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 EESC is hopeful that the Commission's ambition to boost transition to a circular economy will be a first step to achieving a paradigm shift in behaviour and practice. It recalls its opposition to the withdrawal of the previous Circular Economy Package published in 2014.
There is room for improvement when it comes to the level of ambition of the package. The EESC recommends reinstating the targets of the 2014 Package on waste treatment, while making sure they can be cost-effectively achieved. Overall, the delay of 18 months does not seem warranted by the scope or ambition content of the new Package when compared to the previous Package.
The Commission's proposals do not address sufficiently the social and labour-related benefits and risks of the transition to a circular economy. The most vulnerable sectors and workers need to be identified so that a full complement of supports structures can be established for them.
The Committee is willing to explore the feasibility of an open European platform for the circular economy bringing together stakeholders and civil society from the public, semi-public or private sectors involved in resource-efficiency, hosted by EESC.
Education in all its forms at all levels will form an essential part of the transition to a circular economy. This must include the identification of the training needs of workers who needs to be part of an immediate change as well as the longer term action of educating future generations.
The foreseen revision of the Eco-design Directive must take the full life cycle of the product into account, including: durability, reparability, availability/affordability of spare parts, unconditional disclosure of repair and service information by manufacturers.
Support mechanisms that allow poorer people access to higher quality (and initially higher cost) goods and services need to be developed. These may include a government-backed lending scheme, or a manufacturer-backed financing scheme exclusively applied with lower rates to products with a certain minimum life expectancy, and designed to incorporate all elements of circularity.
Reduced rates or exemption on VAT for recycled products as well as reuse and repair activities can incentivise entrepreneurs to be active in this space, and offer consumers a competitively priced product, which will help promote widespread behavioural change. Subsidies should shift to support use of secondary raw materials, and encourage the application of the principles of eco-design across all manufacturing sectors.
The Semester process through the Country Specific Recommendations can be used to ensure implementation at Member State level, and ensure prioritisation of a transition to a circular economic model.
Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: Closing the loop - An EU action plan for the circular economy – COM (2015) 614 Final
Proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste - COM (2015) 596 Final
Proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 2008/98/EC on waste - COM(2015) 595 Final
Proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 1999/31/EC on the landfill of waste - COM(2015) 594 Final
Proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directives 2000/53/EC on end-of-life vehicles, 2006/66/EC on batteries and accumulators and waste batteries and accumulators, and 2012/19/EU on waste electrical and electronic equipment - COM(2015) 593 Final