AK EUROPA warmly congratulates the new President of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) Oliver Röpke. In the course of his inauguration, important European policy goals were addressed: strengthening democracy, fundamental rights and the rule of law. In particular, he called for a social EU in which environmental goals are also sufficiently taken into account.
26 April was an important day at EU level from an Austrian workers' perspective. The former Head of the EU office of the Austrian Trade Union Federation (ÖGB Europabüro) and President of the EESC Workers’ Group, Oliver Röpke, was elected as the EECS’s 34th President on 26 April. In his inaugural speech, he advocated a path of reform and modernisation. His commitment to democracy and his commitment to Europe are also reflected in his Manifesto.
Working to strengthen democracy and social inclusion
According to the new EESC President, a central task of the EESC is to work for the strengthening of democracy, which requires joint action by all. This includes the fight against rising authoritarianism and the undermining of the rule of law. At the same time, freedom of assembly and freedom of the press as well as rule-based international cooperation must be consistently promoted. Healthy democracies thrive on making well-founded decisions based on the broadest possible participation of citizens. Participatory democracy has a high added value in this respect. In this sense, the EESC should also act as a "democratic watchdog" in Member States and partner countries. In concrete terms, this means, for example, supporting campaigns for the participation of citizens. At the same time, the EESC must be better positioned in the decision-making processes at EU level.
In addition, the EESC should also be consolidated as a forum for dialogue between a wide range of stakeholders. Young people in particular must have the opportunity to voice their concerns and needs, and they must be actively involved, especially in the EESC's work, not least when it comes to climate change. The EESC President wants to work with young people to build an inclusive, good and democratic future. Oliver Röpke also wants to implement structural measures in the EESC to achieve gender equality. For example, the proportion of female members needs to be increased.
Röpke calls for a social EU that also takes sufficient account of environmental aspects. In terms of content, the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights remains a priority for Röpke. He demands that the EU concentrate on a social and economic policy that leaves no one behind. In doing so, a competitiveness must be striven for that offers opportunities for all.
This can only be achieved by striving for sustainable competitiveness, which is also committed to social inclusion and more social and economic equality. He also sees important initiatives within the framework of the strategic perspective and on the topic of water or the Blue Deal. With regard to the accession countries, President Röpke sees one of the EESC's main objectives in their better preparation for accession. In this context, the war had brought about the opposite effect of what Russia had actually aimed for, by bringing the neighbouring states as a whole closer to the EU.
Congratulations and approval
Among the congratulators were many top-level politicians, including EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič and Swedish Minister Paulina Brandberg. Evelyn Regner, Vice-President of the European Parliament, stressed that important partners such as the EESC were also needed from the Parliament's perspective to implement the goal of a social EU. Nicolas Schmit, EU Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs, agreed that strengthening democracy was a top priority. This would include social rights, which would not exist without democracy. It is important to improve social cohesion within our democracies. Inequality is a threat to democracy. Esther Lynch, General Secretary of the ETUC, argued along the same lines. She called for an EU that is a good place to live and work. This means sufficient wages and more security at work.