Topical Digest

Topical Digest - EESC Civil Society Days 2022

February 2022

Highlighting the need to make Europe more resilient and to boost the transition towards a more social, green and digital European economy, the European Economic and Social Committee's 2022 Civil Society Days provide an ideal platform for EU citizens, organised civil society and EU institutions to discuss how best to deliver on this objective. Taking place from 15 to 17 March 2022, this event will focus on issues such as the ecological and social market economy and the democratisation of the economy, through a series of seven interactive workshops organised by civil society members of the EESC’s liaison group. This digest presents a selection of relevant publications from the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS).

Upskilling opportunities for all

In-depth analysis by Denise Chircop, EPRS, December 2021
Looking at statistics on perpetuated disadvantage in education and training, this analysis studies a number of contributing factors, by examining evidence from case studies and other research into the educational system development. It also analyses the extent to which reform has been possible and the complex reasons for them.

Animated infographic by Denise Chircop, EPRS, February 2021
Learning is not limited to a single, specific phase in life, that of the years at school, but also happens in different contexts, over the course of a lifetime. With its strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training, ET2020, the EU has supported the concept of lifelong learning by coordinating cooperation between Member States on training and formal, non-formal, and informal education.

EPRS ideas paper by Monika Kiss, EPRS, February 2021
The current pandemic and its accompanying health and economic crises have highlighted and heightened certain trends and challenges that were already affecting the labour market in Europe. These include accelerated digitalisation and automation, increased use of artificial intelligence, constraints relating to a lack of digital skills, and problems with the status of platform workers and other workers in non-standard forms of employment.

In-depth analysis by Denise Chircop, EPRS, September 2020
The analysis focuses on six challenges facing tertiary education in the EU: the need to remain relevant to current and future aspirations; the impact of digital and disruptive technologies; the way tertiary education interacts with business; global and intra-EU collaboration; quality assurance; and financing and barriers to inclusion. It also looks at trends in two of the largest higher education systems outside the European Higher Education Area: those in the United States and China.

Further reading:

Intergenerational dialogue among European Union entrepreneurs

'At a glance' note by Pernilla Jourde, EPRS, December 2021
In her State of the Union address to the Parliament on 15 September 2021, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, outlined the idea to make 2022 the 'European Year of Youth'. The aim was to highlight and mitigate the pandemic's impact on young people's education, employment, social inclusion and mental health. Within a month, the Commission had adopted a formal proposal for a decision.

Briefing by guest author Iain Begg, EPRS, March 2021
EPRS invites leading experts and commentators to share their thinking and insights on important features of the European Union as a political and economic system. In this paper, Iain Begg, Professorial Research Fellow at the London School of Economics (LSE), reflects on the distinctive characteristics of the EU as the world's leading exemplar of regional economic integration, and its unique experience since the 1950s in generating collective public goods for its Member States as a foundation for the continent's collective prosperity.

Further reading:

Volunteers for prosperity

'EU legislation in progress' briefing by Denise Chircop, EPRS, June 2021
The distinctive feature of the European Solidarity Corps today is that it brings together volunteering, traineeship and job opportunities for young people with a clear focus on solidarity projects and uses existing management structures to maximise focus on delivery and performance.


Study by Ex-Post Evaluation Unit, EPRS, August 2021
This European implementation assessment (EIA) was prepared to accompany the European Parliament's Committee on Culture and Education in its scrutiny work on the implementation of citizenship education actions in the European Union. The first part of the EIA presents an overview of the EU policy framework for citizenship education, while the second part presents actions in the field of citizenship education supported by EU funding programmes, in particular the Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020 programmes. The second part also presents citizenship education policies and practices in 10 EU Member States.

Further reading:

Enabling environment for civil society: The case for meaningful participation

Study by Klaus Müller and Meenakshi Fernandes, EPRS, May 2021
Examining both the potential EU added value and the drawbacks of the policy options (encouraging cross-border transactions, enhancing social outcomes and increasing economic contributions), this assessment also highlights additional non-legislative measures that could promote specific functions of non-profit organisations in the EU.

Briefing by Gianluca Sgueo, EPRS, March 2020
Humans are among the many living species capable of collaborative and imaginative thinking. While it is widely agreed among scholars that this capacity has helped to make humans the dominant species, other crucial questions remain open to debate. Is it possible to encourage large groups of people to engage in collective thinking? Is it possible to help citizens work together to find solutions to address global challenges? Some scholars claim that large groups of independent, motivated, and well-informed people can, collectively, make better decisions than isolated individuals can. This is what is known as 'collective intelligence.'

