The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) releases the full programme of its new president, Christa Schweng, for her 2020-2023 term of office
The president of the EESC, Christa Schweng, has announced the priorities for the next two and a half years, offering a bold vision for a stronger and more resilient post COVID-19 Europe in a programme that envisages a powerful contribution from the EESC to Europe's recovery and participatory democracy.
The programme and the priorities, already presented during Ms Schweng's inaugural speech at the EESC plenary on 29 October, have now been published online in detail and will soon be available in all EU languages.
Under the motto "United for the future of Europe", Ms Schweng's programme places great emphasis on unity, which will be the key word of her presidency with its call to rebuild the EESC, making it more united and more effective in influencing EU policy-shaping and helping to achieve a more participatory Europe. Unity and solidarity will be of equal importance among European citizens, who will have to join forces to overcome the looming economic and social hardships caused by the COVID-19 crisis.
The priorities of the president's programme are thus in line with her vision of a post-pandemic Europe that enables its citizens to thrive and live in an open and value-based society: a Europe that is prospering economically; a Europe that is socially inclusive; and a Europe that is environmentally sustainable. Enhancing the role of the EESC in the Conference on the Future of Europe, which should allow citizens and all parts of civil society to have their say in shaping future EU policies, will also feature high on the president's agenda.
The programme illustrates the fact that sustainable development should be a mindset and a basis for a competitive economy. The digital and green transitions should be mainstreamed into every policy area.
The president puts special focus on the first priority – an economically prosperous Europe. With the current pandemic pushing Europe into the worst recession since World War II, Member States, companies, workers and people need support to survive and rebuild economies.
The Next Generation EU Recovery Plan should reach all those in need and the transition to a more digital and green economy should be linked to social recovery as well.
In addition to substantial public and private investment, a well-functioning single market and the ability to maintain open markets are prerequisites for emerging from the crisis quickly and for securing the EU's business prospects and future welfare. The EESC will continue to actively engage in enlargement and neighbourhood policies.
The second priority is a socially inclusive Europe which makes sure that nobody is left behind during the digital and green transitions. Safeguarding employment and income for all workers is paramount, with particular attention to be paid to vulnerable groups and with the European Pillar of Social Rights serving as a compass for ironing out social inequalities. A long-term approach to training and skills is a must, as is the need for a transparent and well-managed migration and asylum strategy.
The programme states that common EU values are not negotiable under any circumstances. Creation of a European health union, in which there is practical and Commission-coordinated cooperation between health sectors of Member States, is also supported as an important aspect of solidarity.
The third priority – an environmentally sustainable Europe – recognises a greener and digitalised economy as the driving force of the recovery plan for Europe. But for this to succeed, business needs to be considered as part of solution and must be encouraged to take an active part in shaping the transition to a low-carbon, resource-efficient economy.
The fourth priority is making sure that the EESC plays a vital role in the Conference on the Future of Europe, an important initiative which should give Europeans a sense of ownership of their EU, by enabling them to debate major EU topics, with the goal of improving the way in which the EU works. As a committed advocate of participatory democracy, and with members from all parts of civil society who are active on the ground in all Member States, the EESC has an opportunity to show its added value and act as a facilitator.
"Based on this programme, the next term of office will give us the opportunity to help Europe prosper economically and be far more socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable. We are committed to meeting these challenges. Together we will succeed," the president concluded.