The social economy is prominent in everyday life and in the productive activity of large regions of the world and makes a decisive contribution to improving the living and working conditions of millions of people. However, the social economy is not specifically recognised as a sector in the EU development cooperation programmes.One of the principal aims of the opinion is that the external dimension of the EU’s programmes and initiatives should establish support measures specifically targeted at boosting businesses and organisations in the social economy.
Africa, Caribbean, Pacific (ACP)
From the first Lomé Convention (1975) to the Cotonou agreement (2000-2021), EU-ACP Parterships have governed the relations between the EU and 79 countries of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP), which recently became the Organisation of the African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS).
Throughout this period the EESC, together with ACP civil society, fought for recognition of the essential role played by non-state operators in the development process until this was achieved in the Cotonou Agreement, which mandated the EESC to organise activities and consultations with "ACP-EU economic and social interest groups" in order to gather the views of, and give voice to the organised civil society. The aim has been to foster exchanges and provide recommendations on issues and policies relevant to ACP-EU relations, later officially addressed to the EU and ACP leaders.
In practical terms, the EESC's activities concerning EU-OACPS relations are mainly carried out under the guidance of an inclusive ACP-EU Follow-up Committee made of EESC members and delegates representing ACP economic and social interest groups.
The ACP-EU Follow-up Committee maintains regular contacts with the representatives of civil society in the ACP countries at different levels, through:
- Regular meetings of the ACP-EU Follow-Up Committee,
- Regional Seminars in ACP countries, providing a forum for discussing topics of common interest with civil society representatives in alternating regions,
- Triennial General Meetings of ACP-EU economic and social interest groups in Brussels.
The EESC also maintains regular contacts with the African Union's representatives of economic and social interest groups, in the framework of the Joint EU-Africa strategy. In particular, the EESC holds annual meetings with the Africa-EU Economic and Social Stakeholder's network.
The EESC has for many years kept up regular contact with the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly, presenting a report on its activities at sessions of the Plenary Assembly.
The EESC is likewise in close contact with international employers', workers', farmers', cooperatives' and consumers' organisations. These organisations nominate the ACP representatives invited to the meetings held by the EESC, including the ACP-EU Follow-up Committee.
The EESC organises regional seminars every year in an ACP region –this year, in Eastern Africa (Nairobi) on 4‑5 July 2016, with three main topics of discussion:
- Implementation of the SDGs - The Economic Partnership Agreement between the EU and Eastern African States. - The post-Cotonou agenda.
At the end of the seminar, a final declaration will be issued that will be forwarded to the partners of the Cotonou agreement.
Around 60 representatives of economic and social actors as well as political authorities and international organisations will attend the seminar.
The Consultative Committee (CC) is one of the 5 institutions foreseen in the EU-CARIFORUM Economic Partnership Agreement. The CC is composed of 40 (25 from the CARIFORM side and 15 from the EU side) standing representatives of organisations of the civil society representing employers' organisations, trade unions, other economic, social and non-governmental organisations, including development and environmental organisations; and the academic community.
The External Relations Section (REX) of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) is responsible for dialogue between European civil society organisations and their homologues from the countries with which the European Union has formal relations (e.g. under the form of a Free Trade Agreement). Through this dialogue, made possible by a series of bilateral bodies, and through specialized opinions and information reports, the Committee is able to concretely contribute to EU foreign policy.
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