Speech by President Sassoli on the occasion of the New European Bauhaus Conference
Madame President, ladies and gentlemen,
I am very pleased to be able to open with you this conference on the New European Bauhaus. This initiative, called for and launched by President von der Leyen, has extraordinary potential for its innovative and original character and deserves the full support of the European Parliament.
This initiative shows the awareness of our institutions and politicians of the need to reinvent ourselves in order to face the enormous challenges that lie ahead. Climate change, the pandemic and economic crisis, inequality and the threat to social cohesion, and the ecological transition are all complex and interconnected problems to which Europe has committed itself to tackling, through the Green Deal and the Recovery Plan, by setting ambitious targets and committing huge investments.
And we are also aware that in order to achieve the drastic changes that all this requires, it is necessary to engage the hearts and minds of our citizens. The ambition of the New European Bauhaus (NEB) is huge and necessary: it’s about reinventing the spaces we live in and how we occupy them, in a sustainable and inclusive way, making the Green Deal a true social project for all.
For the first time in the history of the institutions, the Commission is proposing a co-creation and co-design approach to the implementation of this project, opening up a space for dialogue with citizens, businesses, organizations, and stakeholders: architects, artists, designers, students, engineers, researchers, the world of science and technology, etc. I particularly welcome the bottom-up, inclusive and democratic nature of this approach, which is all the more important given the great impact of the NEB (New European Bauhaus) on the daily lives of our citizens.
I think it is essential to associate a cultural, social and societal reflection with the Green Pact and our renewal policy. This is what the New European Bauhaus proposes, building bridges between culture, arts, sciences and technologies, and stimulating multidisciplinary approaches. I am convinced that by putting people back at the center of our policies and involving citizens, we will be able to invent new ways of living in a sustainable and aesthetic future, in our cities, villages and countryside.
Eventually this movement, and through it the Green Deal, could really modernize our economy into an alternative production model, preserving the environment and the cohesion of our societies, fighting against inequalities and ensuring the transmission of a sustainable ecosystem to future generations. This is essential to build the more sustainable society to which we all aspire.
The COVID-19 crisis has put the spotlight on our buildings, their importance in our daily lives and their fragility. European buildings are a source of wealth, an invaluable historical heritage. However, it also crystallizes the problems: our buildings are the first energy consumer in Europe (40%), they must become cheaper, less expensive and more sustainable. The European Union can be proud of its leadership in the circular economy, we must continue our efforts to ensure that this wave of renewal happens using the best possible environmental standards and innovative and sustainable technologies.
This wave of renewal can also be at the heart of our economic recovery, stimulating the construction sector, an industry that will generate many local and green jobs and investments, and a demand for energy-efficient equipment. By increasing climate resilience and reducing energy poverty for many citizens, it brings long-term value for citizens and the economy.
The pandemic has reshuffled the cards in our way of life, 75% of Europeans live in cities but with the health crisis, many business centers have emptied, city dwellers have left the big cities for more space, nature or simply to not be alone and isolated. Our urban spaces need to be rethought, with a focus on social inclusion, innovation, and adaptation to serious climate risks like the many heat waves we’ve experienced in recent years. Restructure and rethink our cities to improve air quality as well. This is a constant concern for Europeans and it’s time to get results. The development of green areas of urban infrastructure rich in biodiversity will also be important to contribute to the fight against air pollution, noise, the effects of climate change, heat waves, flooding and public health problems in European cities. To this reflection we must add living spaces of our elders and the demographic challenges, the intergenerational dimension, the inclusion of people with disabilities and reduced mobility, while promoting public meeting spaces.
We also need to revive our rural areas. With the pandemic, many production chains have been disrupted, but some agricultural producers have found much closer customers.
Beyond the construction sector, the NEB has enormous potential for job preservation, the green economy, the circular economy, new technologies applied to renovation, social projects, research and innovation in the humanities, and cross-sectoral research that combines the arts and technology for personal development and citizen well-being.
Given the complexity and interdependence of all the factors that make up our living environment, the NEB’s strategic design will need to be approached from a multitude of perspectives, including cultural diversity, social cohesion and inclusion, as well as ecological and economic considerations. And these discussions will need to take place at all levels of governance, in a bottom-up manner that involves all stakeholders and seeks to engage all those who care about their living environment and its quality.
In this regard, I would also like to emphasize two aspects that are dear to me. I firmly believe that education has an extremely important role in putting creativity back at the center of learning from an early age. The challenges of the present and the future will require creative citizens who are aware of the need to preserve the environment. In this context, I believe it will be crucial to mobilise young people to get them involved in this movement. The ENB must also stimulate multidisciplinary and multi-sectoral approaches in higher and vocational education, it is essential to create synergies between academies of fine arts, schools of art and research and engineering for example, and to get out of our individual sectors to generate spaces for innovation but also “green skills”. The New European Bauhaus could ensure that these principles are embedded through selected funding and initiatives.
It will be important that the Parliament and MEPs as representatives of citizens are fully involved in the NEB, especially after the design phase. In particular, we will need to ensure that the cultural and architectural diversity that makes our Europe so rich is preserved.
The Parliament is available to support and contribute to the New European Bauhaus project, its dissemination, exchanges with citizens, their concerns, their ideas, as well as the inter-institutional synergies we can create on this occasion through our networks, communication channels, etc. You can count on us to be proactive in organising events and conferences to promote the movement and engage citizens.
I would like to wish you luck in making this conference the starting point of a great movement that, by uniting the richness of European cultural and artistic diversity, the true DNA of Europe, and putting it at the service of environmental protection, social cohesion, quality of life and inclusion, can be exported and support this ecological transition that concerns us all in the world and allows mankind to live in better harmony with each other and with nature.