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 single market has been a great achievement. The EU needs to make sure citizens are aware that many of the very real benefits they have enjoyed in the past 25 years as consumers, business owners or workers are the result of the single market. This will help rally the support needed to make it fit for the digital era, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) argues in its response to the European Commission's assessment of the state of play of the single market.
The single market has brought very tangible benefits to European citizens, estimated to amount to 8.5% of EU GDP: affordable air travel, the end of roaming charges, enhanced job opportunities in a continent-wide labour market, consumer rights that offer a high level of protection across borders.
For European companies, the single market has meant opportunities to scale up and expand their activities across the EU. Globally, it has given Europe the leverage of a 512-million-strong market, as recently shown by international efforts to comply with the General Data Protection Regulation. There are plenty of examples. Proof of its importance can also be found in the Brexit debate in the UK, which, to a large extent, has revolved around it.
The single market must also be perceived as an opportunity to reassert European values and rights: The values of freedom, economic growth, democracy, peace, science and innovation, political stability, consumer and social rights must always be present in citizens' minds. They are enablers of progress and prosperity for all Member States and citizens, says opinion rapporteur Gonçalo Lobo Xavier.
The very concrete achievements of the single market, if brought to the attention of the public, can be an antidote against growing protectionism, individualism and extremism. The single market affects everyone, and that's what makes it so powerful,says opinion co-rapporteur Juan Mendoza Castro, We need to combat populist and nationalist threats, which are on the rise in Europe, and the single market is one of the best tools we have to counter these messages.
The EESC also focuses on the EU's competition policy. Its rules limiting state aid and fighting against abuse of dominant positions have been a source of dynamism for the European market and benefits for European consumers and businesses. However, in the face of harsh global competition from (sometimes state-owned) oligopolies or monopolies, the EU should demand reciprocity from its trade partners to help European companies vie for markets.
All this should help enlist the necessary support to rise to the challenges ahead and carry out the reforms needed to adapt the single market to the changing reality.
The Commission found that while 80% of regulatory barriers for industrial products had been removed, inconsistent or weak enforcement of common rules was still a challenge and so was ensuring that the rules would be fit for purpose in a rapidly changing world.
Above all, the further integration advances, the more politically challenging every extra mile becomes , the Commission says in the Communication. Even when they express support for market integration or for further harmonisation, Member States often promote only their domestic rules as the basis for European rules.
With this opinion the EESC welcomes the Commission's strong message on reinforcing the Single Market and the need for commitment from all Member States and citizens. The EESC calls for a Single Market that must be perceived as an opportunity to reassert European values, fundamental rights and duties to achieve progress and welfare for all Member States and citizens. Values like liberty, economic growth, democracy, peace, science and innovation, political stability, consumers and social rights must be present in citizens' mindset as a result of a process that started 60 years ago.