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Recent events are showing us that we must not let down our guard and believe that the 60 years of peace in Europe are to be taken for granted. Our Fundamental Rights, which are enshrined in Article 2 of the Treaty of the European Union are not to be taken for granted. It is inadmissible that last year saw the largest number of anti-semitic acts in decades, leading to an increasing sense of emergency among Jewish communities worldwide.
Recently, I visited the Red Star Line Museum in Antwerp, which was particularly important to me.The Red Star Line Museum is a special place as it focuses on the insightful stories of the many passengers who travelled from Antwerp, the Red Star Line's main European port, to America between 1873 and late 1934. Their touching stories show that migration and human mobility have always existed. We cannot deny that migration is a constant part of European history and cultural exchange.
Culture is a powerful tool to build bridges between people and reinforce mutual understanding. Artistic freedom, enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU as well as the Treaty of the EU, is essential for development of our open democracies and our European values and identity. I, therefore, welcome the Council conclusions on an EU strategic approach to international cultural relations and a framework for action of 8 April.
The project of accelerating the circular economy transition has been an excellent example of EU synergy in action. The ambitious circular economy initiatives adopted by the Commission, coupled with our Committee's access to a widespread civil society network, are paving the way toward a more sustainable European economy.
Civil society intends to play its part in the run up to the European elections scheduled for 23-26 May. To mobilise members and civil society organisations at all levels, the European Economic and Social Committee organised an event titled Civil Society for rEUnaissance on 21 February 2019.
This is an important day. We are gathered here a little over ninety days before the European elections to ask the question: are we brave enough to grasp the urgency of the moment?
I welcome the much-awaited reflection paper of the European Commission "Towards a Sustainable Europe by 2030". I wish to congratulate First Vice-President Timmermans and Vice-President Katainen for this result. Now there is another window of opportunity to further push the sustainable development agenda, which must become the EU's top priority for the next decade. Let us be clear though: this is only the beginning of the road towards an ambitious and successful implementation of the sustainable agenda.
I welcome the results of the latest Eurobarometer: 68% of European citizens believe their country’s EU membership to be a good thing. Citizens seem to be more in tune with the EU than some of the leaders governing national member states seem to think. I also speak for my own country, Italy, where 64% of Italians considered positively staying in the European Union—a 5% jump from last year when they were 59%. I am pleased to see that citizens, despite the growing difficulties of our changing times, increasingly support the European Union.
Luca Jahier, President of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), and Antonio Tajani, President of the European Parliament (EP), signed on 5 December a joint declaration in view of the European elections that will be held in May 2019.
Thank you for granting the Aquí Europa-Vocento Award to the European Economic and Social Committee for its contribution to European integration. In the year in which the EESC celebrates its sixtieth anniversary, this award encourages us even more to continue our work of making the voices and interests of civil society heard in decision-making at European Union level.
The "LEONARDO: rEUnaissance today" project will be launched on 16 and 17 November in Rome. The project is a concrete expression of the slogan of the Presidency of Luca Jahier: "rEUnaissance" which is closely linked to one of the Presidency priorities: Culture. In a challenging time in European politics, and before the crucial European elections of May 2019, the EESC President looks to the Renaissance era for an inspiration for a positive narrative for the European Union of today.
The EESC has been and will continue to advocate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Agenda at a European level and beyond, transitioning to a society that is sustainable in economic, social and environmental terms. It is essential that organised civil society is fully involved and mobilised in relation to a future EU Sustainable Development Strategy.
Today, the EESC has adopted, with an overwhelming majority (140 votes for, 3 votes against and 7 abstentions) its opinion on the Multiannual Financial Framework, proposed by the Commission on 2 May. With less than 8 months to go before the European elections, this file is a crucial one as it measures the scale of our ambition for the future of our European Union.
Quote of the day
Instead of the extremes, we must give the 'voices of the good' centre stage.
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