery package on eve of EU summit

President Jahier criticised the EU Council's recent proposal to give national governments the power to veto a country's reform programmes under the package. In a debate with economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni at the EESC plenary, Mr Jahier said the whole Committee stood behind the European Commission.

Coronavirus response: EESC calls for swift approval of EU recovery plan

The EU must do more for the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and do it quickly, showing solidarity and an ambitious vision for the future of Europe. In three opinions adopted at the July plenary session and a position paper, the Committee throws its support behind and calls for the swift approval of the recovery proposals put forward by the European Commission, including the revised 2021-2027 EU budget.

Europe needs the political courage of Robert Schuman

70 years on, Robert Schuman's declaration reminds us that it takes political courage and vision to make a difference and change the course of history.

EESC launches "Civil society against COVID-19" web pages

"Civil society against COVID-19" is the new dedicated section of the EESC website which brings together over fifty stories of recovery, solidarity and practical action during the coronavirus outbreak. Launched on 2 July 2020, it features initiatives of EESC members, through their local organisations in the Member States, to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.

Machinery Directive: improve it but don't change it, says EESC

At its June plenary session, the EESC adopted an information report on the revision of the Machinery Directive. EESC members welcomed the Commission's current efforts to improve the performance of Directive 2006/42/EC, which is a very important and successful instrument for European industry, while noting that radical changes to the directive would have a deeply negative impact and must be avoided.

The EESC proposes creating an extraordinary fund to support the agricultural sector in response to the COVID-19 outbreak

The EESC welcomes the new measure proposed by the European Commission to support farms and agri-food SMEs that are experiencing liquidity problems and to ensure their economic survival during this crisis. However, the EESC believes that the European Commission should establish an extraordinary fund to implement it.

News from the Groups

EESC Employers send letter to European Council: Business is key to EU recovery from corona crisis

by the EESC Employers' Group

Given the extreme urgency of tackling the economic effects of the coronavirus crisis, the Employers' Group has called for swift and ambitious measures in a letter sent to all European heads of state and government. Only through cooperation between the Member States can the recovery and reconstruction measures contribute to the long-term success of the EU, including its people and businesses.

The EU at a crossroads: the German presidency and the recovery and reconstruction of Europe

By the Workers' Group

Germany has taken over the presidency of the EU Council at a crucial moment for Europe, with our union standing at a crossroads. We are facing the most brutal crisis experienced in peacetime in the last 90 years, with more than a hundred thousand deaths in Europe alone and massive economic shocks, not to mention the uncertainty of more waves of the pandemic to come. During the tough months of lockdown, healthcare workers, but also people working in deliveries, supermarkets and sanitation - jobs that are often precarious and underpaid - have borne the brunt of the effort to keep our countries running.

Civil Society Organisations Helping Refugees and Migrants in Europe

By the EESC Diversity Europe Group

On 22 June, the EESC's Diversity Europe Group organised a conference entitled Civil Society Organisations Helping Refugees and Migrants in Europe, combining remote and in-person attendance.