The EESC issues between 160 and 190 opinions and information reports a year.
It also organises several annual initiatives and events with a focus on civil society and citizens’ participation such as the Civil Society Prize, the Civil Society Days, the Your Europe, Your Say youth plenary and the ECI Day.
The EESC brings together representatives from all areas of organised civil society, who give their independent advice on EU policies and legislation. The EESC's326 Members are organised into three groups: Employers, Workers and Various Interests.
The EESC has six sections, specialising in concrete topics of relevance to the citizens of the European Union, ranging from social to economic affairs, energy, environment, external relations or the internal market.
Ahead of the World Day against Trafficking in Persons, Gabriele Bischoff, President of the EESC Workers' Group, has called for the EU to take strong action against human trafficking, in particular to protect children, young people, women and vulnerable people.
"Human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery which we cannot tolerate or ignore. It's time for action to deliver on our promises and for action to implement the strategy for the eradication of trafficking in human beings. This strategy cannot be applied without active support from civil society, which often has direct contact with the victims. Victim support associations need financial resources, as do the public services which have to deal with this unacceptable reality".
The plight of refugees, in particular children, deserves special attention. In 2015, there were almost 90,000 unaccompanied minors among EU asylum seekers and, according to Europol, an estimated 10,000 children have gone missing since the refugee crisis began. We, therefore, need to be particularly vigilant in detecting victims and protecting young people from the risk of human trafficking and exploitation.
The EESC has previously called for increased protection and support for victims who are often identified in the first instance by grassroots civil society organisations. With its Strategy towards the eradication of Trafficking in Human Beings 2012-2016, the EU has set concrete measures to eradicate human trafficking, such as specialised law enforcement units in Member States and the creation of joint European investigation teams to prosecute cross-border trafficking cases. The EESC believes we must also continue to support civil society organisations, which are often the first to provide hope to victims by giving them an "escape root" from the vicious circle of bondage and slavery resulting from this heinous crime. The fight against trafficking must be a cross-cutting policy, including a genuine social policy strand as well as anti-trafficking measures. Synergies must also be created with other policies.