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 wants to reduce the administrative burden on farmers
The EESC welcomes the fact that the European Commission has made it a priority to simplify common agricultural policy (CAP) implementation. Increased transparency and legal certainty must go hand in hand with the reduction of red tape for farmers, other beneficiaries, producer organisations and national administrations. The current legislative process is highly complex and difficult to understand. A simplified CAP must be implemented as soon as possible, and it must make matters easier for farmers, as well as providing them with the necessary information- and education-based support.
The CAP budget, amounting to EUR 404 billion for the period of 2014–2020, accounts for 38% of the entire EU budget and it is important that exact rules govern the proper use of this money. However, regulation can also be excessive: an EC-commissioned evaluation showed that previous CAP reform caused the bureaucratic burden to increase by 15% to 20%.
It is important that the efforts pay off
The EESC strongly supports the Commission's aim of simplifying the CAP. The Commission could start by putting forward proposals based on the priority list of simplification measures drawn up by the Agricultural Council and Presidency. In particular, the EESC thinks it is important to look into the consistency of current requirements, including their impact on issues such as the environment, food safety, food availability, and job creation, and thus conclude which requirements are justified and which must be adapted or even eliminated. The EESC recommends fighting bureaucracy by adopting a rule that allows an existing regulation to be eliminated when a new one is proposed.
"For the EESC, two things are important: firstly, every single euro has to be spent in a way which effectively secures the existence of European farmers and the agricultural industry while upholding the highest environmental and food safety standards. Secondly, requirements for farmers have to be set in a manner that considerably reduces red tape and makes them conclusive even for ordinary citizens. Farmers need to be in their fields and not behind their desks," said Seamus Boland, rapporteur of the opinion on CAP simplification.
While the EESC welcomes the greening of direct payments as a crucial element of the common agricultural policy reforms, it also calls for more flexibility in applying the greening rules to take unexpected external factors into account such as weather conditions, drought or price fluctuations that make the measures unreasonable or even impossible to implement, at least for a certain time.
It is commonly understood that non-compliance must be penalised; however inspections and possible fines must be proportionate to the amount of money received by the beneficiary and also to the scope of the infringement. Justice demands that reasonable notice is given to the farmer before the inspection takes place.
More on the EESC proposals on simplification issues can be found here.