The presence of the Various Interests' Group, alongside the Employers' Group and the Workers' Group, ensures that the Committee is a dynamic force and is empowered to give full voice to the concerns of the various social, occupational, economic and cultural organisations that make up civil society in the Member States. In line with the changes introduced in the new Lisbon Treaty, Group III is made up of "other representatives and stakeholders of civil society, particularly in the economic, civic, professional and cultural field".
The unique feature which forges Group III's identity is the wide range of categories. Its Members are drawn from farmers' organisations, small businesses, the crafts sector, the professions, social economy actors (mutualities, cooperatives, foundations and non-profit associations), consumer organisations, environmental organisations, and associations representing the family, women’s and gender equality issues, youth, minority and underprivileged groups, persons with disabilities, the voluntary sector and the medical, legal, scientific and academic communities.
These diverse groupings are bound together by their sense of duty towards the large proportion of the EU population whose interests they represent. This sense of duty has always inspired the group to call for social and economic players to be effectively involved in the shaping of EU decisions.
Group III Motto:
The shared goal is to achieve real economic, social and participatory democracy in the EU. In fact, the Group III motto is "Achieving real participatory democracy in the EU, through civil dialogue" and the ethos underpinning its activities fall under three pillars:
Diversity in democracy
European civic engagement- local action
The European Economic and Social Committee's Group III currently consists of 111 members coming from all 28 Member States of the European Union. Proposals to appoint members for the EESC's five-year term of office come from the various Member State Governments, which use slightly different methods of nominating representatives from their organisations. The Council of the European Union then formally appoints the representatives. Members have an advisory function and the rules specifically state that they may express their opinions freely. Therefore, they are not obliged to follow any fixed mandate from their organisations.
European Public Space:
Group III is a lively forum for various interest groups. When representatives of consumers and producers come together we are able to find common ground that advances the interests of both sides, and shows where a compromise might be possible on contentious issues. It is an advantage that most members also return to their organisations in the Member States, as this means they can take the discussion home with them.
Through mutual dialogue, Group III also enables and builds participatory democracy in the external relations activities of the EESC by maintaining and forging contacts with representatives of civil society organisations throughout the world.
Close contacts with European civil society organisations are particularly important for Group III. It does not claim to have a monopoly on representing civil society, but it is able to exploit the framework, as set out in the Treaties and create a European public space.