The European Union cannot be seen solely as a single market for 500 million people. We have created Europe, we need to create Europeans, says Jahier.
At this year's Global Media Forum, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) will host a panel called "Digitalization and industrial revolution - a chance to reduce inequality and poverty?". The EESC is an EU institutional space where members who are active on the ground can come together, share their expertise and make sure that this expertise is in turn used to inform European public debate.
In many parts of the world, inequality and poverty are on the rise, and their causes are manifold — as are the theories about their causes. In the past, it seemed that it was mainly the jobless who were at risk of becoming poor, but it’s the so-called "in-work poverty" or "working poor" that seems to be increasing — meaning more people are living on the verge of poverty, despite having jobs.
Globally, inequality and poverty have also led to migration, fostering inequality and tensions in the host countries.
How can Europe fight inequality and poverty at a time when the fourth industrial revolution has just begun? Can the digital era help to improve the living standards of the poor, or will it have the opposite effect?
“Our societies are unprepared to deal with the many challenges they face," says Jahier, the president of the EESC. From "the economic crisis and the consequences of reduced public funding, digitalization, demographic changes leading to an ageing population and migration, populism and also shrinking space for civil society against the backdrop of sometimes authoritarian or even blocked democracies,” “European democracy is experiencing its biggest setback since the 1930s,” he continues.
One shining light is the shifting role of civil society organizations. Traditionally regarded as the backbone of participatory democracy, civil society organizations have the capacity to look for innovative ways to improve civil dialogue — "they can focus on developing new services like literacy, media fact-checking, and civic education," says Jahier. With this panel, the EESC will look at how governments and civil society can best support workers, entrepreneurs and companies to make the digital era a success for all people.
"Only by strengthening participatory democracy can we bring citizens closer to the European project," says Jahier. "Only by engaging the people of Europe can we transform challenges into opportunities."