28th Sep 2023


Summer Days 2022: Towards a greener, digital, social Europe

  • Klaus Heeger: 'To be able to protect citizens and workers during the green transition, we need a strong social dimension in the EU Green Deal, based on the European Pillar of Social Rights and the Porto Declaration'
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We are living through the first moments of a 'new normal' for the entire world and a new era for Europe.

The war in Ukraine — a war in Europe — marked the end of globalisation as we knew it, and signalled the beginning of a period of instability with unforeseeable consequences.

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In an already fragile environment for countries and citizens with repeated crises and unprecedented challenges, Europe is called upon to invest in resilient policies that will ensure its economic prosperity, energy autonomy, and the well-being of its people.

The ambitious plans of the European Commission towards greener and more digital policies have the potential to become a catalyst for the creation of a sustainable Europe that will be able to guarantee safety, financial stability, and high living standards.

Yet their success depends on whether these policies will be socially just. Because such deep reforms can only succeed if they are based on a broad consensus among all the members and groups of our society: they need to be supported by the whole community.

Through different keynote addresses, video messages, interactive workshops and follow-up plenary debates, this year's Summer Days with EUobserver as media partner helped us organise our thoughts and ideas to understand what is at stake and to assess the importance of keeping the social agenda at the core of the transition processes.

The debates made clear:

• Social fairness means multi-level, multi-sectoral, multinational cooperation, involvement and ownership. Turning environmental policies and digitalisation into a real enabler for sustainability requires cooperation between countries, markets, and sectors.

• Social fairness means the green/digital transitions must be worker-centred. The consequences of the transitions for social affairs, labour markets, and employment will be enormous and will span to almost all sectors of our economies. For this, we need strong mechanisms to ensure social dialogue and the involvement of communities throughout the whole transition process.

• The Next Generation EU, and, in particular the Recovery and Resilience Facility and the national recovery and resilience plans can create a strong added value and support social policies during the transitions. To ensure that, we must carefully assess the implementation of the plans, and the credibility and sustainability of the reforms.

• Sustainability requires proper skills and performing public services. Our education systems should be adapted to meet the requirements of current trends and prepare students and workers for the challenges of our times, while public services need to be financially supported to be able to guarantee citizens' fundamental rights, their well-being and the cohesion of our societies. To be able to protect citizens and workers during the green transition, we need a strong social dimension in the EU Green Deal, based on the European Pillar of Social Rights and the Porto Declaration.

Before designing and implementing ambitious plans, we must always map their possible benefits and risks for the society, for citizens, for workers.

To ensure this, workers and their representatives need to be given a central voice. The green-digital transformation must be a just transition. It must be done 'with' the workers and not 'to' them. Otherwise, it will not be sustainable.

For more information and details, see CESI's recent position.

Author bio

Klaus Heeger is secretary general of the European Confederation of Independent Trade Unions (CESI).

CESI is a confederation of 37 national trade union organisations and four European trade union organisations, with a total of more than five million individual members.


This article is sponsored by a third party. All opinions in this article reflect the views of the author and not of EUobserver.

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