A new reality
The COVID-19 pandemic, international conflicts, urban migration and shifting demographics are changing the fabric of EU society. It is important that we adapt to this new reality and take steps to ensure that EU citizens and the economy benefit positively from it.
We are taking a multi-faceted approach to accomplishing this. We are carrying out measures to cope with an ageing population and migration on the one hand. On the other, when it comes to EU policy making and shaping the future of Europe, we are actively engaging with young people and the public as a whole.
Adapting to an ageing population
Europe has undergone and continues to face profound demographic change. In the EU, life expectancy at birth has increased by 10 years over the past five decades. This is a remarkable achievement and demonstrates the strength and value of our social-market economy. Nonetheless, an ageing population has an impact on the way we live, and our social model and policies need to be adapted to the pace of this new reality.
What is the Commission doing in response?
- adoption of the Green Paper on Ageing early in the mandate
- launch of a broad public debate on the challenges and opportunities that deal with the long-term impacts of ageing, which affects all generations. The outcome of the public consultation will be reflected on the European care strategy, which will be presented in September 2022
Boosting rural areas
Rural areas are active shapers in the EU’s green and digital transitions. The freedom to work or study remotely is fast becoming a reality for many people living in the EU, opening up new possibilities for young families, businesses and rural communities. Innovations in sustainable agriculture are not only good for people’s health and the climate, but also for Europe’s food security.
How the Commission is supporting rural areas
- June 2021Long-term vision launched
Path towards strong, connected, and prosperous rural areas is set out.
- December 2021Rural pact
It will engage voices and views of rural communities. A co-created rural action plan will help transform the long-term vision into reality.
- June 2022Recovery and resilience plans
25 national recovery and resilience plans adopted to support rural and remote areas with funding of around €14.6 billion, including investment and reforms for nature restoration, high-speed internet connections and local railways.
An ambitious and sustainable EU legal migration policy is needed to help attract the talent that our businesses in cities and rural areas need. In April 2022, the Commission presented the skills and talent package. It includes legislative proposals to improve the rights of migrant workers and facilitate intra-EU mobility for long-term residents. The Commission will launch an EU talent pool to facilitate labour matching with non-EU nationals. A pilot scheme is currently being launched, focusing on Ukrainian refugees.
Progress on migration and asylum
- September 2020New pact on migration and asylum
The new pact combines robust and fair border management with efficient and humane rules on asylum and migration.
- June 2021New Schengen strategy
The Commission presented a new strategy to strengthen the Schengen area to ensure the effective management of the EU’s external borders, increase police and judicial cooperation, improve preparedness and governance, and complete the enlargement of the Schengen area.
- January 2022European Union Asylum Agency starts operations
The European Union Asylum Agency begins its work of supporting EU countries in applying the package of EU laws that governs asylum, international protection and reception conditions, known as the Common European Asylum System (CEAS).
Anastasiia Konovalova fled from Odesa to Bucharest, where she now teaches primary school classes to Ukrainian children. She is 30 years old.
Listening to young people
In the 2021 State of the Union address, President von der Leyen proposed to make 2022 the European Year of Youth. It is an opportunity for the European Union to engage more with young people, to hear what they demand and dream for Europe. Europe needs a youthful spirit to overcome the pandemic and to open a new chapter.
How the Commission is engaging youth
- a new initiative called ALMA (aim, learn, master, achieve) was launched by the Commission in 2022 to help the most vulnerable or disadvantaged young people access the job market
- the Youth Guarantee, launched in 2020, is a commitment by all Member States to ensure that everyone under the age of 30 receives a good-quality offer of employment, continued education, an apprenticeship or a traineeship within 4 months of becoming unemployed or leaving education
European citizens’ initiatives
Now in its 10th year, the European Citizens' Initiative is a unique way for people to call on the Commission to propose new laws. Once an initiative reaches 1 million signatures, the Commission will decide how to take action. Since mid-September 2021, the Commission registered 10 new European citizens’ initiatives, calling for EU action in areas ranging from improved working conditions in the garment sector to the taxation of green products and more animal rights. Also since then, 3 other initiatives dealing with biodiversity have collected more than 1 million signatures that need to be verified by national authorities:
- Stop Finning – Stop the trade
- Save the bees and farmers! Towards a bee-friendly agriculture for a healthy environment
- Save cruelty free cosmetics – Commit to a Europe without animal testing
Greater public engagement in policy making
How is the Commission is doing this?
- the public and stakeholders can provide input online via the Have Your Say portal throughout the whole policymaking cycle
- in November 2021, to further simplify the consultation process, the Commission introduced single calls for evidence, an approach that combined two previous steps
- consultations became more accessible for people with disabilities
- the scientific research community is encouraged to submit relevant scientific research from the beginning of the consultations
Results of policy-making engagement outreach
From 9 May 2021 to 9 May 2022, the European Union reached out to hundreds of thousands of Europeans who never thought about getting involved in our Union’s decision-making. The Conference on the Future of Europe was a unique exercise in participatory democracy, of unprecedented scale and scope.
More than 750 000 participants shared and debated close to 19 000 ideas on the multilingual digital platform. This deliberative democracy platform, specifically designed for the conference, was visited by more than 5 million people.
Leverne Nijman and Leah Corsmit cycled from the north of The Netherlands to Brussels, with a European Solidarity Corps grant. They gave guest lectures about the EU and talked to over 800 young people to collect ideas about the(ir) European future.
The Commission set out four work streams to respond to the conference’s proposals. The first set of new proposals will be announced in President von der Leyen’s State of the Union address in September 2022. These proposals will be among those to be included in the 2023 Commission Work Programme. To keep the citizens who participated in the conference informed, and to keep up the momentum, a conference feedback event will be organised in autumn 2022.