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.
Yesterday's seminar at the EESC’s Brussels headquarters discussed strengthening EU-Japan cooperation, dealing with the common challenge of migration and the role of civil society in implementing the EU-Japan Free Trade Agreement.
During the seminar, aimed broadly at strengthening ties between the EU and Japan on key issues such as trade and migration, the Vice-President of the EESC Gonçalo Lobo Xavier called for a representative delegation of Japanese civil society organisations to travel to the EESC for a study visit.
"These are exciting times for EU-Japan relations: we are in the final stages of negotiations for two ambitious agreements which will govern our bilateral relations for years to come: the Strategic Partnership Agreement and the EU-Japan Free Trade Agreement or Economic Partnership Agreement. Even though civil societies in the EU and Japan are organised very differently, their roles and responsibilities are fundamentally the same. This means that civil society on both sides has to be actively involved in the implementation and monitoring of these agreements"
A significant partner
Japan is the EU’s second biggest trading partner in Asia after China. A major priority for both partners is to encourage inter-regional exchanges and to develop closer civil society links and the EESC has played a key part in this process.
Since the start of EU-Japan FTA negotiations in 2013, the EESC's Japan Follow-up Committee has sought to build and further strengthen relations with the various components of Japanese civil society, with a view to defining a concerted position towards the authorities on both sides.
Close ties with several EU Institutes in Japan (EUIJ) have also been established over the years.
Civil society’s role in trade and migration policy
This year's seminar, organised together with the EU-Kansai Institute, focused on international trade and migration. Participants included Mr Lobo Xavier; Keiichi Katakami, Japan’s Ambassador to the European Union, and Professor Noriyuki Inoue, President of the EUIJ-Kansai Institute. The first session looked at the interplay between the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations and the EU-Japan Free Trade Association.
"The future trade agreement is about so much more than trade only– and initiatives like today's seminar make a concrete contribution to enhancing people-to-people contacts, mutual understanding and friendship, and to bringing the Japanese and European societies closer together", noted Krzysztof Pater, President of the EESC's EU-Japan Follow-up Committee.
The second session focused on migration and covered the substantial differences in approach between the EU and Japan: While historical circumstances and other factors such as geographical settings are very different, Japan and the EU both face challenges when it comes to, for example, reflecting on legal routes for workers and economic migrants in view of changing demographics and future needs for skills.
Participants at the seminar included representatives of European and Japanese civil society organisations, diplomats, members of the European Parliament, EU officials, trade and migration experts at think tanks and similar organisations, academics and other stakeholders.