President of the European Economic and Social Committee,
Distinguished members of the European Economic and Social Committee,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure and honour for me to stand here today, as Prime Minister of Romania, at a time when our country has assumed a particularly important responsibility at European level.
I would like to thank the president and the members of the European Economic and Social Committee for having invited me to participate in this session, to present the priorities of the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union and to have an exchange of views on our work agenda.
I would like to highlight the importance that the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the EU as well as the Cabinet I am leading, attach to the dialogue with the European Economic and Social Committee, as institutional partner that voices the citizens’ opinions and expectations.
I know how important it is for each of you to reflect on the concerns of the various groups of citizens – employers, workers, civil society – that you represent at European level. I very much appreciate the role of the European Economic and Social Committee in acting as an intermediary between the decision makers and the citizens.
This is why I want us to develop a close cooperation in order to make sure that the solutions and decisions to be made during the Romanian Presidency of the EU Council are as close as possible to citizens and the realities of our societies. I have said it before and I want to reiterate it: this is a priority of our Presidency of the EU Council.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We have embarked on this road of the Presidency of the EU Council, led by a firm pro-European conviction that guides us in advancing the European agenda.
Moreover, Romanian citizens are among the citizens with the highest level of confidence in the European institutions, and even today, their aspirations and support for the European Union remain solid and positive, a fact confirmed by opinion polls.
Romania has been assigned the role of President of the EU Council at a decisive period for us all, when we have to demonstrate together that we really have the ability to deliver results that can bring real benefits for European citizens.
That is why we need to listen to the voice of the citizens about the direction the Union should follow.
The process of Citizens’ Consultations taking place at the level of EU Member States, in which Romania has actively participated, and also the recent EESC initiatives of citizens’ consultation are only a few examples whereby we showed our openness to citizens’ involvement and which helped us better understand their expectations.
I believe that only by such approach and involvement, can we manage to keep citizens close to the European decision and the process of defining priorities for the future EU strategic agenda, a topic to be addressed at the Summit on the future of Europe that Romania will host in Sibiu, on a symbolic day – May 9.
A strong and cohesive European Union is the response with which the Romanian Presidency of the EU Council comes in front of the European citizens, by promoting the motto: “Cohesion, a common European value”, in all its dimensions:
– political cohesion, illustrated by the need for unity among Member States, European institutions and citizens;
– economic and territorial cohesion, with a view to reducing development gaps among Member States and among regions;
– Social cohesion, important in terms of preserving the four freedoms of the Internal Market of the European Union;
This meaning of the concept of cohesion is transposed in a transversal manner within our thematic priorities, grouped on four main pillars of action: Europe of convergence, a safer Europe, Europe – global actor, Europe of common values.
Backing a Europe of convergence is the first pillar of action of the Romanian Presidency of the EU Council. This objective can be attained by economic growth and social development, cohesion, competitiveness, connectivity and sustainability.
The success of the European Union will primarily depend on the way in which we will manage to achieve a better prioritization of the policies designed to accelerate the economic, social and territorial convergence. Convergence is the essential premise for ensuring sustainable developnent and equal opportunities for EU citizens.
The Cohesion policy and the Common Agricultural Policy should remain the main EU investment policies, aspect that should be reflected in an adequate level of allocations for these policies.
We appreciate the EESC involvement in the talks on the future of the cohesion policy, especially through the exploratory opinion on this topic that you will give in the next period, at the Romanian Presidency’s request.
We are also prepared to continue the efforts aimed at strengthening the EU Internal Market and its four fundamental freedoms.
We will pursue the promotion of measures designed to contribute to boosting competitiveness, promoting connectivity and digitalization, fostering entrepreneurship, and strengthening industrial policy.
Romania is also involved in the implementation of 2030 Agenda for sustainable development. Moreover, we have a new National Strategy for Sustainable Development.
During the Romanian Presidency of the EU Council, we will be active in preparing the guidelines for a new EU strategy for sustainable development and we would appreciate the European Economic and Social Committee’s contribution in this respect.
The social area is one of the priority areas of the Romanian Presidency of the EU Council, deriving from the desire to bring the European project closer to citizens.
We will act to strengthen workers’ mobility as reflection of the fundamental freedom of free movement and as a support of the Single Market. We know that this Committee is a solid partner in promoting these principles and lines of action.
In this context, we aim to achieve a substantial advance in dossiers such as the revision of the regulations on social security coordination and the establishment of the European Labor Authority.
Moreover, the Romanian Presidency of the Council will seek to advance the discussions on deepening the Economic and Monetary Union. We salute the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on this topic and we fully agree with it.
For the European citizens to further feel the certainty of peace and security in our states, we have chosen to focus our attention on the second pillar, a safer Europe.
The objective is to strengthen cohesion and cooperation among member states in front of new security challenges jeopardizing the safety of citizens and to back cooperation initiatives in the field. This is an objectives that the European Economic and Social Committee has constantly promoted.
We seek to achieve progress in terms of promoting cyber security too.
