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 28th meeting of the Europe 2020 Steering Committee on 7 February 2017 was organised around 3 different clusters:
How is Organised Civil Society involved in macroeconomic governance and the European Semester?
How can the European Semester be made fairer and greener?
Where is the European Parliament and the EESC with regards to the Annual Growth Survey 2017?
The preliminary results of an analysis conducted in late 2016 on the involvement of National Economic and Social Councils in the European Semester were presented.
The main messages referred to
the timing of the consultation process. Often there is not enough time for NESCs to be adequately involved;
the divergence between the different countries in the EU. Some countries do not have NESCs at all, and there are large differences in size and membership between existing NESCs
the perceived need for organised civil society to be more involved in the European Semester at national level and how this could be achieved.
A report is being drawn up and will be diffused to relevant stakeholders.
Dr Constanze Adolf, from Green Budget Europe on behalf of the European Semester Alliance also touched upon the difficulty of organised civil society to have its voice heard and having an impact on the European Semester. Consultation of civil society was seen as a box-ticking exercise.
She addressed future EU strategies and the potential of the SDGs to replace the Europe 2020 goals. To conclude, Dr Adolf argued that a performance-based European Semester needs: to link to next MFF to serve higher climate long-term just transition goals; to catalyse just transition; meaningful stakeholder involvement; tailored financing and investment frameworks and links to the Energy Union.
In continuation of this, Ms Collins of European Women’s Lobby spoke of the lack of progress on Europe 2020 social and environmental targets, such as the increase of people in poverty and decline in decent employment. The need for stronger, meaningful dialogue was underlined, and it was argued that social and sustainable macroeconomic policies must go hand in hand. She further presented the Alliance’s key documents: alternative CSRs, shadow Country Profile Reports and toolkits for engaging with Europe2020 and the European Semester.
On the AGS 2017, the EP rapporteur, Mr Gunnar Hökmark, presented his Draft Report, recommending
Process of stabilising public finances, consolidation;
Structural reforms, making the European economy more competitive;
Using the opportunities of the unique monetary policy.
He argued that deficits have given rise to debt burden and at the same time created costs for financing the debt. In this sense, two important points were: a) Consolidation must not be seen as a contradiction to growth; b) A positive fiscal stance must not be obliged or allowed to undermine the Stability Pact.
A broad debate with the members took place, touching upon public investment, whether the fiscal policy measures undertaken in the aftermath of the crisis are still necessary, whether it is necessary to remove certain expenditures from the calculation of the deficit, and how to tackle the transition period.
The same topics and the general question of how balance the economic and social dimensions were then addressed by the EESC Rapporteur Mr Baráth and in the subsequent debate. The EESC will adopt its opinion on the AGS 2017 in late February 2017.