Yesterday 21 February, the European Economic and Social Committee placed the first stepping stone on the way to the European elections of 23-26 May 2019, with the ‘Civil Society for rEUnaissance’ event.
Bringing together, on the same stage, representatives of social partners and of civil society, inspirational figures including climate activist Greta Thunberg, and institutional leaders such as Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, the line-up of the event was a clear signal that we are not dealing with the classic “business as usual” in Europe today. During the event, all speakers made clear that the challenges awaiting us in the coming months are numerous, and that all will have to be done to ensure participation during the upcoming elections. Between the digital transformation and its impacts on labour markets and the provision of our services, the call to bring answers to the human causes of climate and environmental changes and the ageing demographics, it is unlikely that any of the 28 Member States can bring solutions to all those issues by themselves. Some form of European response will be needed, and that is what we, as European citizens, will be called upon to vote.
Representing providers of public services and SGIs, CEEP clearly holds some of the tools to answer those challenges and contribute to the European project. Our members are active in sectors which are of prime importance for the daily life of our citizens. Without affordable, efficient and effective public services and SGIs, such as education, healthcare or energy, how would the EU society look like? At a moment when ‘sustainable’ is on everyone’s lips, we need to clearly recognize public services and services of general interest as instrumental for this sustainable future, bringing together environmental, social and economic concerns. And to act accordingly, in order to promote social and territorial cohesion, as well as upwards convergence for citizens and enterprises.
CEEP, just like the other EU cross-industry social partners, has a clear role to play in the coming months, to make sure the European values and our social-market economy prevail in May. Many other opportunities are awaiting us up until the elections and beyond, where we will make sure our key priorities, such a fair and predictable level-playing field for all SGIs, an active and living social dialogue, an attractive investment environment for our infrastructures, and a European democracy supported by cohesion and subsidiarity, are well taken into account.