The EESC plays a vital role in the network of links between civil society in the EU and its partners in the candidate countries as well as across the neighbouring countries. We support civil society’s active participation in the enlargement process and in the implementation of the European Neighbourhood Policy with the EU’s neighbouring countries to the east and in the Southern Mediterranean.
With our partners from Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein, we ensure regular monitoring of the functioning of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the European Economic Area (EEA).
Our external action in Europe and in the Mediterranean Basin falls into four main fields:
As strong supporters of EU enlargement to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe since the 1980s, we are now concentrating our efforts on strengthening links with the Western Balkans and Turkey.
In the Western Balkans, our Follow-up Committee analyses political, economic and social changes in each country and follows the evolution of their relations with the EU. Since 2006, we have organised Western Balkans Civil Society Forums every two years, and maintained close bilateral relationships in Joint Consultative Committees (JCCs) with the candidate countries – the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. The JCCs enable ties to be strengthened with civil society in these countries and make joint recommendations to policy-makers.
Likewise in Turkey, since the Joint Consultative Committee (JCC) was set up in 1995, we organise meetings between representatives from Turkish and European civil society organisations.
Eastern European neighbours, including Russia
The Eastern European Neighbours Follow-up Committee is our link with civil society organisations in Ukraine, Moldavia, Belarus and the countries of the Caucasus. As such, it aims to enhance relations between organised civil society in the EU and in these countries.
The EESC also maintains relations with civil society in Russia through the activities of its EU-Russia Follow-up Committee. We organise regular meetings between the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation and maintain regular contacts with Russian NGOs.
Southern European neighbours - Euromed
The Mediterranean Sea is one of Europe’s greatest treasures, from a cultural, social, economic and political point of view. Maintaining good relations between the north and the south of the Mediterranean region requires close cooperation between their civil societies.
We set up the Euromed Follow-up Committee to monitor the changing situation in these countries. Thanks to the Euromed Summits, the Economic and Social Councils and similar institutions draw up joint recommendations on the main challenges in the Mediterranean region in the context of social, economic and political transition.
European Economic Area
The extension of the European project to countries wishing to take part only in its economic aspect, the European Economic Area (EEA) covers Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. Our European Economic Area Consultative Committee (EEA-CC) includes representatives from each of these countries and is responsible for making recommendations to policy-makers.