EESC mission statement
Committed to European integration, the EESC contributes to strengthening the democratic legitimacy and effectiveness of the European Union by enabling civil society organisations from the Member States to express their views at European level. This Committee fulfils three key missions:
helping to ensure that European policies and legislation tie in better with economic, social and civic circumstances on the ground, by assisting the European Parliament, Council and European Commission, making use of EESC members' experience and representativeness, dialogue and efforts to secure consensus serving the general interest;
promoting the development of a more participatory European Union which is more in touch with popular opinion, by acting as an institutional forum representing, informing, expressing the views of and securing dialogue with organised civil society;
promoting the values on which European integration is founded and advancing, in Europe and across the world, the cause of democracy and participatory democracy, as well as the role of civil society organisations.
Working of the EESC
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) is a consultative body that gives representatives of Europe's socio-occupational interest groups, and others, a formal platform to express their points of views on EU issues. Its opinions are forwarded to the larger institutions - the Council, the Commission and the European Parliament. It thus has a key role to play in the Union's decision-making process.
Vice-President - Communication
Vice-President - Budget
The ESC was set up by the 1957 Rome Treaties in order to involve economic and social interest groups in the establishment of the common market and to provide institutional machinery for briefing the European Commission and the Council of Ministers on European Union issues.
The Single European Act (1986), the Maastricht Treaty (1992), the Amsterdam Treaty (1997) and the Treaty of Nice (2000) have reinforced the EESC's role.
The 344 members of the EESC are drawn from economic and social interest groups in Europe.
Members are nominated by national governments and appointed by the Council of the European Union for a renewable 5-year term of office. The latest renewal was in October 2010 for the mandate 2010-2015.
They belong to one of three groups:
Germany, France, Italy and the United Kingdom have 24 members each
Spain and Poland have 21
Romania has 15
Belgium, Greece, the Netherlands, Portugal, Austria, Sweden, Czech Republic and Hungary and Bulgaria 12
Denmark, Ireland, Finland Lithuania and Slovakia 9
Estonia, Latvia and Slovenia 7
Luxemburg and Cyprus 6
The Members' mandate
The task of members is to issue opinions on matters of European interest to the Council, the Commission and the European Parliament.
Consultation of the EESC by the Commission or the Council is mandatory in certain cases; in others it is optional. The EESC may, however, also adopt opinions on its own initiative. The Single European Act (17.2.86) and the Maastricht Treaty (7.2.92) extended the range of issues which must be referred to the Committee, in particular the new policies (regional and environment policy). The Amsterdam Treaty further broadens the areas for referral to the Committee, and allows it to be consulted by the European Parliament. On average the EESC delivers 170 advisory documents and opinions a year (of which about 15% are issued on its own-initiative). All opinions are forwarded to the Community's decision-making bodies and then published in the EU's Official Journal.
Information and integration role
Over the last few years the EESC has stepped up its role in the European Union and has transcended the straightforward duties flowing from the Treaties. It acts as a forum for the single market and has hosted, with the support of other EU bodies, a series of events aimed at bringing the EU closer to the people.
1. Presidency and bureau
Every two and half years the EESC elects a bureau made up of 37 members, and a president and two vice-presidents chosen from each of the three groups in rotation.
The president is responsible for the orderly conduct of the Committee's business. He is assisted by the vice-presidents, who deputize for him in the event of his absence.
The president represents the EESC in relations with outside bodies.
Joint briefs (relations with EFTA, CEEC, AMU, ACP countries, Latin American and other third countries, and the Citizens' Europe) fall within the remit of the EESC bureau and the president.
The bureau's main task is to organize and coordinate the work of the EESC's various bodies and to lay down policy guidelines for this work.
The Committee has six sections:
Agriculture, Rural Development and the Environment (NAT)
Economic and Monetary Union and Economic and Social Cohesion (ECO)
Employment, Social Affairs and Citizenship (SOC)
External Relations (REX)
The Single Market, Production and Consumption (INT)
Transport, Energy, Infrastructure and the Information Society (TEN)
A new Consultative Committee on Industrial Change has been incorporated into the EESC structure following the expiry of the ECSC Treaty in July 2002 (CCMI)
3. Study groups
Section opinions are drafted by study groups. These usually have 12 members, including a rapporteur. Study group members may be assisted by experts (normally four).
The EESC has the right to set up temporary sub-committees, for specific issues. These sub-committees operate on the same lines as the sections.
5. Plenary session
As a rule, the full Committee meets in plenary session nine times a year. At the plenary sessions, opinions are adopted on the basis of section opinions by a simple majority. They are forwarded to the institutions and published in the Official Journal of the European Communities.
Relations with economic and social councils
The EESC maintains regular links with regional and national economic and social councils throughout the European Union. These links mainly involve exchanges of information and joint discussions every year on specific issues.
The EESC also liaises world-wide with other economic and social councils and similar organizations at the "International Meetings" held every two years.
Relations with economic and social interest groups in third countries
The EESC has links with economic and social interest groups in a number of non-member countries and groups of countries, including Mediterranean countries, the ACP countries,Eastern Europe, candidate countries, Latin America, India, China, etc.
For this purpose the EESC sets up, within its External Relations Section, follow-up committees and joint consultative committees, which meet regularly their partners in order to debate on issues of common interest and submit joint proposals to the political authorities
The EESC regularly distributes a number of publications, including its main opinions in brochure format, a monthly newsletter (CESE Info), a monthly Bulletin summarizing all opinions adopted by the Committee, and its annual report.
The Committee is serviced by a secretariat-general, headed by a secretary-general who reports to the president, representing the bureau.
Some 800 staff members work at the European Economic and Social Committee. Since 1 January 1995, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions have shared some services, such as logistics, IT and translation.
Annual Activity Report
This Final Annual Activity Reports have been drafted in accordance with the Financial Regulation and are the main yearly reporting tools used by the European Economic and Social Committee in order to report to the budgetary authority. The reports are distributed to the European Commission and to the Court of Auditors. The European Commission forwards them to the budgetary authorities, the Council and the European Parliament.