ALLIANCE Director Irene Oldfather gives an update on her work as Third Sector Representative on the European Economic and Social Committee
Italy’s Luca Jahier has been elected as the 32nd president of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), which he will head for the next two and a half years, together with his two new vice-presidents, Milena Angelova (Bulgaria) for budget and Isabel Caño Aguilar (Spain) for communication.
The ALLIANCE is also pleased to note that there are now more women in EESC leadership roles than ever before with the Committee making an effort to promote gender equality.
Irene Oldfather, Director of the ALLIANCE and Third Sector Representative on the EESC, welcomed the appointment of the EESC’s new President adding that:
‘The appointment of Luca Jahier is very encouraging, particularly with his background in the NGO sector.
‘I was also delighted that he made the effort to help the ALLIANCE promote ‘What Matters to You?’ Day. The spirit and impact of ‘What Matters to You?’ Day is very important to the work we do at the ALLIANCE – particularly within the Dementia Carer Voices project. It was heartening to see the new President endorse this campaign and share what was important to him.’
The EESC Turns 60
To mark the 60th anniversary of the EESC in May Luca Jahier urged the committee not to rest on its laurels, setting out seven priority areas for actions in the years to come. The EESC will seek to:
- Reassert the Union’s values;
- Implement the sustainable development agenda;
- Step up coordination of economic policy within the EU;
- Manage artificial intelligence for the good of mankind;
- Work towards an ambitious multiannual financial framework based on solidarity and fostering cohesion;
- Develop a sense of European identity though culture and education;
- And actively shape relations with the EU’s neighbourhood and beyond.
Irene Oldfather noted that:
‘It is great to see that the EESC has made its priorities so clear. I’m looking forward to working with the new President towards achieving these aims over the next two and a half years.’
Civil Society Prize
The EESC has announced a Civil Society Prize for 2018 with a theme of ‘Identities, European Values and Cultural Heritage in Europe.’
The prize has a total value of €50,000 and aims to raise awareness of the multiple layers and richness of European identities by promoting European values such as respect for human dignity, human rights, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law.
You can read more about the prize on the EESC website (this link will take you away from our website). The deadline for applications is on the 7th September 2018.
Irene Oldfather commented that:
‘This is an exciting initiative which should reward and encourage tangible initiatives by civil society organisations that have made a significant contribution to promoting European identity and integration.
‘I would encourage anyone with an interest to apply.’
The European Commission’s Budgetary Proposal
An EESC conference was held on the 15th May to discuss the EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2021-2027 that has been put forward by the European Commission. It was agreed by participants that the MFF does not go far enough as it currently stands and that a properly reformed long-term budget would be desirable.
Delegates voiced their dismay at the growing gap between citizens’ concerns and expectations and the limited institutional power and financial resources currently allocated to the EU.
Irene Oldfather agreed with the position put forward by the committee, adding that:
‘This debate ties quite well into the recently published study into ‘Implementing the European Pillar of Social Rights’ (this link will take you away from our website).
‘The study stresses the importance of finding a balance between the economic and social dimension of the European Union’s financial frameworks. For example, highlighting the importance of a real living wage being guaranteed across the EU – one that workers can actually survive on. It is crucial that we do not lose sight of this human perspective.’
The ALLIANCE’s Ongoing Brexit Consultation
The ALLIANCE is currently in the midst of an ongoing consultation seeking local communities’ views on Brexit. To date, we have held four events – in Campbeltown, Govan, Falkirk and Aberdeen. Attendees have raised their concerns about Brexit’s potential impact on the health and social care workforce, European funding, devolution and the third sector in Scotland. A series of midterm reports have been published on the ALLIANCE website summarising the views of people we have spoken to at each event so far. A final publication will follow at the conclusion of our consultation process.
Irene Oldfather highlighted the importance of giving local communities in Scotland a voice, telling us that:
‘Debate so far has largely taken place at a strategic level, but these events will give local people the chance to correct this and have their voices heard. Their contributions will then feed directly into negotiations at a national level.
‘Every subject imaginable has been raised during our Town Hall Conversations, from accessibility of information to feelings of distrust. But what has arisen more than any other issue is a deep feeling of uncertainty.
‘While most participants expressed a strong preference to remain in the European Union, a few who had voted to leave two years ago had now changed their mind and felt that it was in the best interests of their local community to remain in the EU. We observed a 5% swing from leave to remain in Govan, and a 28% swing in Aberdeen.
‘It will be interesting to see the findings of our final report – and to discover what matters to the local communities of Scotland.’
If you would like further information about anything mentioned, or if you would just like a visit to your organisation or to discuss matters arising, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Irene directly at: