18 April 2013
EESC vice-president Hajo Wilms: An end to the status quo – EU budgets must open new perspectives for the future
Brussels, 17 April: Hans-Joachim Wilms has been appointed new vice-president of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), with particular responsibility for the budget. As president of the Budget Group secretariat, he will continue to push the message already expressed in a number of Committee opinions, namely that the ambitious challenges facing the EU make it vital to increase the size of its budget so as to revitalise economic growth and employment.
Hans-Joachim Wilms, who hails from Barmstedt in Germany, has been active in the trade union movement for more than forty years. His career began in the German Horticulture, Agriculture and Forestry Union (GGLF) where he was in turn organisational secretary, head of division in the central administration and vice-chair, before being elected fully-fledged chair in 1993. In January 1996, Mr Wilms became a member of the federal executive of the German Trade Union for Construction, Agriculture and the Environment (IG BAU), with board responsibility for European affairs. In 1999 and again in 2005, he was elected deputy federal president of the IG BAU, with board responsibility for finance and sustainable development. In September 2009, the focus of his work switched to Brussels when he became European affairs officer for the IG BAU federal board. He has been a member of the EESC Workers' Group since 1994, in which capacity he has acted as raporteur for over 20 opinions. From 2008 to 2010, he was president of the Section for Agriculture, Rural Development and the Environment and, from November 2010, headed up the EESC's Sustainable Development Observatory.
Mr Wilms believes that the Commission's proposal for the 2014-2020 financial framework is excessively geared towards preserving the status quo in terms of both the resources allocated and the budget structure. He thinks the available resources fail to match the nature and scale of the challenges facing the EU. Mr Wilms believes there is a need for greater budgetary freedom and feels that the budget is eroded by inflation – an untenable prospect in the long term. Mr Wilms welcomes the Commission proposal to increase funding in the areas of research and development and in action to combat youth unemployment, but at the same time calls on the EU institutions to open up new perspectives for the future through greater innovation and in this way counter euroscepticism.
On the expenditure side, Mr Wilms feels the real question is where a euro spent at EU level is more effective than one spent at national level. It is a question here of "European public goods", which cannot be supplied effectively at national level and thus require EU intervention. European public goods include research and development, common defence, food security, immigration and the right of asylum, climate change responses, and pan-European infrastructure investment in energy, communications and the single market. In addition to budget matters, Mr Wilms will continue to be involved in sustainable development issues and will work for a more active role for civil society in setting up an EU-US free trade zone.
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The European Economic and Social Committee represents the various economic and social components of organised civil society. It is an institutional consultative body established by the 1957 Treaty of Rome. Its consultative role enables its members, and hence the organisations they represent, to participate in the Community decision-making process. The Committee has 344 members from across Europe, who are appointed by the Council of the European Union.