At its July plenary session, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) adopted an opinion on the latest annual report issued by the European Commission on the implementation of free trade agreements (FTAs), covering 2018. The EESC outlines the key role of trade in "promoting a sustainable economic recovery and allowing companies to rebuild and re-organise their disrupted value chains". At the same time, it regrets that civil society's monitoring work remains "largely absent" from the implementation report.
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Trade policy in exceptional times: this week's negotiation rounds on the updating of the trade aspect of the EU-Chile Association Agreement are being held remotely. In the run-up to this round, the EU-Chile Joint Consultative Committee (JCC) adopted a joint declaration on the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. JCC members flagged up the danger of increased social inequality and supported bilateral and multilateral cooperation as the best way to tackle the crisis.
The partnership with Africa was clearly highlighted by the EU institutions as one of the main priorities for the coming years, but the COVID-19 pandemic might threaten closer cooperation. This was the topic of a webinar organised on 29 April by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), where participants agreed that consolidation of supply chains and an agreement to ease the external debt burden of African countries were key issues.
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and Serbia held the 10th meeting of their Civil Society Joint Consultative Committee (JCC) in Brussels on 10 March, adopting a joint declaration by majority on 31 March. JCC members called on the EU institutions to take better account of civil society's role and to strengthen its involvement in monitoring Serbia's accession process and holding authorities to account.
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has strongly supported the enlargement of the European Union to the six Western Balkans countries provided they fulfil all the necessary criteria for membership. In the aftermath of the Council's non-decision to open accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia in October 2019, we have reacted swiftly by adopting, on 31 October, a Resolution expressing our profound disappointment by the lack of unanimity from the Member States. The EESC has since been committed to working closely and intensively with the civil society in the Western Balkans to support and reassure them that their place is in the European Union.
Members of the EU-Japan Follow-up Committee of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) visited Japan recently (27-31 January) to discuss the implementation of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) – in place since February 2019 – and to strengthen cooperation with Japanese counterparts. The visit included a roundtable on the circular economy and the first EU-Japan Joint Dialogue with civil society under the EPA, with trade and sustainable development issues on the agenda.
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) firmly believes that infringements of human rights can be better prevented when there is an internationally agreed binding standard implemented and protected by states. Therefore, in an opinion adopted at its December plenary session, the EESC supports the United Nations Human Rights Council initiative to adopt a binding UN treaty to regulate businesses activities, including sanctions in case of violation of international human rights law.
The benefits of digitalisation for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are multiple, allowing them to boost competitiveness, expand market access and improve customer relations. In an information report adopted at its December plenary session, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) considers it necessary to support the digital transformation of SMEs with measures adapted to the specific needs of different types of companies.
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) hosted a debate on development cooperation policy at its December plenary session, stressing that it was essential to upgrade relations between EU and African civil society in order to move from help to development to partnership.
Representatives of European and Chilean civil society held a videoconference on 27 November, as it was impossible for them to hold the fourth meeting of their Joint Consultative Committee under present circumstances. In the videoconference, the members of the Joint Consultative Committee (JCC) adopted a statement in which they regretted the social and political situation in Chile.