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Liaison Group with European civil society organizations and networks
Editorial February 2021
Dear Readers,

The spring promises to be an extremely busy and interesting time in European politics. The EESC is certainly already hard at work. One of the many reasons for this is that the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE) is finally starting to take shape.

The EESC members welcomed the Portuguese Presidency's success in unblocking the political logjam around the conference. We have all been eager for the conference to go ahead because we firmly believe in its purpose. Now we cannot wait for it to start.

I believe that the EESC should be a permanent member of the CoFoE executive board. This would be a recognition of the Committee's important role as the main institutional intermediary in liaising with organised civil society. It is a view I expressed forcefully in my recent meetings with the presidents of the EU institutions, and at February's plenary debate with Commission Vice-President Dubravka Šuica, who leads the work on the CoFoE.

To be successful, the CoFoE has to be a participatory and bottom-up process that involves organised civil society. We should not forget that the conference's original purpose was to bring the EU closer to its citizens and restore their trust in the EU.

The EESC brings a special added value by reaching a common position on issues that are of crucial importance for people, now and in the future. This is a position reached by members who come from all walks of life in 27 Member States and who represent businesses, workers and civil society organisations. Our members are instrumental in bringing the debate to their organisations, networks, countries and regions. They act as multipliers, ambassadors and facilitators of debate.

The EESC is delighted to work hand in hand with the CSO members of the Liaison Group to create the best possible synergies for the sake of the EU's recovery and common future. We must avoid divisions, work together and speak with one voice in the interest of all civil society organisations. We have to make sure that the EU institutions respond by taking the action requested by civil society organisations. The CoFoE is a chance to reconnect with all EU citizens and involve those who are less aware of the EU's benefits.

The Committee has a good record in awareness-raising campaigns and broad consultations in Member States. We did this on the occasion of the debate on the future of Europe in 2017 and that on the European Pillar of Social Rights in 2016. Our efforts were noticed and appreciated by other stakeholders and we wish to continue our work in these fields. In April, the EESC will adopt two important resolutions: on a new narrative on the EU and on the Action Plan for the European Pillar of Social Rights.

Away from the current focus on the CoFoE, I would like to congratulate the 23 winners of this year's EESC Civil Solidarity Prize, which recompenses those who have made outstanding contributions to fighting COVID-19 and its consequences.

Finally, let me thank the CSOs of the Liaison Group, the EESC sections/CCMI and the secretariat for rallying round and working on a great programme for the Civil Society Days of 1 – 5 March 2021. I trust we will have some inspiring discussions at the event, and I hope to see you online on that occasion!

Thank you for your commitment.

Christa Schweng
EESC President
Co-Chair of the Liaison Group
News from the CSO members of the Liaison Group
Civil Society Days 2021, 1-5 March 2021
Join us as of 1 March for a discussion with inspiring panellists from the EU institutions and organised civil society – and eight interactive workshops – on the subject of "A Sustainable Recovery for the Future of Europe's citizens". More information here.
The conference will be webstreamed here.


Save the Date! EASPD 2021 Conference – To Inclusive Education and BEYOND – 5-7 May 2021
From 5 to 7 May 2021, EASPD will be hosting the "To Inclusive Education and BEYOND" online conference. It will bring together key stakeholders to explore how we can work together to support the transition towards inclusive education across Europe. Touching on issues such as staff training needs, the role of support service providers, the importance of multidisciplinary cooperation and the need for adequate policy frameworks, the conference will address the key challenges and opportunities for the inclusion of all learners into mainstream schools as well as promote promising practices in the field of education. Registration will be opening soon, so keep an eye out for any updates! Read more.


European Youth Forum: European Youth Capital 2024 – meet the candidates!
We are very excited to introduce the candidate cities for European Youth Capital 2024! Is your city on the list? The winner will be announced in November 2021 at the official EYC 2024 Award Ceremony.
Read more here.


