At the beginning of the New Year I would like to wish us all the energy to face the multiple challenges at both European and global level. Usually the start of a new year is full of hope and there are good reasons to be indeed hopeful. More and more people and decision makers see that a change is necessary, that a balance between economic and social is the only way to maintain our historic achievements, the European Social model and to keep social peace. Social peace is not under threat because of massive labour movements, but because social dialogue is too often denied, working poor is not an exemption anymore and the populists and extreme right are putting democracy under threat. Growing inequality sows discontent, which does not address the root causes, but accelerates protest and political support for those who undermine our democracy although they have no other agenda than their accession to power. Promising?

We cannot be satisfied by the statistics showing that 8 million jobs have been created in Europe, if we ignore the lack of quality of this employment and the fact that too many people cannot live off the income earned from their jobs. On the one hand it has to do with the precarious employment situation, on the other hand it has to do with the cost of living, housing, health and social services in particular in greater urban areas. This why, as this year begins, we expect more than just a pillar of principles, we want to see a real social pillar of rights. We hope that the Conservatives in the European Parliament will not undermine the compromises of the own initiative report of Maria João Rodriguez when they vote on it next week in the Strasburg plenary. That is why we are calling for essential social investment in macro-economic policies and the stability and growth pact criteria. Promising?

Hopefully in this New Year the reason will be the guiding principle for policy makers, starting with the election of a new President of the European Parliament. A conservative elected with the votes of the right extreme? That would be the first step to ushering in the likes of Wilders, Le Pen and company. Next week will also see the President-elect becoming President in office of the United States. Promising? For what and for whom? For the shrinking white middle class? For those who think you can run a world like an American business based on hire, fire and deals by ignoring democratic rules and procedure? This is a chance for Europe to stand up and to make the difference, and not to become embroiled in further turbulence.

As we begin this New Year we compare it to the past, and many are still asking the same questions and are just as worried. Worrying does not help.  The only thing to do is to stand up for our convictions, for social progress, against inequalities and for democratic rights. Those populists loud negative voices are not the voices of the majority.  Now the majority has to show determination, in policy making, in advocacy work, in organising for defending rights and progressive values! Together, stronger!