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 Recovery and Resilience Facility has increased the capacity for social investment in the EU. However, National Recovery and Resilience Plans, funded by the facility, are still plagued by shortcomings such as uneven investing in social programmes in different Member States, insufficient consultation with social partners and a gender dimension that is too weak
"The social dimension in the National Recovery and Resilience Plans (NRRPs)" was the theme of a conference organised by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) in Brussels on 8 November.
One of the main objectives of the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF), the EU's biggest financial instrument, is to "promote social and territorial cohesion and mitigate the social impact of the crisis" triggered by the pandemic. The reforms and investments supported by the NRRPs should be in line with the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPRS), but are affected by the EU's shortcomings in this area.
EESC president Oliver Röpke called for consideration of new measures to reduce imbalances in EU-funded social programmes, such as in housing, training and education, where vulnerable groups are least likely to benefit from these opportunities.
Evelyn Regner, Vice-President of the European Parliament, drew attention to the uneven level of the social dimension in the NRRPs across the EU. The milestones mechanism in the NRRPs works well in those EU countries where the social partners [are] strongly involved in the preparation of these programmes. In the social dimension, the milestones are weaker in those EU countries where there has been no proper dialogue with the social partners, stressed Regner.
Participants in the session on "The gender dimension in NRRPs" complained that this aspect was not properly addressed in these funds, perhaps in part due to the rush to create the Recovery and Resilience Facility in response to the pandemics.
The gender provisions of the RRF fall short of the EU's legal and political commitments to gender equality. The facility is not in line with the EU's dual approach to gender equality and does not follow the EU's gender equality strategy, argued Irene Rioboo of the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE).
During the debate it was pointed out that some projects under way in Member States could improve gender equality in the long term.