EEB: Time to free fashion from fossil-fuel addiction
Do synthetic fibres reign supreme in your wardrobe? A new report has charted the two-decade-long takeover of our clothing by fossil-fuel-derived fibres, in particular polyester. Read more.


AGE: COVID-19 vaccination: older people call for clear information and better accessibility
As vaccination campaigns against coronavirus have kicked off all over Europe, organisations for older people are swinging into action to provide up-to-date information about vaccination policies and alert decision-makers to the pitfalls of some strategies.
Read more.


LLLP: Investing in education and training for the recovery of Europe
The EU's long-term budget, coupled with the Next Generation EU initiative, will be the largest stimulus package ever financed through the EU budget. With this statement, LLLP calls on the European institutions and the Member States to ensure that the National Recovery and Resilience Plans (NRRPs) genuinely commit to robust investment and public expenditure in public services such as education and training, one of the sectors which has suffered the most during the crisis. Read more.


CEV: #EYVplus10 – CEV's 2021 campaign to mark the 10th anniversary of the European Year of Volunteering (EYV) 2011
#EYVplus10 will focus on revisiting the achievements from EYV2011, including the Policy Agenda for Volunteering in Europe (PAVE), as CEV and its members lay the foundations for building a "Blueprint for European Volunteering 2030". The campaign hashtag #EYVplus10 will be used to raise awareness of events and campaigns offline and online, engage with key stakeholders and create a wider conversation on volunteering needs and opportunities in 2021 and beyond. To support this process, CEV has launched a podcast and a blog series, both hosted on the CEV website. Read here the January #EYVplus10 blog.


CEV launches tenth edition of the European Volunteering Capital Competition
The European Volunteering Capital Competition 2023 aims to promote volunteering at local level by sharing best practices and giving recognition to municipalities that support and strengthen partnerships with volunteer centres and volunteer-involving organisations in their communities, and work to implement the CEV's 5R policy priorities for volunteering, the recommendations of the Policy Agenda for Volunteering in Europe (PAVE) and the CEV Volunteering Policy Statements. Applicants need to provide evidence of their engagement with, and support for, the European Solidarity Corps and actions related to supporting volunteers in the COVID-19 response, and are also asked if they are signatories of the Integrating Cities Charter. The winner, and the other candidates, will have the opportunity to join a unique community of practice made up of municipalities (and other levels of local and regional authority) that have expertise in, and a shared concern for, strengthening, inspiring and celebrating VOLUNTEERING and SOLIDARITY. Deadline: 7 June 2021. The full call for candidates is available here.


SEE: American Sustainable Business Council & Social Economy Europe 1-Hour Video Special
This 1-hour video special of our Podcast “Social Economy Talks” explores our two organisations and our “Memorandum of Understanding” signed in December 2020. Moreover, it looks at important topics such as how essential inclusion, racial equality and the rights of those typically far from the labour market are in a sustainable future, as well as what is happening in the EU and the USA to ensure these are made a priority. We cover issues such as the next generation and alternative business models (Social Economy, One Worker One Vote) for a more sustainable and just future, including how healthcare systems and mutual healthcare organisations help to ensure equality and help people cope during the pandemic. Additionally, we examine the COVID recovery strategies in our two territories: what it means and what we should do next. Join Social Economy Talks Podcast host Nicholas Clark as we meet prominent authors and co-founders of the ASBC, David Levine, MaryAnne Howland and Jeffrey Hollender, as well as key members of Social Economy Europe, Sibylle Reichert of AIM Healthcare Mutuals, Patrizia Bussi of ENSIE Network and VP of SEE, and Victor Meseguer, Director of SEE.
Listen to / watch the podcast here, and please like share this highly topical and interesting conversation!


SEE: Social Economy Europe published its "Best practice guide on Social Economy for the full inclusion of people with disabilities"
Social Economy Europe has released a best practice guide on Social Economy for the full inclusion of people with disabilities which highlights 12 examples of how social economy enterprises contribute to the social and labour integration of people with disabilities across the European Union and help to boost accessibility. The full guide and news item can be found here. In addition, SEE has just released the 5th episode of its podcast "Social Economy Talks", which explores the role of the social economy regarding accessibility, inclusion and innovation to promote the full inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace, and features a number of high-profile guests.

