Statement by the president on the occasion of Europe Day

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67 years ago, the foundations of the European Union were laid when, on 9 May 1950, the French Minister for Foreign Affairs, Robert Schuman, embarked on a new path towards European integration by proposing that a European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) be established. In the event, the ECSC was just the beginning, and a few years later the signing of the Treaty of Rome in 1957 heralded the birth of the EU. Today we have an opportunity to celebrate and take stock of the EU's achievements, but at the same time to take a look both at our vision of the future and at the very real problems currently facing the people of Europe.

The truth of the matter is that the EU's success stories rarely get a mention, with its achievements all but sliding into oblivion. If we look at the past, though, we can only be proud of everything the EU has managed to accomplish. Peace, the chance to live in freedom, the free movement of people and goods and 50 years of economic and social progress are just some of the benefits that we have enjoyed and continue to enjoy today. It is our duty to remind the world that these gains didn't just fall from the sky, and that we have the European Union to thank for them. Moreover, nothing can be taken for granted, not even peace.

In spite of everything, we have to admit that since 2009, some of the fundamental values of the EU, including that of solidarity, have fallen by the wayside. Again, the last few years have borne witness to a frightening increase in xenophobia, racism and fascist discourse, with nationalist and populist parties steadily gaining ground and appealing to ever wider audiences. In order to tackle the rapid rise in anti-European sentiment, however, the EU needs to take bold decisions to extricate itself from the impasse and the spiral of crises. We can only regain people's trust if policy-makers and leaders in the Member States take clear and meaningful steps to demonstrate that the EU is close to the people of Europe. It is shameful that in 2017 people in Europe are dying of hunger and the poor are getting poorer. We must all agree on the need for a social market economy, involving measures to redistribute wealth and bolster the social dimension of our economic model.

With this in mind, the EESC has for quite some time been putting forward practical proposals such as the mutualisation of Member States' debt and a minimum guaranteed income for EU citizens. Furthermore, at the request of the Commission, the EESC will have the opportunity to draw up and table proposals on the future of Europe in the form of an opinion to be voted on in a few months' time, following the same model of consultation with the social partners in all the Member States that was successfully used for the opinions on the European Pillar of Social Rights and on addressing the migration crisis.

In conclusion, political decisions are urgently needed if Europe is to be united, democratic, solidarity-based, peaceful, prosperous and in touch with its citizens.