The EESC's external action in Europe forms an integral part of the EU's foreign policy and complements the action taken by other institutions.
It covers several areas:
participation in the enlargement process;
development of relations with civil society organisations in the Western Balkans;
contribution to the European neighbourhood policy and to relations with Russia ;
relations with EFTA/EEA countries via a consultative committee.
The EESC has been a strong supporter of enlarging the European Union to the central and eastern European countries ever since the major political changes of the late 1980s opened up new possibilities in the region. Today, the EESC plays a role in the enlargement process covering Turkey and the Western Balkans, through the various association agreements in force.
Relations with Turkey
At the initiative of the EESC, a Joint Consultative Committee (JCC) was created with Turkey on 16 November 1995 in the framework of the EU/Turkey Association agreement (Ankara Agreement, 1963). Since then, representatives from the Turkish and the European organised civil society meet regularly to follow-up the development of EU-Turkey relations and the accession negotiations.
The Western Balkans
The EESC set up a Western Balkans Contact Group in 2004, which is responsible for coordinating the EESC's activities on the Western Balkans. The Contact Group monitors the changes in the political, economic and social field in the Western Balkan countries and in EU-Western Balkans relations. Under the Group's lead, the EESC has organised Western Balkans Civil Society Forums every two years since 2006.
At bilateral level, Joint Consultative Committees (JCC) have been set-up with the following candidates countries in the region: Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Montenegro. JCC's allow civil society representatives from the EU and from candidate countries to follow up the development of relations with the EU.
Eastern European neighbours, including Russia
The neighbourhood policy for Eastern Europe is monitored by the Eastern European Neighbours Contact Group (The neighbourhood policy for southern countries falls within the context of the Euro-Mediterranean cooperation). The aim of this group is to develop close contact between the EESC and civil society organisations in neighbouring eastern European countries ( Ukraine , Moldavia , Belarus and the countries of the Caucasus, together with Russia ).. The EESC also undertakes activities relating to Europe's northern dimension, including helping to implement the Second EU Action Plan for the Northern Dimension.
The relations with the southern neighbours are monitored by the Euromed Follow-up Committee which closely follows the development of the European Neighbourhood policy with the southern partner countries and the initiatives in the framework of the Union for the Mediterranean. It also organises Euromed Summits for the Economic and Social Councils and similar institutions in the EU and Mediterranean partner countries and draws up recommendations and information reports on various topical issues.
European Economic Area
The European Economic Area Consultative Committee (EEA-CC) is a body comprising an equal number of EESC representatives and members from the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), from Iceland , Norway and Liechtenstein . The EEA-CC's main goal is to issue recommendations to the authorities of the countries concerned by the European Economic Area. Switzerland also sits on the committee as an observer.