Brussels (Brussels Morning) 2021 has been a year of challenges. Many of us have suffered restrictions on freedoms that we take for granted. Some of us have lost loved ones, or been separated from relatives and friends for extended periods. We, at Renew Europe, thank the healthcare workers and social workers who are at the heart of our societies.
Small businesses and workers have ridden a rollercoaster. Young people, we cannot forget, have selflessly borne the brunt of the pandemic. It is shocking, but unsurprising that as many as two in three young people have mental health problems as a result.
Our political family, Renew Europe, worked hard this year to expand opportunities for them. We won more money for next year’s ERASMUS exchange programs. We pushed to ensure that across the European Union, 2022 has been designated the European Year of Youth. A series of events are planned for next year to engage with young people. We owe it to this generation to provide them with hope and opportunities for the future.
As liberals, we want to ensure that no one is left behind. This is why one of our proudest achievements this year was the rollout of the groundbreaking Recovery Fund – an €800 billion instrument achieved through European solidarity, to invest in people and the economy. Against the odds, we campaigned for this and we, as progressive pro – Europeans, delivered it. We worked to make sure this benefits young people and the cultural sector in particular.
New aspirations and ambitions in 2022
In 2022, we will keep up the campaign to make sure that this money is well spent, which means investing in our transition to a greener economy and also upgrading our infrastructure for a digital world. Doing this in the right way will provide millions of jobs and make our economies more resilient and competitive. We need a dynamic and entrepreneurial economy that keeps pace with the innovations we see in the US and China.
The COP26 Climate Change Conference in November showed us the challenges of tackling climate change and the need for investment and international cooperation. With the European Green Deal, we want Europe to lead the world.
We know that solidarity also comes with responsibilities. In 2022, we will continue to work to ensure that European taxpayer’s money only goes to EU Governments that respect basic principles of democratic life. No EU money for corrupt or autocratic governments who take money, but reject our values.
In 2021, freedom continued to be in decline. Less than a fifth of the world’s people now live in fully free countries. The attack on the US Capital in January showed us that even advanced democracies can be fragile. At home and abroad, we see that institutions that take time to build can be deconstructed all too easily. In Europe, we have created an area in the world of peace and stability; in 2022, let us not take this for granted.
Cherishing what we have built does not mean we have to accept the status quo. Pro – Europeans cannot be naive: our project needs rejuvenation. Reforms are needed to reinvent our Union. In 2022, we will insist the conclusions of the pan – European Conference on the Future of Europe are acted upon. Our citizen’s wish for reinvention of the European project must be heard.
Globally, we need to work together more as a Union to defend and promote our interests. The rise of new COVID variants highlights the need for global vaccination to avoid a perpetual pandemic. Here, Renew Europe succeeded in securing 1.3 billion euros from the EU budget for global efforts, but we can and must do more. Afghanistan’s descent in darkness in August reminded us that European nations need to work together, both to be more effective, but also to reduce our dependence on others. Finally, and with no taboos, let’s take our security into our own hands. We are stronger together and weaker apart.
On common security and defence, on asylum and migration challenges, we need to advance pan – European tools to address common challenges. The consequences of Brexit remind us that isolation is not a magic bullet, quite the contrary.
The Renew Europe family looks forward to 2022 with a determination to build a better future for our young people and learn the lessons of the pandemic. The importance of respect for nature, the need for opportunities for all in society and the value of our common European citizenship. Let us reinvent Europe and build a sovereign, united and democratic Europe. A Europe strong enough to stand up for itself in the uncertain world we see before us.