In 2018, the EESC decided to raise awareness about the European Semester process and to strengthen the involvement of civil society in this process, as well as to consult it on the content of the country-specific recommendations published by the European Commission each year in May-June.
By taking the initiative of organising consultations in the form of round tables in several countries via its members' network, the EESC has been able to provide a new perspective on the European Semester.
The EESC's aim was threefold: to provide a contribution to the European Semester exercise on the part of civil society; to increase awareness of this process among civil society organisations; and to improve knowledge of the country-specific recommendations decided on by the Council to make it possible to follow up on them. In 2018 and 2019, so far 12 such visits have been organised.
The hearings were both constructive and useful, as they enabled the EESC to establish a direct link with all the components of civil society in the countries in question. They revealed a great desire on the part of civil society organisations to be informed on this issue.
Given the warm welcome for the initiative and the interest expressed by the participants, and particularly by NGOs that are remote from the decision-making hubs, the EESC recommends that this dialogue should continue in order to raise awareness of the European Semester process and to reach a wider audience. Therefore, the visits will continue in 2020.
The EESC also proposes organising a European Semester Day each year in cooperation with Member States to pursue dialogue.
The EESC also recommends that an annual consultation be organised under its aegis in each Member State and at EU level on civil society in the long term so it can perform its role as representative of civil society.