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.
Piroska Kállay is a member of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) from the Workers' Group, representing Medosz, the Trade Union of Agriculture, Forestry, Food and Water Supply Workers in Hungary. She is currently one of the members of the NAT section and her work focuses in particular on environmental protection and the territorial development of rural areas.
What drives you to be an active and engaged EESC and NAT Section Member? How do you make the link with your work (and your life) back home?
Many years ago, I chose the legal career because I really wanted to help people understand certain situations in the real life. Working as a legal adviser, I strongly believe that labor law is one of the disciplines that can definitely help people. For me, that is the essence of union work as well.
The EESC, as the EU body of organized civil society, gives the possibility to people to make their voices heard. Therefore, we members can mediate the voice of civil society to the European institutions, which is a huge opportunity to bring people closer to the EU.
The core issues of the NAT section, including rural development, cover a very wide sphere of interest of my organization, which represents workers from the Hungarian Trade Union of Agriculture, Forestry, Food and Water Supply Workers. I can directly see the difficulties and challenges faced by people working out of town. I think we can really remedy the problems if we discuss them with as many stakeholders as we can.
We believe that Europe will be reborn in the countryside. In particular, the renaissance of Europe is to be found in a balanced rural/urban relationship. We experience the significance of this both in theory and in practice. When we’re looking for the attractiveness of the countryside, we have to ask ourselves the question: do we want only to live in the countryside or also to make a living from new job opportunities in rural areas? I believe that creating the right quantity and quality of jobs is essential for the countryside to flourish.
In each aspect of rural development, job creation must be kept in mind, be it agriculture, its multifunctionality, or culture and preservation of traditions, as these are all factors that strongly determine the rural life. Thanks to the NAT section's priorities, we work on this issue at the European level with several stakeholders contributing to the EU decision-making process.
You have been recently the Rapporteur for an EESC information report on the Common Agricultural Policy's (CAP) impact on the territorial development of rural areas. What is your take on the new CAP, especially when it comes to its social dimension?
As rapporteur of the information report on the CAP's impact on the territorial development of rural areas, I therefore reported back on what was strongly highlighted by the participants or respondents regarding the CAP. Social conditionality was one of these elements. This issue obviously raised a debate within our Section, but consultation with stakeholders indeed confirmed that there is a real need to emphasize the social dimension of the CAP.
While CAP subsidies have been so far rightly conditional on respect for basic environmental standards, public health and animal welfare, compliance with human and labour rights has played unfortunately no role in the allocation of direct payments. This is why the CAP has failed to improve agricultural workers’ conditions. The inclusion of social conditionality in the new CAP is much welcome and should help to ensure that compliance with labour and social laws is needed in order to receive any CAP funding.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced many people to return to villages. As I mentioned before, there is a need to create plenty of job opportunities in rural areas as soon as possible. Job creation in rural areas is also an important step in preparing for future pandemics because it can prevent severe damage to the economy. Strengthening the agricultural sector, encouraging non-farm activities, establishing service sector companies and clean energy industries in rural areas can contribute to job creation.
You have also been active on climate action and environmental protection both at the EESC and in your trade union back home. What has been your pledge on the EU Climate Pact day of action?
Our members are concerned about climate change and want our organisation to be active on environmental issues. We strongly believe that making workplaces sustainable can save jobs and money. We always emphasize that changes in working methods and procedures need to be assessed for their environmental impact. Negotiations on environmental and energy issues are therefore of utmost importance. Environmental improvements can make workplaces healthier, safer, less stressful and more comfortable places to work by maximising natural daylight, improving heating and ventilation controls and air quality. With each step we take, we try to get involved in the fight against climate change and we are committed to reduce our environmental footprint.
Our members’ idea was to place beehives on some our factory buildings and to plant trees that give nectar in parking lots . Through this initiative, we create a more liveable environment for employees and we also obtain honey to give to our staff. I believe that this is a good way to stress that it is important for everybody to protect the environment.