EESC Statement on the European Commission's Enlargement Package

Today is an important day for candidate countries, and for the European Union. We welcome the recommendation of the Commission to open accession negotiations for Ukraine and Moldova. We also welcome recommendations to open accession negotiations with Bosnia and Herzegovina and to grant candidate status to Georgia, upon them meeting certain necessary conditions. The EESC will foster this process by extending the scope of our bilateral civil society bodies, and from next year onwards integrate civil society representatives from EU candidate countries in the daily work of our Committee and perform civil society health check on the ground.

More than ever, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has a pivotal role to play as the house of organised European civil society in advocating for EU enlargement. Just last week, an EESC delegation had the privilege of visiting Ukraine, a country that remains at the forefront of the EU's foreign agenda. Despite the challenges posed by ongoing conflict, we were deeply impressed by the resilience of Ukrainian civil society and the steadfast commitment of Ukraine's government to reforms. The recommendation of the Commission is encouraging. While the road ahead remains long, requiring robust support and a restoration of social dialogue, the EESC is committed to standing by Ukraine throughout this journey. The same goes for Moldova and the other EU candidate countries.

More generally, the EESC is fully dedicated to serving as a genuine Civil Society Gateway for candidate countries. We are determined to provide unwavering support within the framework of the enlargement process, assisting these nations upgrading their democratic and socio-economic systems to align with EU standards, particularly concerning civic and social dialogue and the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights. To that end, we will be extending the scope of our bilateral bodies to provide enhanced support, turning the existing Civil Society Platforms into Joint Consultative Committees, which are civil society bodies tasked with monitoring accession negotiations.

We are the first institution to integrate representatives from enlargement countries into our ranks, working alongside our members on key EU policies. This Enlargement Candidate Members pilot project will be an important learning exercise both for our Committee and our partners, they will have an insider view of the upcoming EU laws.

Finally, fundamental rights will be a core element of our collaboration with future EU members. Our Committee will insist on this, as it is crucial that any progress does not make mistakes of previous round of enlargement. As announced, our Fundamental Rights and Rule of Law Group will perform civil society health check in EU candidates countries from next year onwards. Following exchanges with Commissioner Reynders, we will coordinate this work with the Commission's Rule of Law Report.

Ultimately, our message to candidate countries and EU partners is clear: the EESC is a credible partner that delivers on its commitments. We are steadfast in our dedication to advancing the cause of EU enlargement, fostering stronger bonds, and collectively building a more prosperous future.

Oliver Röpke, EESC President

Dimitris Dimitriadis, President of the EESC's Section for External Relations

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