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.
The competitiveness check should apply to any EU policy and law-making process, the EESC argues in a new opinion where it also makes the case for an EU "competitiveness agenda".
In the report, adopted at the December plenary, the EESC argues that the impact of EU policies and regulations on the competitiveness of EU businesses needs to be assessed much more comprehensively and systematically than is currently the case.
A competitiveness check should cover legislation, fiscal measures, strategies, programmes, international agreements, and even the European Semester. It should look at their impact on businesses, employment, working conditions and compliance costs. It should consider how they can affect businesses in different sectors, of different sizes and with different business models both in the short and long term.
Europe's share of the world's GDP has been falling for quite some time and could shrink to less than 10% by 2050. The short-term outlook is no rosier, with the ongoing aftermath of COVID-19, the war in Ukraine, rising inflation, soaring energy prices and dependence on key foreign imports. Add to that the green and digital transitions and you get a fairly good idea of the huge challenges that EU businesses are facing.
How do we ensure that competitiveness and businesses are given a more prominent role in EU decision-making? The EESC proposes a three-pronged approach.
First, at technical level, the EESC suggests beefing up the European Commission's impact assessment by making the competitiveness check mandatory and much more extensive.
"The European Commission already has to carry out impact assessments where the effects of an initiative on competitiveness are taken into account," said Christian Ardhe, rapporteur for the EESC opinion. "However, we also see a need for improvement, especially with respect to implementation and enforcement."
Second, at political level, competitiveness should be given proper weight when shaping new initiatives, which should be assessed on how they contribute to and support competitiveness.
Third, the Committee calls for a specific competitiveness agenda with the long-term goal of enhancing the EU's competitiveness.
"With this opinion, we really want to come back to the ways in which competitiveness is monitored, and take into account the complexities involved in this area," said Giuseppe Guerini, co-rapporteur for the opinion. "Today, competitiveness is no longer something that affects single businesses or companies – it really is about ecosystems. So, we need to take a more complex approach when we look at it."
The opinion was drawn up in response to a request from the Czech presidency of the Council of the EU. (dm)