2021: Bring it on! | Editorial of the Secretary-General Klaus Heeger

Dear members, colleagues, friends and partners of CESI,

Do you still remember how 2020 started? Do you still remember which expectations, plans and objectives you had for the year to come? Do you still remember how many times you said and wrote “happy new year 2020”?

And when you read your emails or have a look at your calendar of the months December, January and February, you realise how different the world we lived in was.

“COVID-19 pandemic is more than a health crisis. It is an economic crisis, a humanitarian crisis, a security crisis, and a human rights crisis. COVID-19 revealed fragilities and inequalities – within and among nations. Coming out of this crisis will require a ‘whole-of-society’, ‘whole-of-government’ and ‘whole-of-the-world’ approach – driven by compassion and solidarity.” These are the words of UN Secretary-General Antonio Gutierrez.


We have experienced in a very painful way that viruses do not care about borders.
We have experienced over centuries and decades, but especially now, that cross-border threats can only be tackled by cross-border cooperation.
We have experienced that national health policies, economic, financial, social and security policies are interconnected.
That they require international approaches if they are to be tackled.

And we realise that the EU stands precisely for that. And CESI stands for that. For 30 years now.

In early autumn, after the first wave, we had a “Klausur” with colleagues, and we were all of us asked what the crisis has meant for us – both personally and professionally.

First, it was quite a moving moment to hear what the colleagues had experienced, and what they had gone through.

And then, when it was my turn, I admitted that I had had existential fears.

What about my job?
What about the future of my children?
What will be the impacts on our societies, on our wealth, on our safety?

Of course, we are not out of the woods, but where do we stand now, ten months later?

Yes, we are mourning over 1.5 million Corona, deaths.
Yes, most countries face tragic and severe second waves.
Yes, we are in the worst socio-economic crisis of our generation.
Yes, the ‘Great Lockdown’ will lead to the worst recession since the Great Depression of the late 20ies, and far worse than the Global Financial Crisis of 2008-2009, predicts the IMF.

And yet, when I look back at last spring and summer, I could also say: “We did not do so bad. The human species altogether did not do so bad. After all, the EU did not do so bad.”

In a record time, three different vaccines have been developed, two of them in or with Europe – and are likely to be authorised in the EU even before Christmas. Unseen amounts for concerted resilience and recovery strategies (made possible by radical changes of paradigm in terms of their financing) have been put in place, an agreement was reached on the ‘rule of law’ conditionality mechanism, and, almost ‘en passant’, EU leaders agreed to cut greenhouse emissions by 55% by 2030.

Of course, we can highlight all the shortcomings, the real effectiveness of the rule of law conditionality, the remaining possibility of a ‘no-deal Brexit’ with all its consequences, the ongoing disputes with Hungary and Poland, the lack of solidarity in terms of migration

You name it.

But frankly, I am amazed about what the EU has been able to do in this cursed year. Half a year ago, the EU was facing the risk of disintegration. It seems it is much better off now.

And maybe the fact that having the German Council Presidency in place, was a lucky coincidence. But it needed much more than that. It needed the recognition, and not least the will, to put cooperation above isolation. From all sides.

And what about us? What about CESI and our members?

The motto of our Congress: “30 years of commitment. Now more than ever.” stands for, on the one hand, stability and continuity, competence and credibility. On the other hand, it stands for the pledge (now more than ever) to commit us even more.

Because, as we have experienced in the past and in particular this year, trade unions are needed – more than ever in times of crises.

https://www.cesi.org/miguel-borra-president-of-csif-on-trade-unions-as-essential-services-during-covid-19-in-spain/Support for trade unions is at its high. They do not only represent essential workers. The work trade unions do is essential.

And we are not ‘only’ specific interest representatives of workers, employees and officials – we are overall societal mediators and stabilisers.

I believe in our capacities to overcome crises. With hope and confidence.

We need hope to overcome the health crisis. We need the confidence to protect the vulnerable and to rebuild our economies. And we will need both to defend our values and liberties, so tremendously maltreated during the crisis.

Yes, coming out of this crisis will require “a whole-of-society, whole-of-government and whole-of-the-world approach driven by compassion and solidarity”.

And I believe, we are ready to deliver our share.

’30 years of commitment – Now more than ever.’

2021: Bring it on!

Merry Christmas and a better new year!