We pursue a coherent and uniform management of migratory flows, strengthening the Union’s external borders, emergency interventions, the fight against terrorism, and protecting the safety of citizens in the virtual space. We are considering the operationalization and even extension of the mandate of the European Prosecutor’s Office.
Effective migration management will further remain one of the main concerns of European citizens. It is therefore necessary for us to contribute to the formulation of solutions based on a comprehensive approach both in the Union’s internal action and in promoting cooperation with States of origin and transit. Fighting causes at source must remain a major preoccupation of the Union, alongside countering trafficking in human beings.
We have chosen to focus our actions within the third pillar on strengthening the EU’s global role by ensuring greater cohesion around the common commitments assumed through the EU’s Global Foreign and Security Policy.
In the field of the security policy, we will promote the consolidation of the EU defence and security capabilities, in close complementarity with similar processes within NATO.
We believe that EU’s external focus should be oriented primarily towards its neighborhood. This is why the advancement of the EU enlargement policy and ensuring the consistency of its policies in the neighborhood area are major priorities of our Presidency of the EU Council.
The 10th anniversary of the Eastern Partnership this year will represent an important landmark in this respect. We will also support the implementation of EU commitments at international level.
Promotion of trade interests by upgrading the multilateral trading system and broadening free trade and economic partnership agreements will be key milestones during our tenure.
We also know that you agree with these lines of action on the European Union’s foreign policy.
That is why, by defining the fourth pillar of the priorities – Europe of common values – we have sought to reflect our commitment to fostering European political cohesion by promoting the principles and values that unite us. Thus, we can effectively combat many of the problems facing our societies today, such as: racism, intolerance, xenophobia, populism, anti-Semitism, or hate speech.
Especially in view of European elections, we must respond with concrete results to the populist or eurosceptic temptation that undermines the fundamental fabric of our European society.
We aim at supporting the objective of a more democratic Union. This is why we will back the initiatives aimed at progress and reducing social inequalities, ensuring equal opportunities and treatment for women and men, as well as access to education, and training for disadvantaged categories.
In this context, we commend the efforts of the European Economic and Social Committee to draw up, at the request of our Presidency, an exploratory opinion on the future of the EU, focusing on the benefits the Union brings to citizens through cohesion and European values including human dignity and equality of citizens. We are interested in the conclusions and proposals that you will put forward in this study, being convinced that they will make a valuable contribution to the current discussions on the future of Europe.
We also believe that education and culture are the key to a better European future. We are glad that this Committee, at the request of the Romanian Presidency of the EU Council, has also undertaken the effort to prepare an exploratory opinion on a very important topic to citizens and their getting closer to the European Union, such as education on the European project.
There is a clear need for new efforts to ensure adequate communication, that would attract greater involvement of young people in shaping a strong Europe based on common European values.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In the context of a very full agenda, the Romanian Presidency will pay close attention to the dossiers with significant impact on the functioning and future of the Union. I would further refer especially to some of these which are of particular interest for the European Economic and Social Committee too.
Great Britain’s withdrawal from the EU is an unprecedented process that will leave its mark on our future. The latest developments have worried us and we are aware that this dossier will remain at the core of the European agenda during our mandate.
Another key dossier of the Romanian Presidency of the EU Council is certainly the Multiannual Financial Framework. It means more than just an agreement on figures, it is, in fact, a quantification of how the European Union will look like in the next decade.
The future multiannual budget will have to provide the Union with the resources needed to attain the objectives of the next seven years, in a balance between growth and convergence policies such as the Cohesion Policy and the Common Agricultural Policy and the response to the new challenges we are facing at European level, such as: migration, security or defence.
We are aware that negotiations on the multiannual budget of the Union have never been easy. We are nevertheless ready to achieve significant progress during the Romanian Presidency of the Council, in order to facilitate the conclusion of an agreement in autumn 2019, in line with those agreed at the European Council in December 2018.
Another objective of Romania’s mandate, in close connection with the cohesion policy objective, is to promote an important macro-regional cooperation framework – the EU Strategy for the Danube Region. We know it is an initiative of particular interest to the European Economic and Social Committee. We appreciate the steps taken in this forum to ensure synergy between EU funded programs and the implementation of macro-regional strategies.
We also appreciate the ongoing efforts for the EESC to develop, at the request of the Romanian Presidency of the EU Council, an opinion on promoting economic convergence and competitiveness through transnational clusters within macro-regional strategies.
In this context, we support the promotion of EESC recommendations on the occasion of the forthcoming meeting of the Ministers of Economy of the participating states in the EU Strategy for the Danube Region of 27 June 2019. We also want the European Economic and Social Committee to be represented at the Annual Forum of the European Strategy for the Danube Region (EUSDR) to be held in Bucharest on 27-28 June 2019.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The success of a Presidency equally depends on the level of commitment of all the European actors. The European Economic and Social Committee plays, as I have mentioned, an important liaison role between the European decision-making process and civil society. Through this direct link with citizens, you can make an important contribution to the preparation and formulation of policies within the Union.
We want to work closely with you and we are convinced that, through joint effort, we will be able to move forward in the right direction, that of unity, cohesion, solidarity and equity.