The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has adopted at its March plenary session an opinion on the Joint Communication "Connecting Europe and Asia – Building blocks for an EU Strategy", issued by the European Commission and the EU High Representative in September 2018. The EESC considers it to be a seriously missed opportunity, with many significant strategic gaps, little ambition and no real depth of vision offered as to the development of EU's relationship and connectivity with Asia.
In Asia, the EESC maintains relations with civil society organisations in China, Japan and South-Korea. An official Civil Society Round Table with China is in place: it was set up in 2007 following the 9th EU-China Summit and convenes at least once a year. In recent years, the Committee has invested in developing closer relations with organised civil society in Japan, in view of the EU-Japan Free Trade Agreement which assigns a monitoring and advisory role to civil society.
The EU- Republic of Korea Free Trade Agreement, which entered into force in 2011, was the first of the so-called new generation of EU trade agreements. These agreements are characterised by the inclusion of trade and sustainable development chapters, and give the EESC – together with civil society organisations in Korea – a formal role in monitoring its implementation and advising the respective political authorities in the areas of environmental, social and labour standards and other matters which are of direct relevance to civil society. Three meetings of the EU Domestic Advisory Group are held in each year; a joint meeting takes place once a year.
Furthermore, the EESC engages with civil society in other Asian countries and in relevant international events on an ad hoc basis. One example is the bi-annual Europe-Asia People's Forum, the interregional civil society platform, which is part of the Asia-Europe Meeting.
This meeting was an excellent opportunity for a timely update by DG Trade on the implementation of the Trade and Sustainable Development Chapter under the FTA, as well as for a constructive exchange with the Director of the ILO office in Hanoi on the labour situation in Vietnam and the state of play of the roadmap.
Additionally, Ambassador Vu Anh Quang, from the Vietnamese Mission to the EU, participated in an exchange with the EU Domestic Advisory Group (EU DAG) members to share his views on ongoing topics within the context of the EU Vietnam relations.
The members of the EU DAG, which is composed of representatives of employers' organisations, trade unions and various interest groups, also further discussed its work programme and prepared the upcoming joint meetings with its Vietnamese civil society counterparts.
The EU DAG and the Korea DAG met for the first time since 2018 to hold the 7th EU-Korea Civil Society Forum (CSF).
This was the first meeting of the EU Domestic Advisory Group (DAG), composed of representatives of employers' organisations, trade unions and various interest groups. At the meeting, the EU DAG received information from the European External Action Service (EEAS) on the EU relations with Vietnam and exchange with representatives of the European Commission's DG TRADE and the European Parliament on the implementation of the Trade and Sustainable Development chapter of the FTA. The EU DAG had also a first discussion on its work programme.
The EESC EU-Japan Follow-up Committee will meet in the morning of 7 January 2021. It will discuss various aspects of EU-Japan relations and set its work programme for the first half of the new mandate.
The EESC EU-Japan Follow-up Committee met the morning of 17 July. Items for discussion on the agenda were: the EU-Japan Relations in the post COVID-19 era and Research and innovation. In addition to this, the Follow-up Committee assessed the current mandate period and reflected on future perspectives.
During the meeting, the members of the Domestic Advisory Group (DAG) of the EU - composed of representatives of employers' organisations, trade unions and various interest groups - followed up on the joint meetings with the Japanese counterparts that took place in Tokyo in January this year. They also discussed the work programme of the EU DAG and topics for future cooperation and dialogue. Additionally, the members of the EU DAG exchanged views with representatives of the European Commission on matters related to the implementation of the trade and sustainable development chapter of the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
During the meeting, the composition of the presidency was confirmed. The Group discussed its mandate, and proposed topics ahead of the 2019 Civil Society Forum. Moreover, the EU DAG discussed with representatives of the EC matters related to the implementation of the EU-Korea FTA under three pillars of sustainable development.
During the meeting, the Chair of the EU DAG under the new mandate was elected. The Group also discussed its mandate, working methods, reporting procedures and cooperation with other civil society organisations, as well as exchanged views on its rules of procedure and assess possible amendments . Moreover, the EU DAG discussed with representatives of the EC matters related to the implementation of the EU-Korea FTA under three pillars of sustainable development.
The 16th EU-China Civil Society Round Table will take place in Varna, Bulgaria from 28 May to 29 May 2018.
The topics of the Round Table meeting will be the following: Social security and social solidarity mechanisms, and trade and investment as part of EU-China relations. In the fringes of the Round Table, a tripartite seminar on EU-China Tourism Year 2018 will be organised.