This is a make or break moment - President Metsola addresses EESC 


Addressing the Plenary Session of the European Economic and Social Committee, the President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola spoke on the importance of Europe's competitiveness. "We must return to growth and lower our dependencies," she said.

© European Union | The President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola addressing
the Plenary Session of the European Economic and Social Committee

Dear President,
Distinguished members,

I will start by catching on to the last thing in your introduction that this is a make or break moment. We had to answer this question since the very beginning of our legislative mandate in 2019. We had to answer to those challenges during the pandemic. We had to answer to those moments at the beginning of the Russian invasion into Ukraine eleven months ago. And we need to continue to answer that at the beginning of this year - 2023 - as we work not only reform - immediate, medium-term, longer-term - but also on the fact that we need to convince every day that Europe matters, that voting in European elections matters, and that choosing your representatives and what is the emergence of that matters.

In Ukraine, the brutal fighting and killing still goes on, since Russia launched its illegal invasion of sovereign Ukraine. 

Last week, we learnt with sadness of the death in a helicopter crash of Ukraine’s Interior Minister, his first deputy and the ministry’s State Secretary along with 13 other victims. 

As European nations prepare to send more tanks to Ukraine to help it liberate more territory from Russia, these days, in the Donbas, bone-chilling explosions are constant and relentless. And relentlessly, Ukraine is fighting for democracy, freedom and justice. And fighting for us too. 

European Union members have rallied together like never before, to provide Ukraine with financial aid, humanitarian aid, macro-financial assistance and military assistance. We have adopted nine hard-hitting packages of targeted sanctions against Putin and those responsible for these horrors. 

We have granted Moldova and Ukraine EU candidate status.
And we, at the European Parliament, are supporting calls for the establishment of an ad hoc international tribunal to hold state sponsors of terrorism accountable for war crimes and for the crime of aggression.

Also, to give the people of Ukraine hope, the European Parliament launched the Generators of Hope campaign. With this campaign, we have secured hundreds of generators of various sizes and power from across European cities and regions. Because 11 months later, Europeans still want to help every day for what the Ukrainian brothers and sisters are going through.

The war has also brought on an energy crisis, which in turn not only puts enormous pressure on households, but also is a driver of inflation. 

And here, European Union members came up with a common EU response which we can never leave out of our discourse when we look at the work we do every day.

This includes Gas Storage Regulation, the reduction of gas and electricity consumption and the announcement of joint purchases of gas. All of which helped to calm the markets and to bring energy prices down. 

Energy prices and inflation would have been at far worse levels, if EU Members States and institutions hadn’t sat together - more frequently in 2022 than ever before in EU history - to hammer out our divergences, our realities, and find solutions.
The Eurobarometer indicates that the vast majority of European citizens are supportive of our actions. Even though, we are not yet out of the woods.

I strongly believe in time, we will come out stronger. But this will require a lot of effort from governments, from businesses, from stakeholders, from industry, from European Institutions and bodies too.

Right now, our number one priority is Europe’s competitiveness. We must ensure the Green Deal and the digital transition continue in earnest. We must return to growth and lower our dependencies.

The NextGenerationEU and the Recovery and Resilience Facility will help both households and industries recover from what is essentially drastic economic turmoil. 

What we can also say is that there is still money left in NextGeneration EU. Existing funds, which are available. We need to say this and we need to see how they can and where they can be used.

The Parliament has done its part. We were swift in adopting a position on RePowerEU, which allows Members States to tap in deeper into NextGenerationEU funds, so long as these funds are invested in renewable energy that will in turn will ease the energy transition, while at the same time pushing growth. 

The truth is that Europe has leverage in abundance, but we have to get smarter at using it. Together, EU Member States form the world’s largest single market. The foundations of our economy are strong. But what we need now is to use our macroeconomic power as an asset. 

European Economic and Social Committee stakeholders are at the forefront of implementing National Recovery and Resilience Plans. The success and effectiveness of our recovery plan depends on them, on us, on you.

This is why the European Parliament has repeatedly outlined to the Commission and to the Council, the importance of putting local and regional recovery and resilience stakeholders at the centre of our efforts.

Because democratic accountability and legitimacy is of prime importance. It is in the way we take decisions, in the way we communicate, how we transform discourse whether in local, regional, national, European elections into saying what has concretely been achieved tangibly at a European level that matters concretely to everybody.

If we look back, the war changes everything. Even the way that European Institutions and bodies operate with one another. 

Going forward, it is imperative that Europeans in whichever fora we work in, stick together and that all our governing bodies at all levels work together in a healthy cooperative spirit.

Social and territorial dialogue with social partners and civil society has always been a cornerstone of how our Union operates.

When we look at how our relationship between the European Parliament and the European Economic and Social Committee since 1957 has evolved dramatically. It has evolved on how our constructive and consultative partnership is outlined, not only in precision in the treaties, but also in terms of your legislative recommendations. For example, in the green and digital transitions which were particularly appreciated by Members of the European Parliament, when it came to fixing together the final outcome of the trilogues at the end of last year. This will continue to dominate our work in the beginning of this year during the current Swedish Presidency and the upcoming Spanish and Belgian Presidencies. 
Over the coming years, the European Parliament must continue to take on board the EESC’s authoritative and legitimate input, particularly as it can help Parliament optimise its own legislative mandate.

We are all-the-wiser for the insightful contributions that we receive. You can count on my support in ensuring that this continues in the way that we work with different committees, in the way we work internally on different legislative proposals. 

I also want to say that with the improved access-way between the European Parliament Stephan Zweig Building and the European Economic and Social Committee Building - for which I thank our Building Management teams - we are now really connected. We have just to do more in order to work together on concrete proposals.

Thank you for listening.