Briefing by Ionel Zamfir, EPRS, February 2021
The crisis of democracy and the rise of authoritarianism across the globe, compounded by the pandemic, highlight the importance of taking a more strategic and autonomous approach to supporting democracy worldwide – an objective often balanced against other external policy aims until now. Since the start of the current parliamentary term, the EU has been reviewing its political guidance on democracy and human rights. It has adopted or is about to adopt important measures to strengthen support for democracy.

Further reading:


Building a democratic economy for a just transition

'EU legislation in progress' briefing by Alex Wilson, EPRS, November 2021
On 14 July 2021 the European Commission adopted the 'fit for 55' package, a set of legislative proposals to meet the new EU objective of a minimum 55 % reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030. The fit for 55 package is part of the Commission's European Green Deal, which aims to set the EU firmly on the path towards net zero GHG emissions (climate neutrality) by 2050. The package includes a regulation establishing a new social climate fund (SCF). The aim of the SCF is to help vulnerable households, micro-businesses and transport users meet the costs of the green energy transition in the buildings and road transport sector.

Study by Aleksandra Heflich and Jerôme Leon Saulnier, EPRS, October 2021
The EU's energy system is on a path of transformation that should allow it to achieve a net-zero emissions target by 2050. However, there are many challenges ahead and achieving this target means making profound structural changes. The cost of non-Europe (i.e. of taking no action at EU level) in this area is estimated at up to 5.6 % of EU GDP in 2050, and avoiding this will require EU budgetary, regulatory and coordination action. The benefits would be many, including averted environmental costs and damage, and more sustainable and prosperous societies emerging as a result of a just and fair transition.

Briefing by Agnieszka Widuto, EPRS, October 2021
The European Green Deal aims to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. This significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions will require profound social and economic changes, while ensuring a socially fair and just transition. Cohesion policy supports this process by 'climate-proofing' investments, earmarking funds for climate objectives and taking practical measures in EU regions. Local and regional authorities across the EU are also working together to tackle climate change through initiatives such as the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, and Green Deal Going Local.

Further reading:

A green social market economy for the future of Europe

Briefing by Nora Milotay, EPRS, November 2020
Traditionally the social economy is considered to be an ever-growing set of private, formally organised enterprises and networks that build on multiple types of resources and cooperation, with local anchorage and democratic and participatory decision-making processes. Its primary aim is not to make profit but to meet the needs of its members and that of the wider society. The social economy is active in an increasing number of sectors, and while some of its actors are small non-profit organisations, others are large organisations with international outreach.

Briefing by Stefano Spinaci, EPRS, February 2021
The dramatic consequences of climate change and environmental degradation have brought the need for a more sustainable economy to the top of the agenda. Transforming the EU economy to make it more sustainable requires major investments, especially when it comes to enabling a green and low-carbon transition.

Infographic by Silvia Kotanidis and Giulio Sabbati, EPRS, January 2022
The Conference on the Future of Europe is a bottom-up exercise allowing European citizens to express their opinion on the Union's future policies and functioning. Tools such as the digital platform and citizens' panels enable discussion of topics that matter to them. This EPRS infographic sets out the structures of the conference, how they will work and the topics to be discussed.

Further reading:

The future of social protection and the European welfare state: Minimum income schemes and access to quality social services

Study by Nora Milotay, EPRS, February 2022
The study examines how contemporary welfare state policies address the issues of inequality and poverty both between and within EU Member States. It combines quantitative and qualitative analysis to show the strong links between inequality and poverty not only in statistical terms, but also in terms of wealth distribution, intergenerational mobility and labour market dynamics. The study discusses welfare state systems in a multidimensional way, covering traditional welfare state policies on social protection, labour markets and health as well as policies on education and on culture. These last two are also public policies that have the potential to mitigate social risk and marginalisation – a key aim of welfare state policies.

Briefing by Nora Milotay, EPRS, May 2021
The proclamation of the European Pillar of Social Rights (social pillar) by the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council in November 2017 was the fourth major attempt to strengthen the social dimension of the European Union since its inception. The social pillar is set to be the fifth pillar of the economic and monetary union. It is to serve as a compass for adjusting the EU's welfare state systems and labour markets to the new realities of life and work in the 21st century.

Briefing by Marie Lecerf, EPRS, October  2020
The question of setting a minimum  wage is one of the most closely analysed and hotly debated topics in economics. Over recent years and in the context of the economic and social crisis engendered by the pandemic, the creation of a European minimum wage is increasingly considered as a useful instrument to ensure fair wages and social inclusion.

Further reading:

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