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Official emblem of the EESC

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) is a body of the European Union (EU) established in 1957. It is a consultative assembly composed of employers, employees and representatives of various other interests. It is similar to the Committee of the Regions, with whom it shares the Delors building in Brussels as its seat.

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It was established by the Treaty of Rome of 1957 in order to unite different economic interest groups to establish a Single Market. The creation of this committee gave them an institution to allow their voices to be heard by the European Commission, the Council and the European Parliament.

EESC seat in Brussels

The role of the EESC ("EcoSoc")is purely consultative. However, the Treaty of Maastricht considerably enlarged the Committee's domain. Its influence now extends to matters such as social policy, social and economic cohesion, environment, education, health, customers protection, industry, Trans-European Networks, indirect taxation and structural funds. It is questionable, however, whether this expanded scope truly gave it any more authority. On certain issues the EESC works in partnership with the Committee of the Regions.

It has been criticised for becoming redundant in light of the European Parliament's increased powers, and that it is now simply reproducing Parliament's work but without a democratic mandate. As a result, a written declaration was put forward by Nils Lundgren and Hélène Goudin in 2007 calling for the committee's abolition. [1] Although "EcoSoc" has a worthy history, and has made a valid contribution to the development of the EU, most observers consider it is only a matter of time before it is abolished. One option which could "soften the blow" of abolition would be to convert EcoSoc into a downsized body to serve a similar function to a Law Commission. That is, it could become a standing committee, possibly of ad-hoc composition, which would make non-contentious recommendations for legislative reform.

In latest years the Committee has taken up the challenge of civil society, opening up its forum to representatives of all sectors, developing two complementary missions:

  • Involving civil society organisations more in the European venture, at both national and European level,
  • Boosting the role of civil society organisations in non-member countries or country groupings where the Committee is furthering structured dialogue with civil society organisations, and promoting the creation of consultative structures based on its experiences, not least in the countries applying for EU membership, the Mediterranean partner countries, African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, India, China, Latin America (Mercosur) and Brazil.

Thanks to the EESC, building Europe is therefore the task not only of the European Union and politicians, but also of members of the public belonging to organisations involved in the economic, social and civic life of their countries.

Membership

Currently, EESC membership numbers 344 (same as the Committee of the Regions). The number of members per EU state varies according to the population of each state (see table below for state-by-state membership figures; the breakdown is the same for the Committee of the Regions). Members of the EESC are divided into three groups of equal number, employers, employees and a third group of various other changing interests such as: farmers, consumer groups, professional associations and so on. Members are appointed by the Council following nominations made by the government of the respective Member State. However, once appointed, the members are completely independent of their governments. The term of office is four years, renewable. The current President of the EESC is Mario Sepi, elected in October 2008 for a two-year term. The Secretary General is Martin Westlake.

Members States
24 Germany, France, Italy, United Kingdom
21 Poland, Spain
15 Romania
12 Belgium, Bulgaria, Greece, Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Sweden, Czech Republic, Hungary
9 Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Lithuania, Slovakia
7 Estonia, Latvia, Slovenia
6 Luxembourg, Cyprus
5 Malta

How the EESC works

It is mandatory for the Committee to be consulted on those issues stipulated in the Treaties and in all cases where the institutions deem it appropriate. The EESC may also be consulted on an exploratory basis by one of the other institutions, and may issue opinions on its own initiative (around 15% of its opinions are own-initiative opinions).

Own-initiative and exploratory opinions often raise the awareness of decision-making bodies, and of the Commission in particular, about subjects which have hitherto barely attracted their attention, if at all. Exploratory opinions drawn up at the request of other institutions before the Commission has even drafted its proposals enable the various components of organised civil society represented within the EESC to express the expectations, concerns and needs of grassroots stakeholders.

The Committee adopts on average 150 opinions a year on a wide range of subjects concerning European integration. It therefore plays an active role in the processes of shaping Community policies and preparing Community decisions.

See also

References

  1. ^ EESC abolition?, European Voice 11.10.2007

External links

Wikipedia in other languages

Coordinates: 50°50′26″N 4°22′38″E / 50.84056°N 4.37722°E / 50.84056; 4.37722

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