The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has adopted at its March plenary session an opinion on the Joint Communication "Connecting Europe and Asia – Building blocks for an EU Strategy", issued by the European Commission and the EU High Representative in September 2018. The EESC considers it to be a seriously missed opportunity, with many significant strategic gaps, little ambition and no real depth of vision offered as to the development of EU's relationship and connectivity with Asia.
In Asia, the EESC maintains relations with civil society organisations in China, Japan and South-Korea. An official Civil Society Round Table with China is in place: it was set up in 2007 following the 9th EU-China Summit and convenes at least once a year. In recent years, the Committee has invested in developing closer relations with organised civil society in Japan, in view of the EU-Japan Free Trade Agreement which assigns a monitoring and advisory role to civil society.
The EU- Republic of Korea Free Trade Agreement, which entered into force in 2011, was the first of the so-called new generation of EU trade agreements. These agreements are characterised by the inclusion of trade and sustainable development chapters, and give the EESC – together with civil society organisations in Korea – a formal role in monitoring its implementation and advising the respective political authorities in the areas of environmental, social and labour standards and other matters which are of direct relevance to civil society. Three meetings of the EU Domestic Advisory Group are held in each year; a joint meeting takes place once a year.
Furthermore, the EESC engages with civil society in other Asian countries and in relevant international events on an ad hoc basis. One example is the bi-annual Europe-Asia People's Forum, the interregional civil society platform, which is part of the Asia-Europe Meeting.
The EESC EU-Japan Follow-up Committee will meet in the morning of 7 January 2021. It will discuss various aspects of EU-Japan relations and set its work programme for the first half of the new mandate.
The EESC EU-Japan Follow-up Committee met the morning of 17 July. Items for discussion on the agenda were: the EU-Japan Relations in the post COVID-19 era and Research and innovation. In addition to this, the Follow-up Committee assessed the current mandate period and reflected on future perspectives.
During the meeting, the members of the Domestic Advisory Group (DAG) of the EU - composed of representatives of employers' organisations, trade unions and various interest groups - followed up on the joint meetings with the Japanese counterparts that took place in Tokyo in January this year. They also discussed the work programme of the EU DAG and topics for future cooperation and dialogue. Additionally, the members of the EU DAG exchanged views with representatives of the European Commission on matters related to the implementation of the trade and sustainable development chapter of the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
During the meeting, the composition of the presidency was confirmed. The Group discussed its mandate, and proposed topics ahead of the 2019 Civil Society Forum. Moreover, the EU DAG discussed with representatives of the EC matters related to the implementation of the EU-Korea FTA under three pillars of sustainable development.
During the meeting, the Chair of the EU DAG under the new mandate was elected. The Group also discussed its mandate, working methods, reporting procedures and cooperation with other civil society organisations, as well as exchanged views on its rules of procedure and assess possible amendments . Moreover, the EU DAG discussed with representatives of the EC matters related to the implementation of the EU-Korea FTA under three pillars of sustainable development.
The 16th EU-China Civil Society Round Table will take place in Varna, Bulgaria from 28 May to 29 May 2018.
The topics of the Round Table meeting will be the following: Social security and social solidarity mechanisms, and trade and investment as part of EU-China relations. In the fringes of the Round Table, a tripartite seminar on EU-China Tourism Year 2018 will be organised.
During the 6th EU-Korea Civil Society Forum (CSF), participants discussed labour standards with the ILO representative, including progress achieved by both Parties to the Agreement as well as the next steps in the ratification and effective implementation of the ILO fundamental and other up-to-date conventions. Both DAGs also exchanged information about the role of civil society in the EU and the Republic of Korea in the development and implementation of the climate change policy at national, EU and international level. They then adopted final conclusions.
During the meeting, the EU DAG discussed with a representative of the European Commission the preparation for the meetings with Korea under the trade and sustainable development chapter, as well as about the current business environment in Korea and presentation of the white paper of the European Chamber of Commerce in Korea. Preparations of the 6th meeting of the EU-Korea Civil Society Forum in Seoul were also discussed.
In the light of the agreement in principle reached in July 2017 between the EU and Japan on an Economic Partnership Agreement, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC)'s Follow-up Committees on International Trade and Japan are taking the opportunity to organise a half-day joint seminar. The seminar aims at examining the significance of the EU-Japan Agreement in the global context, reflecting on the role that civil society may play in the implementation of such agreement, and aims to assess possible challenges and benefits for different stakeholders (the business community, workers, farmers, consumers, etc.).