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 European Citizens' Initiative has celebrated its fifth anniversary this year and, although the long-awaited revision of the relevant regulation had not yet found its way into the European Commission's working plan, there were many reasons to celebrate!
The concept of European citizenship has been evolving for 60 years, ever since the Treaty of Rome made history by introducing the right to freedom of movement for workers and services. Over the years, the idea of European citizenship and the rights associated with it have evolved considerably – more freedoms were added, as well as the right to vote directly in European Parliament elections, stakeholder consultations and other tools of participatory democracy, such as the European Citizens' Initiative.
With this in mind, 2017's edition of the "ECI DAY: I participate!" brought to light the success stories that attest to the considerable evolution of the concept of European citizenship, as introduced by the Treaties, and the kind of policy-making that engages citizens, but also identified where the democratic deficits lie. Our aim was to underline the value of active citizenship and personal involvement, as well as the importance of citizens' informed and conscious use of the democratic tools that are available.
The ECI has great potential, but also some limitations. It complements the political system with its direct, indirect and representative democratic rights. It should not be forgotten that the most important element of any healthy political system is educating active citizens and giving them a selection of tools with which to shape their lives, both locally and on a national level; in other words, to construct a political system along with people who believe that they can bring about change even via small actions in their neighbourhood.
This is why we focused on two themes during the 2017 ECI DAY:
ECI success stories to show how some ECI ideas have actually found their way into European legislation despite not benefitting from any direct legislative follow-up. There were also a number of technical updates and simplifications to the technical specifications that deserve attention.
Citizens' Participation – ECI and beyond which investigated further various forms of citizen participation in view of their efficiency, purpose and requirements. What makes a transnational campaign successful? We also designed an event that could address citizens' participation needs.
The ECI DAY
The European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) is a welcome instrument for participatory democracy at European level. Introduced by the Lisbon Treaty and having entered into force in 2012, it allows Europeans to make legislative proposals and participate in decision-making by connecting directly with EU institutions. It is a chance for them to discuss and influence key policies and sheds further light on the public's view of the EU's agenda and priorities.
The ECI Day is an important meeting place and platform where registered and future ECI organisers and stakeholders can exchange information and experiences and present their ECI and activities to the public. As in the past, stands were available for ECI organisers and conference partners. We also proposed an ECI Clinic corner where all present and future organisers had a chance to consult our partners and colleagues from the ECI Team of the European Commission Secretariat General on ECI-related issues.