EESC mission statement
Committed to European integration, the EESC contributes to strengthening the democratic legitimacy and effectiveness of the European Union by enabling civil society organisations from the Member States to express their views at European level.
This Committee fulfils three key missions:
- helping to ensure that European policies and legislation tie in better with economic, social and civic circumstances on the ground, by assisting the European Parliament, Council and European Commission, making use of EESC members' experience and representativeness, dialogue and efforts to secure consensus serving the general interest;
- promoting the development of a more participatory European Union, which is more in touch with popular opinion, by acting as an institutional forum representing, informing, expressing the views of and securing dialogue with organised civil society;
- promoting the values on which European integration is founded and advancing, in Europe and across the world, the cause of democracy and participatory democracy, as well as the role of civil society organisations.
Workings of the EESC
The EESC is a consultative body that gives representatives of Europe's socio-occupational interest groups and others a formal platform to express their points of view on EU issues. Its opinions are addressed to the Council, the European Commission and the European Parliament. It thus has a key role to play in the Union's decision-making process.
The ESC was set up by the 1957 Rome Treaties to involve economic and social interest groups in the establishment of the common market and to provide an institutional structure for briefing the European Commission and the Council of Ministers on European Community issues.
The EESC has 350 members, who are drawn from economic and social interest groups in Europe.
Members are nominated by national governments and appointed by the Council of the European Union for a renewable 5-year term of office. The latest renewal was in October 2015, for the 2015-2020 term of office.
They belong to one of three groups:
The number of members per Member State is as follows:
- France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom have 24 members each
- Poland and Spain have 21
- Romania has 15
- Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, the Netherlands, Portugal and Sweden have 12
- Croatia, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Lithuania and Slovakia have 9
- Latvia and Slovenia have 7
- Estonia has 6
- Cyprus, Luxembourg and Malta have 5
The members' mandate
Consultation of the EESC by the Commission or the Council is mandatory in certain cases; in others it is optional. The EESC may, however, also adopt opinions on its own initiative. The Single European Act (17.2.1986) and the Maastricht Treaty (7.2.1992) extended the range of issues which must be referred to the Committee. The Amsterdam Treaty further broadened the areas for referral to the Committee, and allowed it to be consulted by the European Parliament. On average, the EESC delivers 170 advisory documents and opinions a year (of which about 15% are issued on its own initiative). All opinions are forwarded to the EU's decision-making bodies and then published in the EU's Official Journal.
Information and integration role
Over the last few years the EESC has stepped up its role in the European Union and has transcended the basic role assigned to it in the Treaties. It acts as a forum for the single market and, with the support of other EU bodies, has hosted a series of events aimed at bringing the EU closer to the people.
1. Presidency and bureau
Every two and a half years the EESC elects a bureau 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. He is assisted by the vice-presidents, one of whom is responsible for communication and one for the budget.
The president represents the EESC in relations with outside bodies.
Joint briefs (relations with EFTA, CEECs, the AMU, ACP countries, Latin America and other third countries, and Citizens' Europe) fall within the remit of the EESC bureau and the president.
The bureau's main task is to organise and coordinate the work of the EESC's bodies and to lay down policy guidelines for this work.
The Committee has six sections:
- Agriculture, Rural Development and the Environment (NAT)
- Economic and Monetary Union and Economic and Social Cohesion (ECO)
- Employment, Social Affairs and Citizenship (SOC)
- External Relations (REX)
- The Single Market, Production and Consumption (INT)
- Transport, Energy, Infrastructure and the Information Society (TEN)
The Consultative Committee on Industrial Change (CCMI) was incorporated into the EESC structure following the expiry of the ECSC Treaty in July 2002.
3. Study groups
Section opinions are drafted by study groups. These usually have 12 members, including a rapporteur. Study group members may be assisted by experts.
The EESC has the right to set up temporary sub-committees for specific issues. These sub-committees operate on the same lines as the sections.
5. Plenary session
As a rule, the full Committee meets in plenary nine times a year. At the plenary sessions, opinions are adopted by simple majority, on the basis of section opinions. They are forwarded to the institutions and published in the Official Journal of the European Union.
Some 700 staff members work at the EESC. Since 1 January 1995, the EESC and the Committee of the Regions have shared some services, such as logistics, IT and translation.