Report from the ECAS conference "State of the Union Citizens' Rights 2021: Moving Together Beyond the Pandemic"
The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the EU and all its citizens. Effectively addressing it naturally means identifying the challenges at hand, and ECAS sought to do both during its conference "State of the Union Citizens' Rights 2021: Moving Together Beyond the Pandemic" (21-22 January). On the basis of an ECAS study presented and the discussions generated, the event created a platform for citizens' stories to be heard by EU decision-makers. Access the key outcomes and recommendations here.


ECAS: Improving Inclusion of EU Mobile Citizens (IMPEU) online MOOC
While EU citizenship rights are granted by the 1992 Maastricht Treaty, upholding them is often in the hands of the public administrations in the different Member States. Overwhelming evidence suggests that many of the obstacles faced by citizens when claiming their EU rights are due to the incorrect implementation of the relevant legislation on a national level. Aiming to address this problem, ECAS and partners have launched the IMPEU MOOC - a free, interactive online course for civil servants to enhance their knowledge of EU Citizenship. The materials can be accessed in English, Greek, Italian, French, Spanish and Bulgarian. Sign up and explore the MOOC here.


IUT: The European Parliament promotes security of tenure, affordability and an enforceable right to adequate housing
On 21 January, the European Parliament voted on the Initiative-Report “Access to decent and affordable housing”. Ms Kim van Sparrentak, rapporteur for the report, managed to secure a majority of votes (352 Yes/179 No/152 Abstentions) in the call for security of tenure, the fundamental right to housing and fair access to affordable housing.
Marie Linder, President of the International Union of Tenants and the Swedish Union of Tenants, welcomed the vote as a game-changer at a time of liberalisation of national housing markets: affordability and the protection of vulnerable groups is the key!
More information can be found here.


COFACE launches virtual European Family Lab, January-December 2021
COFACE Families Europe, a member of the EESC Liaison Group, has launched its European Family Lab, focusing on different types of family support, powered by COFACE members. Over the course of 2021, ten "breakfast bytes" (webinars) will be on offer, covering different aspects of family well-being. Check out the full programme for 2021 here and register here. For further information and questions click here.


Lifelong Learning for Sustainable Societies - LLLP Annual Position Paper 2020
2020 has been a year like no other in recent decades. For education and training in Europe, it has also been the year of an ambitious agenda for achieving the European Education Area by 2025. Following extensive consultation with our members and partners, and with European decision-makers and education stakeholders, the Lifelong Learning Platform is now more certain than ever that lifelong learning is the engine that will lead the world towards a more sustainable future from an environmental, social and economic perspective. You can read the position paper here.


CAE: A Cultural Deal for Europe
Have you heard about the Cultural Deal for Europe? It was jointly developed by Culture Action Europe, the European Cultural Foundation and Europa Nostra (also in its capacity as coordinator of the European Heritage Alliance) and was first presented at a high-level online event on 18 November 2020. You can read the Cultural Deal for Europe in English and French here. Follow the #CulturalDealEU campaign on Twitter and Instagram.


European Youth Forum: Equal Opportunity, Accessibility & Inclusion
We want to ensure that everyone feels welcome when engaging with our platform! The European Youth Forum is running a consultation to better understand the accessibility and inclusivity of our events. Help us by sharing your experience here.


AGE responds to UN consultation on the effects of climate change on the human rights of older persons
The United Nations is currently studying the impact of Climate Change on the rights of older people. We have taken part in this consultation and have explained how climate change may disproportionately affect our rights as we age. Read our response.


AGE: EU Trio Presidency commits to joint ageing approach
A recent joint declaration by the three countries holding the rotating Presidency of the EU – what is known as the Trio Presidency – is providing impetus for the promotion of people’s autonomy and participation in later life. Read our article.

