European Green Deal must be social too

The various sections of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) have joined forces to highlight that the EU’s future sustainability requires people’s participation and appropriate funding.
A truly sustainable EU will only be possible in future if the whole of society supports and participates in the process and if the right funds are available to allow a just and fair transition. At a debate held in Brussels on 5 March 2020, EESC members stressed that the new Green Deal – the von der Leyen Commission’s political declaration on a sustainable Europe by 2050 – needed to be backed and owned by all EU citizens and to match its ambitions with the right financing.
Pierre Jean Coulon, chair of the meeting and president of the Section for Transport, Energy, Infrastructure and the Information Society (TEN) which organised the event, said: “We need to bear in mind that it is not by snapping our fingers that we will make all these changes. We need the political will to make the transition happen and we need to focus on the social aspects and financing.” Giving the example of the sometimes cumbersome recharging stations for electric vehicles, he pointed out that there were still many challenges ahead and that it was therefore important to be realistic and reasonable.
The president of each EESC section took the floor to emphasise the importance of working together on a crosscutting topic like this, in order to break down silos and seek to improve coordination.
In a written message, Lucie Studničná, president of the Consultative Commission on Industrial Change (CCMI), said she considered the Green Deal initiative to be a huge opportunity for Europeans, while also entailing a large number of potential risks and threats. She said that its implementation through a sectoral approach was extremely important and could hopefully give birth to a new European sustainable industrial pillar. She went on to draw attention to wood, forestry, textiles, construction, steel, chemicals, cement, maritime, electronics and plastics as the priority sectors where industries and workers would face the greatest challenges.
The social dimension of the Green Deal was the focus of the message from Christa Schweng, president of the Section for Employment, Social Affairs and Citizenship (SOC). Referring to the Just Transition Fund and to the principle that nobody should be left behind, she made it clear that this mechanism was designed to support change in the regions that were most dependent on fossil fuels or carbon-intensive processes, steering investments and providing support for workers who needed reskilling. She also explained that those Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with a social dimension were mirrored in the European Pillar of Social Rights and were already integrated into the European Semester process.

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Commission presents first reflections on building a strong social Europe for just transitions

The Commission today presents a Communication on building a strong social Europe for just transitions. It sets out how social policy will help deliver on the challenges and opportunities of today, proposing action at EU level for the months to come, and seeking feedback on further action at all levels in the area of employment and social rights. Already today the Commission launches the first phase consultation with social partners – businesses and trade unions – on the issue of fair minimum wages for workers in the EU.

Valdis Dombrovskis, Executive Vice-President for an Economy that Works for People, said: “Europe is going through a momentous shift. As we go through the green and digital transformation, as well as an ageing population, the Commission wants to ensure that people remain centre stage and that the economy works for them. We already have an instrument, the European Pillar of Social Rights. Now we want to ensure that the EU and its Member States, as well as stakeholders, are committed to its implementation.

Nicolas Schmit, Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, said: “The working lives of millions of Europeans will change in the coming years. We need to take action to allow the future workforce to flourish. Europe’s innovative and inclusive social market economy must be about people: providing them with quality jobs that pay an adequate wage. No Member State, no region, no person can be left behind. We must continue to strive for the highest of standards in labour markets, so that all Europeans can live their lives with dignity and ambition.

Europe today is a unique place where prosperity, fairness and a sustainable future are equally important goals. In Europe, we have some of the highest standards of living, best working conditions and most effective social protection in the world.That said, Europeans face a number of changes such as the move to a climate-neutral economy, digitalisation and demographic shifts. These changes will present the workforce with new challenges and opportunities. The European Green Deal – our new growth strategy – must ensure that Europe remains the home of the world’s most advanced welfare systems and is a vibrant hub of innovation and competitive entrepreneurship. Continue reading “Commission presents first reflections on building a strong social Europe for just transitions”