In recent years, REFIT and the institutional agreement on Better Regulation have focused on reducing regulatory burdens, increasing the number of impact analyses, and wide-ranging consultations. As a result, the legislative process has ground to a halt. Having mapped and quantified the EU acquis, the Commission is preparing to launch a targeted deregulation with the aim of reducing regulatory burdens.
In 2013 the European Economic and Social Committee’s Permanent Study Group on the Transport White Paper commissioned IFOK with drawing up a study on civil society involvement in European transport policies and projects. The aim of the study is to identify existing good practices in the field and, building on their assessment, to develop possible approaches for the EESC by which it can contribute to more participatory decision-making. Additionally, the study identifies a possible process for the development of a set of guidelines on civil society’s and citizens’ involvement in European transport policy and projects.
The study draws both on research and interviews conducted specifically for it, and on IFOK’s wide-ranging expertise and long-standing experience in the design and implementation of tailored participative, deliberative and consultative processes. It is intended for policy and decision-makers, and civil society representatives, both within and beyond the EESC. As such it has been written from a user’s perspective, focussed on providing practical and actionable insights and expertise.
The four case studies spotlight some of the wealth of different methods available for involving citizens and civil society in transport projects and policies. Importantly, they highlight eight lessons learned. Most notable amongst them is the value of an early and substantive involvement of all relevant stakeholders, the centrality of transparency and active communication about the process and its outcomes, and the essentiality of ensuring the process has an impact.
In the toolbox of approaches for effective participatory decision-making, five tailored possible approaches for the involvement of citizens and civil society have been developed for the EESC. The range from low-hanging fruits – easy and quick wins for greater civil society involvement in the EESC’s work – to more ambitious processes, or ones specifically tailored for certain policy fields. All highlight the central role of the EESC in bringing in civil society’s voice into European policy and decision-making, and show how this can be done in an even more collaborative manner.
The concept put forward for the development of a set of guidelines for civil society and citizen involvement in European transport policies and projects makes use of the learning and expertise captured in the study. It highlights how the benefits of deliberation and participation can be captured by the EESC as it works to establish a more cooperative decision-making in Europe.
The following study gives an overview of the current economic and social situation in Austria, with a particular focus on explaining the Austrian labour relations model and the importance of social partnership and its role in developments since the onset of the global economic crisis in 2008-2009.
Austria is an interesting case study in the context of the continuing difficulties the EU faces and the wide disparities between Member States in terms of recent trends and current situation. The main socio-economic indicators presented show Austria's position to be broadly satisfactory, especially compared with the rest of the euro area. Some years after the peak of the financial and economic crisis, Austria's GDP per capita is very high, employment is high and unemployment relatively low. Austria's positive economic ranking is partly due to its strong situation before the crisis and partly to subsequent trends. Over the longer term, Austria has benefited from above-average growth, which can be attributed in part to its efficient institutions and ability to adapt to changing conditions and in part to the positive impact of EU eastern enlargement and the country's geographical location in a strong and dynamic economic region.
Radical labour market reforms were implemented in Germany between 2002 and 2005, reforms that overturned the received idea that Germany was suffering from "reform paralysis". However, the part of these reforms that specifically concerned labour law was very small; their main purpose was to overhaul the social security and activation system for the unemployed and others of working age who are in need of support in line with a "work first" strategy. These reforms were extremely controversial and changed the party-political landscape in Germany.
Shortly after the reforms were introduced, a trend reversal took place on the German labour market: unemployment fell, employment with mandatory social insurance contributions picked up again, and the German labour market proved extraordinarily resilient through the 2008-2009 financial and economic crisis. Since then, the German economy has been so strong as to arouse increasing concern about economic imbalances within Europe. At the same time, however, neighbouring European countries are endeavouring to emulate Germany's supposed path to success by implementing "structural reforms" along the lines of the German model, in the hope of achieving similar results.
The European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) “Water and sanitation are a human right! Water is a public good, not a commodity!“ was the first successful ECI, achieving over 1.6 million validated signatures from across 13 Member States. The Initiative called upon the Commission to “implement the human right to water and sanitation in European law“.
The purpose of this study was to investigate the potential for governance improvements in the internal market with a view to removing bureaucratic hurdles for business. Its conclusion is that the European Commission, although active in cutting red tape in EU legislation, is not intervening yet in the case of gold-plating, which is over-compliance at the national/regional/local level. A key problem with gold-plating is precisely its tendency to overlap across multiple layers of competence. Gold-plating does happen and in certain cases undermines European competitiveness.
As the current economic and financial crisis drags on, many Europeans are being forced to get by on less. This loss of purchasing power puts consumers at risk of social exclusion. The EU estimates1 that more than 120 million people were at risk of poverty or social exclusion in 2013.
In November 1995, at the Euro-Mediterranean Conference in Barcelona, foreign affairs ministers of the EU and Mediterranean partner countries concluded a regional partnership, the aim of which was to establish a common area of peace and stability, create an area of shared prosperity, develop human resources, promote understanding between cultures and foster exchanges between civil societies. The Barcelona process was born and provided the foundation for broader cooperation across the Mediterranean.
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has developed a dual approach, regional and bilateral, for its relations with civil society organizations (CSOs) of the Western Balkans.
For the eighth year in succession, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) will be organizing a civil society media seminar for communication experts and national and international media specialists. This year's event will be held at the Palazzo Reale di Milano, from 27 to 28 November 2014.
The main theme of the 2014 seminar will be "European media and informed citizenship" which will be discussed in four panels, focusing on the following issues:
• The EU in the news: generating interest and citizen engagement
• The EU and the media in neighbouring countries
• Connecting citizens, the media and the EU in a digital society
• EP elections 2014 – "This time it was different"
On the 6th november 2014, the European Economic and Social Committee unanimously adopted its contribution to the European Commission's 2015 work programme. This 15-page document is full of very specific proposals and suggestions for improvement, and clearly sets out the areas where civil society expects the new team heading the Commission to be active in the coming year.
As part of a cooperation agreement, the European Economic and Social Committee undertook to send the president of the European Commission a contribution to his work programme, in order to highlight in advance what the priorities were for civil society stakeholders as a whole. This document thus represents the culmination of a series of discussions and consultations that revealed the primary expectations of the people of Europe