I encourage youth to be more present; you are shaping the future with us.
- Commissioner Violeta Bulc -
Citizens' Dialogue in Madrid
On 6th March, Madrid hosted a Citizens' Dialogue with Commissioner Violeta Bulc, who was joined on stage by Íñigo de la Serna Hernáiz, Minister of Public Works.
During the dynamic and often passionate discussion a wide range of issues were discussed, touching upon various facets of transport. These included the investigation of the railway accident in Santiago de Compostela, the situation of port workers and the future of jobs in the transport sector, the importance of education and training as digitalisation, innovation and new technologies transform means of transport, as well as the future of the EU and the role citizens and in particular youth should play in it.
Commissioner Bulc kicked off the debate by explaining about the recent crises the EU has had to face, what it has meant for transport and how joint solutions have helped set the EU back on the path of growing prosperity and employment. She made special mention of the White Paper on the future of the EU and encouraged everyone, in particular young people, to take an active part in the debate and to participate in shaping the future in general.
Minister Serna Hernáiz stressed that Spain was fully committed to the single European transport area, and acknowledged the developments in the Spanish transport systems supported by EU funds.
Several participants from the audience called for a renewed independent investigation into the causes of the railway accident in Santiago de Compostela, and referred to the report of the European Railway Agency. Further questions addressed the Commission's position on the liberalisation of Spanish railways and the cost-efficiency of the current freight train system. A participant questioned how the closing down of railway lines following the introduction of high speed railway lines is compatible with supporting the mobility of young people. In the context of rail transport, Commissioner Bulc referred to the single European railway area, the fourth railway package and how it will help make European railways safer, more competitive and accessible for all citizens.
A number of participants, especially port workers, expressed their concerns regarding the precariousness and the future of their jobs due to the pressure of competition and globalisation.
Commissioner Bulc pointed out that European ports are losing their competitive edge, and the Commission has been trying to identify the elements that will restore their competitiveness. These elements, such as connectivity between ports and railways, need to be addressed. In this context she also referred to an Investment Plan which can support the introduction of new technologies and help make European transport more competitive. "Transport employs 11 million people. Many of these are small companies. We would like to give a boost to the start-up sector that can take up the advantages of innovation and digital technologies" she explained. In addition she called on participants to actively engage in social dialogue and take part in developing solutions that can work for all concerned.
Participants wanted to know how high unemployment, especially youth unemployment will be addressed, and also warned about school drop-outs. Regarding the jobs in the future, the Commissioner underlined that innovations and new technologies will create new types of jobs, which will also trigger social innovations and enable e.g. elderly people, the disabled, and others with difficulties to find a job today and actively participate in the labour market. "The only way to give people jobs is to reshape our economy. Transport will go through huge transformation, etc. There will be many jobs, but new type of jobs; this is why education and training is so important, she said.
At the end of the Dialogue, in response to the Commissioner on how Citizens' Dialogues could be improved, participants said that they would love to hear more on European values and on youth initiatives to help people be better Europeans. Some participants called for more focus, while others welcomed that the EU and in particular Commissioner Bulc was ready to listen to real life problems and daily concerns of citizens.
The event in Madrid was part of a series of Citizens' Dialogues that involve the whole European Commission and take place in all EU Member States.