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.