One Year in Office of President Röpke: Civil Society is a force for change in EU and beyond

Today, EESC marks the first year in office of President Oliver Röpke, who was elected in April 2023, alongside Vice-Presidents Laurenţiu Plosceanu and Krzysztof Pater. Since then, the EESC has launched several landmark initiatives, including progressively integrating EU candidate countries, empowering youth, and advocating for gender equality. Committed to transforming the EESC into a unique gateway between citizens, civil society and the EU institutions, President Röpke will continue to work together with EESC Members to advance the reform agenda towards a more inclusive, transparent and equal EESC.

At the time of his election, President Röpke presented a political manifesto, highlighting key priorities for his 2023-2025 term in office. Out of 34 actions initially outlined in the manifesto, the majority have already been accomplished, and 14 are still in progress. These achievements reflect the commitment of the EESC, its members as well as staff, to strengthen the position of the Committee, as the voice of European civil society in shaping EU policies.

EESC President Oliver Röpke said: "Over the past year, the EESC has proposed innovative ideas, made landmark decisions, and challenged the status quo, leading the way among many EU institutions. We have opened our doors to the youth, civil society, and candidate countries, making the Committee a more equal and inclusive forum. The EESC is the voice of civil society. It should and will be a force for change. I am proud to be leading this institution and I am convinced we are just getting started."

Standing up for democracy and speaking up for Europe

Under the guiding principles of democracy, fundamental rights, and the rule of law, the President's manifesto set out 34 actions for the two-and-a half-year mandate with the main aim of strengthening the role and the position of the EESC. The majority of the actions have now been completed, resulting in concrete deliverables:

  • Empowering youth was among the first priorities turned into action with the implementation of the EESC Youth Test and the new Youth Group. As a result, EESC opinions on issues such as EU-UK relations, disinformation, or the future of Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) submitted to the Commission, have been checked and tested by youth.
  • Progressively integrating EU candidate countries, through the landmark "Enlargement Candidate Members (ECM)" initiative. As of February, 146 representatives from EU candidate countries can work alongside EESC members in drafting opinions on issues that matter to them such as cohesion policy, the single market, or the rule of law.
  • Supporting EU elections and voter turnout by organising the first-ever EU Civil Society Week where people from across EU formulated demands to the next EU leaders. The EESC has also actively raised awareness on disinformation by engaging with civil society in Bulgaria, Slovakia, and candidate countries like Moldova, particularly affected by this phenomenon.
  • Calling for the EU Blue Deal to be a fully-fledged and standalone priority for the next EU Commission with a dedicated Commissioner and a Blue Transition Fund, as set out in the President's Declaration.
  • Advocating for gender equality in the EU and internationally, including the UN Commission on the Status of Women, where the EESC Delegation participated for the first time this year. The EESC voice resonated also at other international fora like International Labour Organisation (ILO), United Nations High-Level Political Forum, and Climate Change Conference (COP).
  • Protecting fundamental values by acting as a watchdog monitoring the state of civil society in Member States and now also in the EU candidate countries, with the first visit completed in Moldova and the next planned for Serbia.

Beyond the 34 actions, the EESC continued to advance policies for a more social and competitive Europe, empowering EU citizens for the green and digital transitions, and defending democratic values.

You can find the full overview of actions implemented and those in progress in the factsheet online.

Advancing reform agenda

Looking ahead, President Röpke will continue to advance on priorities set out in his manifesto. This includes among others strengthening relations with think-tanks, incorporating civil society panels in the work of the EESC, as well as reinforcing the role of the Equality Group. In this context, the EESC will strive to consolidate its position as the convening platform for the European NGOs ahead of the next UN Commission on the Status of Women.

Building on the foundations laid down over the past year, President Röpke will further advance youth engagement in the EESC, EU, and international levels. He will also continue to drive the EESC's role as the institutional pioneer in progressive integration of EU candidate countries by calling for an "Enlargement Summit" in the second half of this year.