Review of the Year by the EZA President

Luc Van den Brande on the year 2020, the challenges and the successes at EZA.

EZA President Luc Van den Brande (Photo: EZA/Fleischmann)

Dear Readers, Members of EZA and Friends,

As 2020 draws to an end, it is time to look back at this most extraordinary year. The corona crisis has created unprecedented challenges that we all have all had to cope with. But I’m confident we will succeed and emerge even stronger. Let’s take EZA’s work as an example.

In spring 2020, we had to postpone or cancel a great number of our seminars due to the outbreak of COVID-19. We’ve had to adapt to a situation which none of us has experienced before. However, we managed to improvise and to create digital seminars and digital education. We supported our members along the way, and we can say that the crisis has been a great teacher for our digital skills. Without false modesty, we can state that we have kept our educational programme going as far as possible during this difficult time and continued our mission in 2020. I’m thankful and glad that our team at the Secretariat and all our members of the network were able to do so.

The crisis has affected everyone in Europe and people throughout the world. It is quite clear that on all levels of the EU, it has been much harder for healthcare systems, workers, entrepreneurs and players involved in education and culture to adapt to the situation. The Union is capable of acting, as demonstrated by the financial package amounting to 1,800 billion euros for the seven-year budget framework until 2027 and for the ‘Next Generation EU’ programme. However, the discussions about the Rule of Law mechanism have revealed that some EU member states are slowly moving away from our common core of values. When there is no shared understanding for the independence of the judiciary, freedom of speech, freedom of the press and the protection of minorities, we lose not only our credibility but also our common pillar of values which has made us strong in the past.

This is also in the interest of the workers, who are the focus at EZA. Social cohesion, the well-being of a society and a good work-life balance will thrive where there is acceptance and tolerance rather than exclusion and suppression. We as trade unions and workers’ organisations have a responsibility to stand up for these values and to defend them wherever necessary.

One of the main characteristics of the EZA network consists in the Christian origins of our members. The value and dignity of human life is of utmost importance to all of us. Our Christian social teaching tells us that all humans are created equal but different, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, religion or whatsoever. Sadly, some people in some countries feel that their values and national cultural traditions are under attack precisely because of opening our society to include all minorities. But let us not forget that it is our diversity which unites us in Europe. It is our rich and diverse background which makes us strong in the world.

2020 has shown how fragile our system can be. But mankind is also facing another menace. Climate change and ecological disasters are no longer a vague theory. They are already reality and must be tackled urgently. The European Green Deal is our common guidance. Our future depends crucially on mitigating global warming and preserving our environment, leading also to a green economy. Acknowledging that there will be consequence for the world of labour, we as workers’ organisations must do our part in safeguarding a fair and social transition: this is a responsibility that must be seen as an opportunity. I’m sure that we will find appropriate innovative ways to overcome these challenges. And I’m also certain that the role of trade unions, workers’ organisations and other social partners will continue to be of utmost importance.

During the year, I have been most impressed by the many people who cared day and night for the sick in hospitals, kept public services running, drove taxis and taught our children at school. Of course, there also many others who deserve a mention. It made me glad to see so many people showing so much selflessness. Along these encouraging, optimistic lines, I want to wish you and your families Merry Christmas. I hope you can recharge your batteries during this festival of light and hope. I also wish you a Happy New Year 2021, and I’m already looking forward to our projects, seminars and educational activities and for us to see each other again. In the meantime, stay safe, and stay healthy!

Yours sincerely

Luc Van den Brande, President of EZA