The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) adopted in its February plenary session an opinion supporting the continuation of the European Peace and Reconciliation Programme (PEACE) in Northern Ireland after the UK's withdrawal from the EU. This continued support is considered as "crucial" given the sensitivity of the debate on the UK/Ireland border in the context of the Brexit negotiations.
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The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has adopted in its March plenary session on 20 March, an opinion proposing an EU-led global peace-building strategy which includes the creation of the WhiteDoveWay, a path of peace from Northern Ireland to Nicosia, to promote dialogue, reconciliation and conflict prevention following in the initial footsteps of the sixth century Irish pilgrim Columbanus.
Italy’s Luca Jahier has been elected as the 32nd president of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), the EU body representing organised civil society, which he will head for the next two and a half years. The two new vice-presidents will be Milena Angelova (Bulgaria) for budget and Isabel Caño Aguilar (Spain) for communication. Read the inaugural speech.
A commemorative ceremony is challenging. For one, the subject is still a minefield. For even now, the collective memories of the countries we come from relate different narratives and nourish different sensitivities of lost territories, people slaughtered senselessly and vain promises. Some commemorate the independence of their country. Furthermore, the line is tight between pathos - and doing justice to the horrors of one of the deadliest conflicts in the history of humanity. But we can grow stronger though joint commemoration.
In an inspiring speech, delivered on 18 April at the EESC plenary, which marked the end of the presidency of Georges Dassis and welcomed the new presidency of Mr Jahier, the new president set out the four priorities of his programme: sustainable development, promotion of peace, strengthening the role of culture and giving a voice to Europe’s young people.
As we celebrate Europe today, we should remember the promise of peace and unity that our founding fathers made to future generations. But in some corners of the Union, these generations are today questioning the value of the European project. There is no other alternative than a Union that is strong, fair and cohesive.
The responses to the multiple crises that the European Union has been confronted with have increasingly led European citizens to become disenchanted not only with the European Union itself but also with democratic institutions in general – both at the European and national level. There is a serious risk of EU citizens no longer seeing the added value of the EU for their living and working conditions as well as for their future perspectives and those of their children and for losing a common sense of belonging.
Anniversaries are a time for celebration. For togetherness and joy. A moment to pause, to look back and take stock of achievements which will drive our future. We are here to dare the future of Europe.
Europe, its institutions and civil society appear to be a laughably inadequate defence against this sea of troubles. We need to get a grip. The next, crucial stage is just around the corner: the European elections. We have to put forward a European project that galvanises people, one that even lets them dream.