The Guest Blog

Guest blog post by Georges Dassis, President of EESC, and Conny Reuter, Co-Chairman of the Liaison Group.

Europe has not changed over the past week, but the challenges have become clearer. A majority of the British people has expressed the wish to leave the European Union, a decision which we respect, but regret because of its negative consequences for the British people and for Europe.

Ever since the United Kingdom joined the European Union, a series of unfortunate compromises have been made, finally culminating in “Brexit”. For too long, the Union has been blackmailed and has given way on too many issues. All of which has brought us to where we are now. The vote represents a historic break with the notion that European integration is a project that will help overcome the divisions among states and peoples and ensure that everyone enjoys prosperity, well-being and peace.

Unfortunately, in recent years and particularly since the beginning of the financial crisis, Member States have moved away from the Community method in taking political decisions and have focused too much on competitiveness as the guarantee of economic growth, leaving aside social cohesion.

Too many citizens feel abandoned, with uncertainties over their future and their social protection and security. Populists from certain reactionary elites are exploiting people’s fears and doubts to turn them against migrants, minorities, other peoples and against Europe.

The specious arguments put forward during the campaign were directed at the so-called European elites. Rarely have we witnessed such a campaign of hatred and lies under the pretext of direct democracy.

It is high time for Europeans to wake up and for civil society to pull together! A change of rhetoric will not suffice. We will need to rethink our policies and invest in social relationships, in social policies and in the future.

We therefore call on civil society to step up its cooperation and jointly determine the Europe we want and the Europe we need. It must include the strategy of sustainable development goals to ensure greater economic, social, cultural and political cohesion. Of course Europe must be based on its founding values, but European societies are in the process of breaking up and only civil society can make these values a central part of society once more and build the bridges needed to create relationships of trust – social relationships.

The EESC will therefore seek to draw up a “Civil Society Convention on the future of Europe” that will include political and economic decision-makers and civil society, in parallel with the President of the Commission’s presentation to Parliament of the “state of the Union”.

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