1 February 2013
More Europe for a better Europe
Minister Joan Burton and the EESC agree on the necessity for a social dimension to economic and monetary union.
Has EU membership benefited Ireland? On 1 February, the members of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC, the EU civil society body) and Irish representatives from the government and civil society organisations gathered together in Dublin to discuss this and more issues including the economic and financial crisis, the Common Agricultural Policy, the involvement of citizens and the future of Europe.
Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton T.D., applauded “the role played by the EESC -and in particular the Various Interests Group- in representing the voice of civil society in the Union's decision-making process. The EESC contributes to the formation of policy at EU level that can deliver real benefits to all our citizens”.
“After five years of austerity, increasing political extremism and anti-Brussels sentiment, it is imperative that we make the EU more visible, tangible, relevant and accessible to the lives of citizens”, stated Luca Jahier, President of the Various Interests Group of the EESC at the conference organised in partnership with European Movement Ireland.
Participants urged the European Commission to assess the cost of “non-Europe” in all policy areas and to evaluate its impact on employment and growth. Furthermore, they called for an active involvement of civil society and citizens in the formulation and implementation of European policies (i.e. through Article 11 of the Lisbon Treaty and the European Citizens' Initiative). In particular, the social dimension should be better integrated into the EU's future architecture starting from the next June´s European Council. Indeed, the EESC has been asked by the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, to contribute and propose possible measures on the social dimension of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU).
Over 26 million Europeans are unemployed and some 116 million people are at risk of poverty. These people cannot be neglected. “The costs of doing nothing are very significant. The rate of unemployment amongst young people in Ireland is currently 29.7%, and the negative social impact on them, their families and communities is incalculable”, said Senator Jillian van Turnhout.
Furthermore, in the specific case of Ireland, conclusions were clear. The European Council should make possible the direct recapitalisation of banks through the European Stability Mechanism (ESF). The direct link between bank bailouts and sovereign debt of Members States has a pernicious effect on EU economies.
More or less Europe?
EU Member States are currently swinging between an attempt to make Europe more effective and fierce national criticism of the EU. The message ahead of the 7-8 February European Council meeting is unequivocal: a deeper Europe and a stronger budget to create growth and jobs for the next Multi-Annual Financial Framework 2014-2020. “Our Committee will continue to closely follow the negotiations on the EU Budget 2014-2020. We must champion the need for a strong, properly funded Multi-Annual Financial Framework, as it will influence the future of the full spectrum of EU policies, including the Common Agricultural Policy”, stated Staffan Nilsson, President of the EESC.
New Common Agricultural Policy
The CAP should continue to play a central role in Europe. A sufficient budget focused on greening agriculture and on farmers who work and produce (rather than farmers who no longer produce), and a long-term vision of the CAP as a source of growth and job creation are of utmost importance. Without the support of the CAP, rural communities of Member States such as Ireland will definitely be at risk.
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