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.
When we last met in the context of our major civil society conference "Go sustainable, be responsible! European civil society on the road to Rio+20" on 7 and 8 February this year, we together sent a set of very strong key messages to our European negotiators, right at the moment when they were deciding about our common EU position for the Rio negotiations.
At that moment I had already invited all of you to continue our common work in the run-up to Rio.
The purpose of today's meeting is two-fold.
We thought it would be good if we, representatives from European organised civil society, would meet to exchange information about planned activities in Rio and to see how we could further foster our common values and positions throughout these diverse activities.
The second reason for today's meeting turns out to be very timely. Originally we had invited Timo Makela, Director of DG Environment, to give us a de-briefing on ongoing Rio negotiations in New York.
Now that the second round of informal negotiations has ended last Friday leaving the vast majority of points unresolved, I think that we have to renew our message that we urge world leaders to commit to a concrete action plan leading to sustainable development and poverty eradication within the limitations of the planet.
We also have to strongly remind our EU negotiators, thus Timo Makela in person, that we want the EU to play a leading part in these negotiators.
We know from our participation at the negotiation sessions in March and in April that the EU is indeed striving for an ambitious outcome, that we have sent our best negotiators there to reach an outcome capable of meeting the challenges we are facing.
Hans-Joachim Wilms, Chair of our Sustainable Development Observatory and our Rio rapporteur, has reported back from the negotiations last week, and we would like to use this opportunity to thank our EU negotiators not only for their continuous efforts for an ambitious outcome but also for their engagement to further strengthen civil society participation and to ensure a just transition to an inclusive green economy.
We as European economic and social Committee are using our contacts with civil society in other parts of the world to foster dialogue on sustainable development issues, to exchange best practices, to enhance common understanding.
Only this morning we have met with our counterparts from Brazil, China and Russia.
Our message to you, Mr Makela, is that we want you to keep up your efforts in the negotiations, civil society is strongly demanding an ambitious outcome of this conference – and civil society will also continue contributing to the transition to sustainable development, at all levels needed.