Chapter 1

INTRODUCING THE EESC

WHAT IS THE EESC?

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) is an advisory body of the European Union with its headquarters in Brussels. Since its establishment in 1957, the EESC has been a unique forum for consultation, dialogue and consensus among representatives of the various economic, social and civil components of organised civil society. The EESC has a distinctive place in the EU's decisionmaking process, as a consultative body delivering opinions both to the 'legislative' (the European Parliament and the Council), and 'executive' (the Commission) arms. The EESC ensures that civil society organisations have a say in Europe's development.

WHAT ARE THE EESC'S OBJECTIVES?

The EESC is committed to European integration. It strengthens the European Union's democratic legitimacy by enabling national civil society organisations to express their views at the European level.

The Committee fulfils three key missions:

WHAT IS ORGANISED CIVIL SOCIETY?

Organised civil society describes a wide range of organisations, networks, associations, groups and movements which are independent from government and sometimes come together to take forward their common interests through collective action. These groups often act as intermediaries between decision-makers and citizens, and enable people to become actively engaged in efforts to improve living conditions.

HOW IS CIVIL SOCIETY REPRESENTED?

The EESC is made up of 353 Members from all 28 Member States. These Members are not politicians but employers, trade unionists and representatives of groups, such as professional and community associations, farmers, youth organisations, women's groups, consumers, environmental campaigners and many more. They come from all social and professional backgrounds and have a vast range of knowledge and experience. They are not based full-time in Brussels but rather have their own jobs in their home countries, ensuring that they maintain direct contact with their grassroots. Nominated by their governments, they are appointed by the Council for a period of five years. They then work independently in the interests of all EU citizens. Debating issues involving and affecting civil society and adopting opinions, the Committee Members play an integral part in the process of policy formation and the preparation of decisions at EU level.

Following the renewal of the EESC mandate in October 2015, the number of members is 350, as requested by the Lisbon Treaty.

NATIONAL ALLOCATION OF SEATS

The EESC has 353 Members since Croatia joined the EU on 1 July 2013. Members are nominated by national governments and appointed by the Council of the European Union for a renewable fi ve-year term of office. The latest renewal was in October 2010 for the mandate 2010-2015. The national allocation of seats, proportionate to the population, is as follows:

Members per country

WHAT ARE OPINIONS?

The European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and the European Commission are obliged, by virtue of the European treaties, to consult the EESC on a wide range of policy issues when passing new laws. The EESC examines proposals, draws up and adopts opinions based on a consensus reached between its Members. After they are adopted in plenary session, the opinions are sent to the European institutions and published in the Official Journal of the European Union.

In addition, the EESC can also adopt own-initiative opinions on any question pertaining to the European Union, its policies and how these might evolve. It also produces exploratory opinions, as requested by EU institutions, in spheres where they think it has the appropriate skills and expertise and which are of concern to citizens. The EESC may also publish information reports examining any aspect relevant to EU policies.

Le cycle de vie d'un avis
Le cycle de vie d'un avis

HOW IS THE EESC ORGANISED?

EESC Members work in three groups: Employers (Group I), Workers (Group II) and Various Interests (Group III). The aim is to build consensus between all three so that EESC opinions reflect the economic and social interests of citizens.

The EESC has six sections, covering different aspects of the EU's work, ranging from the economy to social affairs. Members participate in one or more of these sections depending on their areas of expertise, and it is here that much of the preparatory work on opinions is carried out. The EESC also has a Consultative Commission on Industrial Change (CCMI), which helps EU industry anticipate and adapt to the impact of globalisation. The EESC has also set up three specialist observatories - on the single market, the labour market and sustainable development – plus a steering committee for the EU's 2020 Strategy for Growth and Jobs.

Every twwo and half years the EESC elects a Bureau made up of 40 Members, along with 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, and represents the EESC in relations with other institutions and bodies. The two Vice-Presidents are responsible for communication and the budget respectively.The Bureau's main task is to organise and coordinate the work of the EESC's various bodies and to lay down policy guidelines for this work.

The Committee has a secretariat, headed by a Secretary-General who reports to the President, representing the Bureau. Some 800 staff members work at the EESC, assisting Members in carrying out their duties.

Schema presenting the EESC political organisational structure, Presidency, groups and sections and their presidents