Past events
AGE online conference: Older people are excluded from digital education, but fun can bring them in – 10 February 2021
At the final conference of the ICTSkills4All project, we discussed how to develop the digital skills of older people with the vice-chair of the European Parliament's Culture and Education Committee and representatives of the European Commission and Microsoft. Read more here.


EASPD webinar: Overcoming the impact of COVID-19 on employment for persons with disabilities, 10 February 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the employment situation for all, but perhaps for none more than those with disabilities. How they fare in terms of employment has long been an issue and little progress has been made over the last decade. Yet with the COVID-19 pandemic, many people with disabilities have lost their job and others struggle to stay in work. With high unemployment rates predicted in the years to come, there is a severe risk that these rates will become even worse – not better – for people with disabilities in the years to come. The webinar brought various stakeholders together to discuss the current employment situation of people with disabilities and what is needed to overcome the barriers created – directly or indirectly – by COVID-19. Read more.
News from the EESC
Hybrid conference: "Civil Society Organisations during and after COVID-19: what challenges and what future?", 12 March 2021
The hybrid conference will see the launch of the EESC study "The response of civil society organisations to the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent restrictive measures adopted in Europe", as well as topical debates with high-level speakers and civil society representatives. Read more here.


"Our climate, our future!": European students take part in a virtual Youth Summit on Climate, 18-19 March 2021
Students from 33 schools across Europe will hold an online European Youth Summit on Climate on 18 and 19 March 2021. The event is organised by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and modelled on a United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP). After its cancellation due to the COVID outbreak in March 2020, the 2021 Committee flagship event for young people, "Your Europe, Your Say!" (YEYS), will take place on 18 and 19 March 2021. Students from 33 secondary schools across Europe will come together to discuss the best ways to protect the environment, under the slogan "Our climate, our future!". Read more here.


COME & VISIT US … VIRTUALLY! The EESC launches EESC Online Talks as an alternative to on-site visits
Every year, the EESC welcomes thousands of visitors from all over Europe and the rest of the world, presenting the Committee's activities and the functioning of the European Union to a very diverse audience. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak however, the EESC is temporarily closed to external visitors. The EESC is therefore delighted to present its EESC Online Talks to you as an alternative to traditional visits. During these virtual meetings, visitors will have the opportunity to get acquainted with the functioning and role of the EESC in the EU decision-making process. If you would like to book an EESC Online Talk, please send us an email. Please feel free to spread the news among your members, as civil society organisations and their members are among our key targets/stakeholders. We look forward to hearing from you soon!

Past EESC events
Public hearing: The role of social economy in a fair and sustainable recovery: input for the future Action Plan on social economy, 17 February 2021
On 17 February 2021, the European Economic and Social Committee organised a hearing in the framework of its exploratory opinion requested by the Portuguese presidency on The role of social economy in the creation of jobs and in the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights. Read more here.


Award ceremony of the EESC Civil Solidarity Prize 2020, 15 February 2021
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) rewarded 23 not-for-profit initiatives carried out by natural persons, civil society organisations or private companies to tackle the Covid-19 crisis and its manifold consequences. An evaluation committee composed of experts chose the 23 winners among the 250 applications received from 27 countries. The work of the panel was very challenging and rewarding, considering the large variety of projects, all showing that European civil society has carried out effective and creative actions to fight against Covid-19 and its consequences, displaying courage, engagement, solidarity and an unbelievable sense of responsibility. Read more here.


High-level roundtable: Building renovation can be the engine for recovery in the European Union, 11 February 2021
At a high-level roundtable held by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), Committee members and stakeholders stressed that renovation could help Europe emerge from the crisis, but that it needs to be accompanied by measures on poverty. "People are spending more time than ever inside their homes", said TEN section president, Baiba Miltoviča. "Throughout the pandemic, the home has become our workplace and living space, the centre of our daily life. However, buildings are getting old: 85% of them were built before 2001 and 85%-95% of the buildings that exist today will still be standing in 2050". Referring to the need to focus on building energy efficiency, she added that we needed new measures on energy, but these must be accompanied by new measures on poverty, and that many countries still did not have a definition of energy poverty. Read more here.

