EESC plenary to host debate on new EU disability rights strategy with Commissioner Helena Dalli

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Highlights of the European Economic and Social Committee's March plenary

  • 24 March, 2.45 p.m. The EESC will debate with Helena Dalli, European Commissioner for Equality, the newly proposed EU strategy for the rights of persons with disabilities, a policy area where the EESC has been actively campaigning on key issues such as access, the right to vote and multiple discrimination.
  • 24 March, 4.00 p.m. Olivér Várhelyi, European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, will hear the EESC's proposals on how the EU can provide a credible EU perspective for the Western Balkans as finalised in an opinion that is up for adoption (see below).
  • 25 March, 10 a.m. Valdis Dombrovskis, European Commission Executive Vice-President for an Economy that Works for People, will discuss with the EESC the challenges of trade policy for a socially inclusive economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.

Key opinions to be put to the vote

COVID-19 and beyond

  • Challenges of teleworking (SOC/660, rapporteur Carlos Manuel Trindade – Workers, PT)
    With teleworking given an expedited boost by the pandemic, it is important for Member States, with the involvement of the social partners, to ensure that there is an appropriate national framework setting out the rules of play for companies and workers interested in adopting this form of work. In the EESC's view, existing regulations in the EU and Member States could be amended and new ones created to promote the positive aspects of teleworking by giving special attention to the organisation of working time, the risks to health and safety at work, work-life balance, the right to disconnect and protection of workers' rights. More
  • Teleworking and gender equality (SOC/662, rapporteur Milena Angelova – Employers, BG; co-rapporteur Erika Koller – Workers, HU)
    A third of workers switched to teleworking due to the pandemic and a greater share of these are women. The EESC wants to call attention to the risk of women using teleworking as a means of taking up the double burden of paid work and unpaid domestic work as most of the household chores and caring responsibilities still fall on women's shoulders. It welcomes the Commission's campaign to combat gender stereotypes and urges Member States to promptly and efficiently implement the Work-Life Balance Directive. More
  • Tackling non-performing loans in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic (ECO/540, rapporteur Kęstutis Kupšys – Diversity Europe, LT)
    The EESC welcomes the presentation of the new European Commission action plan on non-performing loans, but regrets that it essentially lacks new proposals fit for COVID-19 times, leaving Europe to face an extraordinary situation with rules written for ordinary times. More

Energy and transport

  • State of the Energy Union Report 2020 (TEN/724, rapporteur Lutz Ribbe – Diversity Europe, DE)
    The EESC addresses the 2020 reports on the State of the Energy Union and the assessment of National Energy and Climate Plans, warning that the 2050 EU energy and climate objectives can only be achieved with a change of pace in the energy transition and that citizens must really be put at the heart of this process. More
  • Single European Railway Area (TEN/727, rapporteur Stefan Back – Employers, SE)
    At the request of the EU Portuguese Presidency, the Committee evaluates the achievements of the past 25 years of EU railway policy and singles out areas for improvement, tapping into the potential of the 2021 European Year of Rail. More


  • Enhancing the accession process - A credible EU perspective for the Western Balkans (REX/533, rapporteur Andrej Zorko, – Workers, SL; co-rapporteur Ionuţ Sibian – Diversity Europe, RO)
    The EESC welcomes the Commission Communications adopted in 2020 in connection with the enlargement of the EU to the Western Balkans and agrees that integrating the Western Balkan partners into the EU represents a geostrategic investment in the peace, stability, security and economic growth of the entire continent. However, the EESC considers that social partners and other civil society organisations should play a greater role and be more actively involved in the entire enlargement process. The Commission should thus define the concept of "key stakeholders" more clearly. More


  • Critical Raw Materials Resilience: Charting a Path towards greater Security and Sustainability (CCMI/177, rapporteur Dumitru Fornea – Workers, RO; co-rapporteur Michal Pintér – Delegate, SK)
    The EESC sees the proposal to map the potential supply of secondary critical raw materials from EU stocks and wastes as a key action in improving the EU's raw materials resilience, and calls on the Commission to make this mapping exercise a priority and carry it out by the end of 2021 instead of the currently envisaged 2022 deadline. More
  • Sustainability requirements for batteries in the EU (CCMI/178, rapporteur Bruno Choix – Employers, FR; co-rapporteur Franck Uhlig - Delegate, FR)
    The EESC makes the case that batteries placed on the EU market should be sustainable, high-performing and safe throughout their lifecycle. This means they should be produced with the lowest possible environmental impact, using materials obtained in full respect of human rights and of social and ecological standards. They should be long-lasting and safe, and at the end of their lifecycle, they should be repurposed, remanufactured or recycled, feeding valuable materials back into the economy. More


  • A new ERA for R&I (INT/924, rapporteur Paul Rübig –Employers, AT)
    The EESC welcomes the new vision for the European Research Area (ERA) as a real "New Deal" for the EU's research, technology and innovation, with its focus on rapidly translating R&I results into sustainable business and on removing red tape barriers to innovation. At the same time, the EESC flags up a number of areas where additional action is needed. More


EESC plenary session
Jacques Delors building and online
24 March, 2.30 p.m. to 7 p.m., 25 March, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Watch the plenary session here. - The agenda is available here.