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 successful experience of Estonia with E-government as well as questions concerning cybersecurity were discussed during the EESC conference on the “Future development of E-government in the EU” held in Tallinn. The European Economic and Social Committee hosted a debate on the priorities of the incoming Estonian Presidency of the Council of the EU which have as an overarching goal to improve the quality of life of EU citizens by working toward concrete goals in the spirit of Bratislava declaration.
The EESC President Georges Dassis opened the event by expressing being “astounded by Estonia's X-Road platform which seems to help citizens in all walks of life. The only question that this raises is how to protect quality jobs and not abandon the existing workers.”
The digital e-Governance platform was presented by keynote speaker Matti Maasikas, Estonian Deputy Minister for EU affairs. X-Road provides 2000 services and securely connects 900 organisations, and has not had a major beach since its introduction in 2001. Together with the eEstonia state portal, it functions as a secure environment allowing information transfer and interoperability. Its concrete results include 99.6% of banking transactions being done electronically, and 90% of tax declarations being filed online.
Mr Maasikas praised that the EESC was holding its Bureau meeting and the conference in Tallinn, as “when EU institutions go to Member States, it makes the EU real”. In a meeting the day before, he awarded the EESC President with an Estonian e-residency. The Deputy Minister then presented the priorities of incoming Estonian Presidency of the Council of the EU, which included an open and innovative European economy, more safety and security in Europe, a crosscutting focus on digital Europe as well as mobility, inclusion and sustainability.
“It is enormously important to get trade negotiations right. We need to engage with our main trade partners,” Mr Maasikas declared. He stated that Estonia will support the objectives of EU neighbourhood policy and that the Eastern Partnership will also be a main focus during the 2nd half of 2017, with the EU Summit which will be held in November. The EESC Plenary will continue the debate with him on the Presidency’s priorities during its Plenary on 5-6 July.
The event continued with a debate on cybersecurity with Kadri Kaska, Senior Analyst in the Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence in Estonia, who presented the realities of the digital society. She discussed with the EESC Members the role of state on cybersecurity – and what can be learned from Estonia as a successful ‘test case’.
“Digital Estonia is a reality; low-tech is no longer a possibility,” Ms Kaska said. “For more than 15 years, digital has proven that it is beneficial to society and the economy – it brings about business efficiency, access to markets and customers, transparency, and lower bureaucratic burden for citizens. Its value is estimated at 20 percent of GDP and it is saving Estonia 2% of GDP each year.”
Cybersecurity is about protecting values, and securing trust in ICT, the EESC members concluded. They stated that the state cannot consider itself an island and that the digital way of life is about an interconnectedness between government, citizens and business. “Cybersecurity is not just about protecting technology, but protecting our way of life in the broader sense”, Ms Kaska concluded.