EESC president Henri Malosse back in Athens to draw lessons from the crisis: “The suffering of the Greek people over the past six years should not be in vain.”
Following on from his many earlier trips to Greece, the president of the European Economic and Social Committee, Henri Malosse, is on a visit to Athens from 9 until 11 April. During his discussions with government representatives, civil society players, business people and students, the EESC president drew lessons for Greece and Europe. “We have witnessed the limits of European solidarity; the EU has not done enough to provide equitable help to all its Member States. We need to work towards integrated policies, build common budgetary institutions, mutualise debt, invest in innovation, education, entrepreneurship, and support the competitiveness of European businesses and the reindustrialisation of southern Europe.”
Mr Malosse continued: “Greek society has paid a very high price – 60% youth unemployment, many closed businesses, increased poverty, lower pensions, and dented investor confidence – the result of a lack of solidarity on the part of the EU.” Despite the toughness imposed by the Troika, economic recovery is slow and uncertain.
Taking the floor during conferences on Smart Growth through Research and Innovation and Mediterranean Creativity and Innovation: Transforming Regional Policy, the EESC president expressed his admiration for the resilience and drive of the people of Greece, who, despite economic hardships, have shown initiative and a willingness to create businesses. They have been innovative and have refused to lose hope. He concluded with the words: “European governments and economic and social stakeholders should work together so that Europe once again becomes the model of innovation, creativity and quality in the world.”
The crisis has shown the current limitations of the European Union: economic union is lacking, financial and fiscal policies are not shared, and genuine efforts to secure European integration have stalled. The lessons that Europe should draw from the Greek experience include the need to:
- refocus efforts on fundamental principles, rather than on regulating details
- work on key priorities, i.e. the quality of life of European citizens, social convergence and social protection
- restore a sense of political integration, with constructive and focused policies in the fields of economy and finance, for instance flat tax rates and an investment-friendly climate, and a minimum income
- understand and respect cultural differences
- foster EU-level investment in innovation, research and development, education (European universities) and social cohesion
Mr Malosse mentioned the “citizens’ pillar” set up in February through the signing of a cooperation agreement between the EESC, the European Parliament and the CoR, which seeks to give a stronger voice to citizens and economic and social stakeholders in EU decision-making.
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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 EU decision-making process. The Committee has 353 members from across Europe, who are appointed by the Council of the European Union.