EESC Plenary Session, 24-25 February 2021
EESC hybrid Plenary Session, 24-25 February 2021
The plenary session in January took place in a partly remote form. Amongst others, the following debates took place:
  • Debate on the Conference on the Future of Europe with Dubravka Šuica, Vice-President of the European Commission for Democracy and Demography
  • Resolution on the Involvement of Organised Civil Society in the National Recovery and Resilience Plans – What works and what does not? – Debate with Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for Budget and Administration
  • Award ceremony for the EESC Civil Solidarity Prize: Civil society against COVID-19

    Amongst others, the following opinions were adopted:

  • A Renovation Wave for Europe (TEN/723)
  • Asylum management under the New Pact on Migration and Asylum (SOC/669)
  • Asylum procedures under the New Pact on Migration and Asylum (SOC/670)
  • Digital Finance Strategy (ECO/534)
  • Crypto assets and distributed ledger technology (ECO/535)
  • Digital operational resilience (ECO/536)
  • The Annual Sustainable Growth Strategy 2021 (ECO/537)
The EESC opinions adopted can be consulted here.
Civil dialogue in the EU
EDRi: European Citizens' Initiative "Reclaim Your Face"
On 17 February, almost 40 civil society organisations launched a European Citizens' Initiative (ECI), calling for a ban on biometric mass surveillance in the EU. The #ReclaimYourFace campaign is organised by European Digital Rights (EDRi) and unites human rights defenders across Europe. Together, we point out the inherent harms associated with the mass surveillance of people's bodies (faces, behaviours etc.) in public spaces and the risks for our humanity, dignity and the freedom to make our own life choices. We fight for a future in which experimental technologies like live facial recognition do not make assumptions about us and get to decide whether we are allowed to go on holiday, start a new life in a new city, go to a concert, change career or get a loan, rental or insurance. We now have a unique, historical chance to influence our future. The EU is writing new laws on artificial intelligence. These technologies are already appearing in many European countries, but they can be stopped and EU has the power to do so. Sign the petition and say YES to a BAN.


Three more European Citizens' Initiatives open for signature
Right to Cure is a call to the Union "to put public health before private profit [and] make anti-pandemic vaccines and treatments a global public good, freely accessible to everyone". The organisers claim that "intellectual property rights, such as patents, should not be allowed to limit the rapid accessibility of vaccines and treatments for all". Start Unconditional Basic Incomes (UBI) throughout the EU aims "to establish the introduction of unconditional basic incomes throughout the EU which ensure every person's material existence and opportunity to participate in society as part of its economic policy". The organisers specify that the unconditional basic income should be "universal", "individual", "unconditional" and "high enough". Freedom to share strives "to legalise sharing – via digital networks, for personal use and non-profit purposes – of files containing works and other material protected by copyright, related rights and sui generis database rights, with a view to striking a balance between the rights of authors and other rightsholders and the universal right to science and culture". The organisers call for amendments to the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market (2019/790). More detail on these initiatives, as well as the full list of ongoing initiatives can be found here.

European Commission revamps its "Have Your Say" portal
As part of its "Better Regulation" agenda, the Commission is consulting a broad range of organisations, and the general public, with such outreach tools as "Have Your Say". In actively collecting and analysing online feedback, the Commission ensures that EU initiatives are responsive and proportional to current challenges - such as the consultation on the consultation on Healthy soils – new EU soil strategy, the consultation on Pesticides – sustainable use (updated EU rules), the consultation on Demographic change in Europe - green paper on ageing, the consultation on A fair & competitive digital economy – digital levy, the consultation on Blood, tissues and cells for medical treatments & therapies – revised EU rules, the consultation on Protecting biodiversity: nature restoration targets under EU biodiversity strategy, and the consultation on Political advertising – improving transparency. See all currently open consultations here.
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