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 experience of the lockdown has been mixed, I would say. On the one hand, working from home has provided me with more time with my family than I've ever had. On the other, I've had to make arrangements to convert a room in my home into an office. Staying at home for long hours is frustrating at times, so I have tried to spend time on my favourite hobby: listening to music on my hi-fi system.
As a university teacher, I have missed interacting with students during lectures. Yes, I have interacted via Zoom or Panopto, but it's not the same as when you're in the classroom.
From an academic perspective, one lesson learnt is the capacity to interact with students online, and though I believe that being physically present in the classroom is a better teaching method, it is useful to consider blended learning as the way forward.
I have also participated in several online meetings, and they have been largely as effective as being physically present. A number of meetings could actually continue being held online, including some EESC meetings.
Beyond my personal experience, the lockdown has brought to light a number of realities: some economic activities were evidently non-sustainable and others not as resilient as we believed them to be. A re-think of economic activities is therefore both necessary and long overdue, and the sooner the better. But the effects of COVID-19 and the transition to a more resilient and sustainable economy are likely to be painful for many.
I have to say I've been one of the more fortunate ones, in that I could switch to online teaching and interacting with students via Zoom or Panopto within a week or so. My workload has probably increased, as I've not had to travel as before. I've also continued to meet colleagues at university and elsewhere online.
But I know many whose line of work has been disrupted or has stopped altogether. Many are still on state support, and that support is shrinking as it nears its end date. Many have also lost their jobs, and for them especially finding work will be much more difficult than they've ever experienced. Youth unemployment, including among graduates, is likely to increase and it will take at least a couple of years for economies to return to anywhere close to 2019 levels.
Being an academic, my first priority would be to resume attending conferences where I can meet colleagues and discuss economic topics of common interest. The next priority would be to start visiting the few audiophile friends I know here in Malta and sharing experiences and knowledge of audiophile systems.