Luca Jahier to new EU leaders: "Make Europe world champion of sustainable development"

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The President of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) speaking before Europe's Social and Economic Councils in Rome on 13 June called on the new European Parliament and the future Commission to exert a firm and decisive political leadership to enable Europe to become world champion of sustainable development.

The Annual meeting of the Presidents and Secretaries General of EU Economic and Social Councils and the EESC opened on 13 June in Rome in the presence of Italy's President Sergio Mattarella, who was greeted by a long round of applause.

The meeting discussed the role of Economic and Social Councils in sustainable development and the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights.

 In the opening session, EESC President Luca Jahier stressed the unprecedented mobilisation of civil society during the recent European election campaign and the high voter turnout, which confirmed citizens' attachment to Europe. However, we need to send out a clear message. It's now or never, he said. EU leaders have five more years to make clear decisions on the things that really matter and consolidate the European project, tackling five key transitions:

  • an economic transition brought about by Industry 4
  • an environmental and energy transition towards a circular economy and a sensible use of the planet's finite resources
  • a social transition and changes to the world of work, which are pushing us to overhaul our welfare systems to protect the basis of our social model
  • a transformation of our democracies, of citizen participation and of the role of intermediary bodies, and
  • a geopolitical transition, which is transforming international relations before our eyes.

The way it will handle these transitions will determine Europe's future, said Jahier.

Tiziano Treu, President of the Italian Economic and Social Council, said intermediary bodies like economic and social councils have a key role to play in mending the bond of confidence between citizens and institutions. He called for an all-round sustainable Europe.Sustainability, which is central to the 2030 Agenda, cannot be only financial. Social sustainability is also key, he argued. We need innovative social policies to update welfare systems and labour laws which date back to the past century and mobilise against poverty and social inequalities. Social inequalities are a serious social injustice but also an obstacle to growth, because they concentrate resources in the hands of the few and prevent the many from mobilising their energies.

Italy's Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi stressed the multiple implications of environmental action for public policy: Paying attention to the environment means paying attention to the development and preservation of the territory, people's health and social expenditure. The 2008-2013 crisis left a grim legacy in the European Union, with rising social inequalities and asymmetries between Member States as well as between citizens. We must strive to even them out.

Enrico Giovannini, professor of economics and statistics at the University of Rome, sounded an alarm bell reminding participants that Every year, 500 000 people die of pollution-related diseases in Europe. We urgently need to decide where we stand in relation to the 2030 Agenda.

The opening session was followed by contributions from the Economic and Social Councils of 17 European countries, which will continue tomorrow.

The final document with the Economic and Social Councils' proposals on how best to ensure a sustainable Europe and implement the Social Pillar will be presented to the incoming European Parliament.