Through this opinion, requested by the German Presidency of the Council, the EESC recognises the essential role of smoothly functioning public services in defending core EU values. The opinion highlights their particular role in times of crisis, like COVID-19, which calls for the maximum human and financial support. The EESC proposes common European principles to support the role of public services in defence of democracy. They include the principles of neutrality, legality, proportionality, equal treatment and transparency; the right to good administration; independent oversight; the protection of public services staff against decisions breaching the rule of law; accessibility; interoperability; and the respect of the rule of law including when receiving EU funds.
The EESC describes integration as a dynamic process, involving both migrants and the receiving society. It believes that migration challenges should be addressed in a holistic manner. Gender equality should become one of the key pillars in integration. Migrant families and parents should be involved in the local and school community as from the early stages of reception. On language training, the EESC believes that this should foresee cultural exploration and involvement in the community and society, as well as guidance and information to migrants on the advantages and the aims of language training. In view of the disparities that exist in Member States with regard to language teaching, the EESC calls for common EU guidelines for language training, which can help ensure a unified and holistic approach.
The EU's demographic situation requires a holistic approach that embraces social and economic policies, active labour market and cohesion policies, policies supporting families, measures for ageing workers etc. The best answer to the labour drain related to internal migration is the social and economic upward convergence of Member States. The COVID-19 crisis will strongly affect the policies on demographic challenges. We need urgent measures to protect citizens from the negative effects of this crisis.
In this own-initiative opinion the EESC calls on the European institutions to promote a positive image of CSOs, preserve their independence and strengthen their capacity for action.
Beside a detailed diagnosis of the situation and role of civil society organisations, the EESC presents 26 recommendations for better civil dialogue and access to resources, including ideas for the post-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework.
The EESC finds that financing of CSOs is essential for participatory democracy and that the article 11 of the TEU on structured dialogue with civil society must be properly implemented. It calls also for the establishment of an EU Ombudsman on civic space freedoms and of a European fund for democracy, human rights and values within the EU.
The EESC welcomes the special attention devoted to drawing up a European Union Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region (EUSAIR), in order to support cohesion and competitiveness in the light of challenges that cannot be satisfactorily resolved by single regions or countries through the usual means. The EESC believes that EUSAIR must adopt a comprehensive programme with an action-oriented list of projects and schemes, and strongly recommends that better use be made of the private sector's potential to attract investment (both local and international) and to create business opportunities. Simultaneously, the strategy should include a stronger social dimension, in order to better support inclusive growth in the Adriatic and Ionian region.