A year for a new impetus and greater solidarity in Europe
The President of the European Economic and Social Committee, Georges Dassis, met today with the First Vice-President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, to deliver the EESC contribution to the Commission's 2017 Work Programme.
President Dassis used this occasion to emphasise that the European Union had to regain momentum in 2017. He said that "the European Commission must strive to restore a spirit of solidarity and responsibility in Europe and win back public support. It must also do its utmost to resolve the current uncertainties surrounding the future of the EU as quickly as possible. The result of the British referendum is a sad reminder that the European project can only move forward if citizens' concerns – which are dominated by a growing sense of socio-economic insecurity – are met with quick and effective responses. This is the spirit that should guide the Commission when it is drawing up its 2017 Work Programme."
In this respect, President Dassis noted that the EESC hoped that the Work Programme would be structured around three strategic priorities: strengthening economic and social cohesion, boosting the EU's global role and increasing citizens' ownership of the EU.
In terms of strengthening the economic and social cohesion of the EU, the EESC recommends an investment plan accounting for at least 2% of EU GDP through a fiscal incentive targeted at investments that stimulate innovation, growth and jobs.
With regard to boosting the EU's global role, the EESC calls for the European Union's influence to be strengthened by means of more internal cohesion and firmer political commitment from all EU institutions.
Increasing citizens' ownership of the EU suggests that the Commission should open a debate on how the EU operates. There is also a need to reaffirm European values within a shared vision, and the importance of Europe’s solidarity-based dimension, social cohesion and the construction of a participatory and inclusive democracy. The EU’s objectives can only be achieved by building a systematic dialogue with civil society organisations and strengthening social dialogue at all levels.
President Dassis declared: "Winning back people's hearts, particularly young people's, is a cultural battle as well." He asked the Commission to give all young people opportunities to benefit from European exchanges, regardless of their level of education or their employment situation.
Meanwhile, First Vice-President Timmermans was very receptive to the Committee's proposal to set up a sustainable development civil society forum and he asked the EESC to provide him with suggestions to this end.