The EESC supports an open, sustainable and assertive EU trade policy

At the July plenary session of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), President Christa Schweng and members met with leading speakers to discuss the future of the European economy after the pandemic.

Economic prosperity, respect for the environment and human well-being can and must go hand in hand. This was the key message delivered by EESC President Christa Schweng during the debate on A post-COVID economy at the service of all – Towards a well-being economy? held during the EESC plenary session on 7 July 2021.

Schweng argued that in the future we clearly need to monitor and assess broader aspects than those reflected in the GDP more effectively: “Aspects like our health, our nature, our education, our ability to innovate and our communities. count, ”she said.

Referring to “combining the idea of ​​prosperity with the possibility of social progress on a global scale”, with the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals as a foundation, she added: “The time has come for the EU to work on a comprehensive strategy: the EESC is ready to support reflection on the foundations of a post-COVID economy that works for all and includes new indicators of economic performance and social progress that can provide a complete picture of the good- to be people. “

Beyond GDP: Towards a Well-Being Economy

Four distinguished speakers took part in the plenary debate.

Tim jackson, from the Center for Understanding Sustainable Prosperity, made it clear that it is health – not wealth – that is the foundation for prosperity and the foundation for thinking about what kind of economy we want after the pandemic. He stressed that GDP has many limits and that it is important to break the “dependence on GDP growth” and start thinking about how social protection systems could be sustained in economies that do not. do not have the expected level of growth.

Fabrice Murtin, from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), argued that the welfare in itself was a very complex system and there was not one welfare economy but many economies. He stressed that it was vital to start developing people-centered policies and that social inequality was a systemic weakness and reduced effectiveness.

According to Sandrine Dixson, representing the Club of Rome, it was crucial to focus on healthy people within a healthy Europe and to move from GDP-based growth to well-being and security. Lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic could be used to understand what was essential and make changes.

To finish, James watson, from Business Europe, said GDP was originally intended as a measure of business activity, but it still makes sense to use it despite its limitations. The way forward would be to complete it with a broader and balanced scoreboard made up of other indicators such as economic, social and environmental indicators.

A human-centered economy

Speaking during the debate, Séamus Boland, president of the Diversity Europe Group, underlined that societal progress and an economy that works for all can only be achieved through a transition to an alternative development model firmly anchored in the SDGs and that the COVID-19 crisis is the opportunity to get it right.

Stefano Mallia, Chair of the Employers’ Group, said that with new priorities such as the EU’s Green Deal, NextGenerationEU, a just transition and climate neutrality by 2050, we would have a whole set of new indicators to consult. To deliver high-quality jobs and sustainable growth, we needed two pillars: a strong and resilient industrial base to stay at the forefront of global technology and innovation, as well as open markets and a multilateral system. based on rules that safeguard EU interests and values.

Olivier Röpke, president of the workers’ group, said that following the firm commitment to the goals of the social pillar at the Porto summit, the welfare economy should also take into account workers and their families, ensuring decent wages, strong collective bargaining and worker participation to manage green and digital transitions. He added that economic recovery would have to go hand in hand with social welfare if it was to be sustainable.

Recently, Peter Schmidt, president of the section for agriculture, rural development and the environment (NAT) and rapporteur for the EESC opinion on The sustainable economy we need, concluded by saying that an economy of well-being is based on service to people and that the EU must seize the opportunity offered by the pandemic to reflect on our weaknesses and make proposals.

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