The 2nd meeting of the EU-Ukraine Civil Society Platform took place on 11 February 2016 in EESC premises in Brussels. During the meeting, a debate was held assessing the state of play in the implementation of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, and two reports, prepared by both sides, were discussed and adopted – on energy policy and on the rule of law, with a focus on fight against corruption. A Joint Declaration was adopted at the end of the meeting to be forwarded to the EU-Ukraine Association Council, the Association Committee, the Parliamentary Association Committee and other relevant bodies both in Ukraine as well as in the EU.
The EESC's engagement with civil society organisations in Russia is governed by the five guiding principles for EU-Russia relations agreed between EU foreign ministers and the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. One of these guiding principles is "support for people-to-people contacts".
Dialogue and the exchange of experiences between civil society representatives from the EU and Russia contribute in a significant way to the continued implementation of the EU-Russia Strategic Partnership. The EESC has adopted a two-stranded approach to its relations with Russian civil society in order to engage with as wide a range of civil society representatives as possible. On the one hand, it maintains relations with the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation, its official Russian counterpart, and organises – amongst other things – annual joint seminars on topics of interest to civil society on both sides. The EESC's other partner is the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, which brings together a different set of civil society organisations.
The EU-Russia Follow-up Committee is an internal EESC body, which acts as a steering group, and is responsible for developing and maintaining relations and organising meetings and joint seminars with civil society in Russia.
In view of the ongoing TTIP negotiations, the EESC is organising a seminar, whose main purpose will be to be to assess the need for an energy chapter in the TTIP, in particular after the lifting of the US restrictions on crude oil exports and the impact that such a chapter might have on trade of energy goods and services, and on environmental and energy policies both in the EU and the US. Main topics: a) the impact of TTIP on the EU energy market and security of energy supplies; b) the possibility to foster a more transparent, predictable, open and non-discriminatory framework for traders and investors in energy and raw materials, by improving transparency and competition in the energy sector; c) an energy chapter in TTIP as a model to shape energy relations with other countries; d) the impact on trade in environmental goods, renewable energy and energy efficiency, aiming at contributing to the achievement of SDGs and climate change targets.
The hearing is held within the framework of the preparation of an own-initiative opinion entitled: "The digital growth pillar: e-seniors, a potential 25% of the European population."
The EESC has set up a permanent study group on Roma inclusion which will be monitoring the implementation the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies from the point on view of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs).
Anti-gypsyism and discrimination are important barriers to Roma enjoying full rights and this hearing plans to map possible avenues for redress for Roma, including equality bodies. The hearing will allow for the exchange of best practices on how Roma can address violations of their rights.
In March 2014 the 1st meeting of the EU-Africa economic and social interest groups network took place in Brussels. Following negotiations with the EESC, this meeting was funded by the Commission's DG DEVCO with the main objective of introducing an 'organised civil society pillar' into the Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES). The network was kicked off just in time to offer input to the Africa-EU Summit of April 2014.
The EESC has an interest to keep this network alive in order to contribute and follow up into the JAES from the perspective of organised civil society. Politically the best timing for organising meetings of this network is ahead of relevant summits between EU and African heads of state and/or government.
The Dutch Presidency has requested an exploratory opinion about the shift from the traditional employment relationship to more non-standard forms of employment, introduced among others by online platforms like Uber. The EESC is to examine the link between new forms of employments relationships to a decent living wage and make policy recommendations as to how to take full advantage of digital innovation but regulate and mitigate the effects in terms of labour law protection and social protection.
The event gathered all main national social partners (business federations and trade unions from the 28 Member States) for a full-day debate on the opportunities and challenges of TTIP for the social partners. The meeting allowed for discussion on concrete topics via plenary sessions and parallel panels. The overall objective of the conference was to inform social partners at the national level about the different aspects of TTIP, to promote a balanced exchange of views and experiences between these different national groups aimed at reaching some common understanding on the TTIP and its repercussions.
In its own-initiative opinion, the EESC is looking at the efficiency of the efforts, funded from the European Social Fund (ESF) and the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD), in tackling poverty and social exclusion in Europe – as one of the Europe 2020 strategy's most important goals.
The aim of this hearing is to collect specific observations and recommendations based on the experiences of civil society organisations with the implementation of the European Social Fund (ESF) and the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD) for combating poverty and social exclusion.
With the SOC Section's support, EAPN will present its assessment of the 2015 NRPs and debate with 150 stakeholders two key questions:
- What needs to be done to ensure that the European Semester delivers on its Europe 2020 commitments to reduce poverty and promote participation?
- How to help the EU move forward on a social, sustainable and democratic strategy that could give hope and restore faith in the EU?
Speakers: Commissioner Thyssen, Outi Slotboom (DG ECFIN), Raquel Lucas (Commissioner Dombrovskis Cabinet), Sergio Prieto (MEP) and Tom Dominique (SPC Chair).
Ahead of the international Roma Day on 8 April, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) will hold a hearing on "Anti-gypsyism, possible responses", which will feed into the work of the EESC permanent study group on Roma inclusion monitoring the implementation the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies.
Anti-gypsyism is an important barrier to the effective implementation of the framework and national integration strategies, and the hearing wants to shed light on possible responses to this cross-cutting problem. The European refugee crisis acerbates problems with general racism, xenophobia which also affects Roma. A hearing on anti-gypsyism and other forms of racism and xenophobia will allow exchanging best practices on how to combat these phenomena.