Investing in people, in human capital, is an investment, not a cost
- Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis -
Citizens' Dialogue in Copenhagen, Denmark
On 19 May 2016, the University of Copenhagen hosted a Citizens' Dialogue with Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis. He was joined on stage by Christel Schaldemose, Member of the European Parliament. The Dialogue was opened by the welcoming words of the Dean of the University, Ulla Wewer. The first part of the lively discussion focussed on various issues related to health and food safety, including the new rules on tobacco products, while the second part addressed several other EU policy areas, such as encouraging investment in research and innovation, in particular through the Investment Plan, the importance of sharing data, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, the EU's role in promoting high food standards globally, the European Pillar of Social Rights and investment in human capital, the importance of building polices on scientific evidence, and the role of the scientific community as opinion makers, to name just a few.
In her introductory words Christel Schaldemose MEP welcomed the opportunity of having a direct discussion, together with Commissioner Andriukaitis, with citizens from Copenhagen, and underlined the need to have more such exchanges.
Commissioner Andriukaitis kicked-off the Citizens' Dialogue by asking all participants to join together in promoting a healthy lifestyle. He drew attention to the risk factors, such as alcohol, too much salt and sugar, lack of physical activity, etc. that can lead to chronic diseases. He emphasised that prevention is better than a cure. In this context, he considered the Tobacco Products Directive, which would enter into force the following day, to be an important step forward. The Directive aims to reduce the numbers of tobacco users, he explained, with a particular focus on discouraging young people from taking up smoking and ensuring that citizens across the EU are fully aware of the harmful effects of tobacco use.
Responding to concerns on the availability of funding for innovative research projects, the Commissioner emphasised that the European Fund for Strategic Investments is available for such projects. It provides an additional leverage mechanism. He encouraged universities and research institutions to team up with enterprises to come up with innovative projects in all areas, including health.
Responding to concerns regarding the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), Commissioner Andriukaitis stressed that "the EU has very strict rules and regulations regarding food safety, which are also enforced for all imported food that reaches the EU. There is no question about compromising on our food standards in the TTIP negotiations. It is about simplifying procedures. We need to reduce the time European goods need to wait to get access to the US market, and we aim to reduce unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles", he explained.
In the discussion on the role of scientific evidence and of scientists in policy making, the Commissioner urged the scientific community to step up their efforts to become opinion makers, and drew attention to the role that solid scientific evidence has to play in shaping policies.
In reply to concerns regarding the challenge of social inequalities, the Commissioner encouraged everyone to engage in the debate on the European Pillar of Social Rights. The European Commission is striving to create a Europe with a ' Social Triple A Rating', he explained. This means that the economic strengthening of our Union goes hand-in-hand with improving people's lives. The area of health is enshrined in this "social triple A rating". "Participate, and provide us with your feedback", he urged.
Responding to questions on how to achieve a healthier society and how to influence health and food safety policies, the Commissioner emphasised the importance of Prevention, Protection, Promotion, and Participation. The Commissioner encouraged everyone to participate, and to be more active both in national and in EU debates.
In her closing words Christel Schaldemose MEP thanked the participants for the good debate and reiterated the interest of policy makers in listening to the citizens' ideas and knowledge. Commissioner Andriukaitis also expressed his appreciation for the open and direct discussion, while almost all participants considered that the Citizens' Dialogue had improved their knowledge on EU policies.
The event in Copenhagen was part of a series of Citizens' Dialogues that involve the whole European Commission and take place in all EU Member States.