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.
More than 122 million people in the EU are at risk of poverty or social exclusion
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has adopted an opinion urging the EU Council to stick to its commitment to get at least 20 million people out of poverty by 2020. The EESC adopted its opinion on fighting poverty (Rapporteur: Seamus Boland, Co-Rapporteur: Marjolijn Bulk), requested by the Dutch Presidency of the Council, during its plenary session on 18 February 2016. To achieve the EU's target, Member States need to launch their own national strategies to fight poverty, social exclusion and discrimination, supported by a common European framework. These strategies should focus on adequate income support, inclusive labour markets, quality jobs, equal access to affordable high quality services for all, including migrants and people granted asylum.
One of the areas requiring immediate attention is child poverty. Children under 18 are among the groups that are more at risk of poverty and social exclusion than the overall population, with a rate of 27.1%. In addition to children, the poverty risk is particularly high among young people because of the unprecedented high rates of youth unemployment.
The EESC calls on the European Commission to pursue an ambitious and wide-ranging social investment agenda to be included in all phases of the European Semester. The EESC considers the Commission's Social Investment Package from 2013 to be a good initiative. However, not all Members States are following it and this should not be the case. The EESC believes that even more urgent measures to combat poverty in Europe should be introduced, such as an adequate minimum income and the establishment of universal, comprehensive and adequate social protections systems. The EESC welcomes the Dutch Presidency's intention to organise peer reviews to look into "bottom-up" grass-roots approaches, used to fight poverty at the national level but has reconfirmed the principal role of the welfare state in combatting poverty rather than relying solely on community based initiatives. In this sense, the EESC asks the Commission to put forward new guidelines for consulting stakeholders on social matters.
There is a need to engage with and listen to those who have first-hand experience of poverty. The European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN) annual meetings where first hand experiences are heard from people experiencing poverty is an example of good practice worth replicating at national level.
In December 2015, the EESC awarded the 2015 European Civil Society Prize to organisations which had distinguished themselves through their creativity and success at combating poverty. The five winners were grassroots organisations working to alleviate poverty in Germany, Ireland, France, Poland and Finland. The five winning initiatives presented snap-shots of what is being done on a daily basis by thousands of voluntary groups and NGOs across Europe.