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Relations between the EU and its southern neighbours constitute one of our priorities. Our work covers a wide variety of areas, such as the participation of civil society in political and civil dialogue, democratic transition, youth employment, sustainable development, mobility and immigration, trade, renewable energy and business development.
The EESC has been working on these issues since 1995. Following changes in the region in 2010, we have adjusted our objectives accordingly, aiming to:
- Support civil society organisations in countries undergoing transition. Such support is targeted, in particular, at trade unions and employers’ organisations, as well as women’s, youth and farmers’ associations.
- Maintain bilateral relations with national economic and social councils in the region, and work towards creating conditions for the inclusion of civil society in political dialogue in the southern partner countries.
- Issue opinions and joint reports on the key policy challenges facing the region.
- Hold regular meetings with European institutions and international organisations to discuss the policies concerning civil society across the region.
- Organise an annual summit for economic and social councils and similar institutions, at which key policy recommendations on the region’s main challenges are put to policy-makers from national governments and the EU.
The opinion will set out civil society's perspective on the dual challenge which EU Member States face in dealing with recent waves of immigrants and at the same time fulfilling - or in some cases failing to fulfil - their duty in guaranteeing immigrants' human rights, be it in detention or whilst on high seas. This issue is particularly topical since the European Commission and European Court of Justice are coming increasingly under pressure to act against Member States that fail to meet EU rules.
The exploratory opinion is being drawn up at the request of the Greek Presidency of the European Union. Immigration-related issues remain a key challenge for the European Union and its Member States with a comprehensive and common strategy at EU level remaining elusive, in spite of the continued pressures that are being felt on the EU's borders.
The aim of the opinion is to call on the representatives of the European Community institutions and national government to take account of the key role of the social partners and organised civil society in providing European immigration policies with a social dimension and added value.