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18 March 2010

Commission seeks EESC input to growth-boosting plan EESC to contribute through grassroots expertise

In his first official visit, European Commissioner Maroš Šefčovič, the Vice-President for Inter-Institutional Relations and Administration, joined the plenary session of the EESC and discussed ways and areas for structured dialogue between the two institutions in the light of the Commission's Europe 2020 initiative.

In his introductory address, EESC president Mario Sepi recalled that the Treaty of Lisbon gave more scope for the EESC to present its standpoint. "The European Commission has been a fundamental partner in dialogue, and the fact that Commissioner Maroš Šefčovič's first official visit led to us, shows the appreciation of our work. We are three groups, but we speak as one voice," Sepi stressed.

After hailing the intermediary role of the EESC, Commissioner Maroš Šefčovič focused on the importance of the Committee in raising awareness of and gathering local level feedback on the Commission's new growth boosting plan Europe 2020. "We need much stronger ownership of this strategy so that it does not come through to people merely as another exercise of Brussels. We must start from grassroots level, and that is where your role is pre-eminent. We want the EESC Members to be Europe 2020 Ambassadors," he stressed.

The Commissioner noted that the plan "has many overlapping elements" with the EESC's Programme for Europe, the key document endorsed last year. "This Programme has been very inspirational for the Europe 2020 strategy" he added. With the European Spring Council set to adopt Europe 2020 on March 25/26, Commissioner Maroš Šefčovič was calling for the quick launch of the program to avert further economic and social downturn, and considered consultations with the Committee to be instrumental in the fastest possible implementation.

Patrik Zoltvany (Group of Employers, Slovakia) urged the Commission to seek ways to further develop the single market and to cut European red tape, arguing a decrease in administrative burden would give employers the momentum to job creation. On his part, Dimitri Fornea (Group of Employees, Romania) called for the protection of the European industrial and agricultural sector. Lutz Ribbe (Group Various Interests, Germany) stressed that despite bearing in its title the sustainability goal, Europe 2020 did not explicitly consider the protection of biodiversity. He underlined that important Commission proposals such as this one should not rate rapidity higher than thoroughness.

Closing the debate, EESC president Mario Sepi ensured the Commissioner that the Committee was ready to embrace the Europe 2020 strategy and to take on the role of its local ambassador as long as the proposal "maintains a balance between economic and social development".

For more information, please contact:

Barbara GESSLER, EESC Press Unit, +32 2 546 8066;

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