EESC Connecting EU seminar on health, social Europe and democracy is a great success in Lisbon

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) hopes that its seminar, which focused on some of the most pressing issues facing Europeans today, will encourage citizens to share their ideas and concerns about space by line of the Conference on the Future of Europe, which will make it a genuine democratic exercise and help build a more positive narrative for Europe

On 18 and 19 November, the EESC organized its flagship annual communication event, the Connecting EU seminar, as part of the Conference on the Future of Europe. Organized in partnership with the Portuguese Economic and Social Council, the seminar took place at the Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon.

Entitled What Europe are you dreaming of? Civil Society and the Conference on the Future of Europe, a two-day Connecting EU seminar bringing together academics, journalists and politicians discuss the need to step up EU action in the fields of health, economy and social justice, and democracy.

The three themes were chosen from among the nine proposed for the CoFoE citizen discussions. The conclusions of the seminar will be recorded on CoFoE’s interactive multilingual platform which allows people to share their views on the proposed themes.

At the opening of the seminar, the President of the EESC Christa schweng said: We believe that the conference will only be a success if we manage to bring the EU closer to its citizens and allow them to rediscover an emotional connection with the EU. We have to make sure that this does not remain an empty exercise. To ensure accountability and transparency, I propose a scoreboard that will clearly define the Conference’s proposals. Its result must be in accordance with the opinions expressed by citizens and then followed by decision-makers.

The European Union is up to the task. We should be proud of it and we should dare to dream even more. One of the EESC’s main priorities for this conference and I believe that one of the keys to its success is to define a new narrative for Europe, which puts civil society in the driver’s seat, concluded Ms Schweng.

EESC Vice-President for Communication Cillian lohan said: The 92 million citizens represented by our EESC members give us strength and give us our identity. I am proud to have organized this ConnectingEU to ensure that we make the most of this powerful network.

The opening speech was delivered by Miguel Poiares Maduro, professor at the Catholic University of Portugal and at the School of Transnational Governance of the European University Institute of Florence,and Chairman of the Scientific Committee of the Future Forum of the Gulbenkian Foundation.

Prof Maduro said: The EU will need to be reorganized politically to be able to politically reconcile the contrasting views of its citizens on some pressing issues like migration. The policy is still very national. But countries no longer have any power over large transnational corporations. The EU has regulatory powers to hold them to account and this could be the EU’s added value for its citizens.

However, Professor Maduro noted that the format chosen by the EU for the conference – deliberative assemblies of citizens discussing a very wide range of topics – is a high-risk method, as it could backfire on the expectations of citizens. citizens at the end of the process. The scope of the outcome of the conference will, he said, be largely determined by whether or not the EU treaties are amended.

Member of the Portuguese Parliament and former State Secretary for Equality, Elza Pais, delivered a powerful speech on the devastating effects of the COVID-19 crisis on women and vulnerable groups, including minorities and people with disabilities.

Women were the first to lose their jobs, but were on the front lines in the fight against the pandemic. We estimate that more than 7 million women and girls have been pushed below the poverty line around the world. 11 million young girls lost their general education level during the pandemic, and that’s a whole generation lost. There can be no economic development without women.

THREE SEMINARS DEBATED EU ACTION ON HEALTH, THE ECONOMY AND THE GUARANTEE OF MEDIA INDEPENDENCE

The panels were presented by the three presidents of the EESC groups.

Opening the panel on health, the chair of the Employers’ Group Stefano Mallia said: Citizens expect the EU to protect their health. Therefore, investments in innovation and research must be in the foreground. The current treaties offer good possibilities for increased cooperation and do not need to be changed.

The debate focused on the health crisis and its impact on the future of Europe. Panelists discussed the recent European initiative on the European Health Union and the need for the EU to have more powers in the area of ​​public health. Views differ on the need to change EU treaties to increase EU competence in health and on the strategic role that health can have for the EU.

The panel on A Stronger Economy, Social Justice and Jobs was opened by the Chairman of the Workers’ Group, Olivier Röpke: After the financial crisis of 2008, there were cuts in the social protection and pension systems, from which some countries have not recovered until today. Fortunately, we are no longer discussing whether the EU should play a role in social policy, but what role it should play.

The panel discussed the possibility of the Resilience and Recovery Facility triggering social reforms in member states. He also discussed the EU’s proposal for action on minimum wages, amid differing views on the need for an EU directive in this area, and discussed the issue of poverty and need for the EU to coordinate action on minimum incomes and tax competition. .

The panel on European democracy was introduced by the president of Diversity Europe Group, Séamus Boland: Journalism in Europe should be valued and supported for what it really is: a public good of inestimable interest for the health and safety of our societies. We need to have a mechanism to enforce that. Greater protection and diversity of the media should become a central point both in the discussions and in the recommendations of the Conference on the Future of Europe.

The panel included speakers from Reporters Without Borders and the International Federation of Journalists who said their organizations had high hopes for EU action on SLAPPs – abusive litigation targeting journalists and human rights defenders – as well as on the media law, stressing the need for the EU to propose binding legislation to ensure that the press is a public good. They provided an overview of the dire situation facing journalists around the world, with 42 dead worldwide in 2020 alone and 235 currently in jail.

Matthew Caruana Galizia, anti-corruption activist and son of murdered Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, gave a poignant testimony to her relentless fight for justice for her mother, who had more than 40 lawsuits against her at the time of her death.

Reporters of the independent news portal of Hungary Telex, Slovakia Denník SME and the Polish Onet gave personal testimonies on the media situation in their respective countries.

Each year, the Connecting EU seminar brings together communicators – communications officers and press officers from civil society organizations represented or linked to the EESC – to discuss a subject that is at the center of current political and media debates. 2021 is the 14th year that it has taken place.

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