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.
In the run-up to the EU-Western Balkans Summit, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) met with Montenegrin civil society on 7 December 2023 to take stock of the country's accession progress, and in particular its public administration reform. The participants raised concerns about the weakening capacity of the country's public administration to respond to the growing demands of the EU agenda. However, with the new government, there is a window of opportunity for the necessary reforms to move forward in the accession negotiations.
The meeting, which took place within the EU-Montenegro Joint Consultative Committee (JCC) framework, was the first since the election of the new EESC president, Oliver Röpke, and his initiative to open the doors of the EESC to candidate countries and involve their representatives in the work of the Committee.
Welcoming this EESC decision, in line with the new enlargement methodology, Gordana Đurović, co-chair from the Montenegrin side said: The EU-MNE JCC lives with the challenges of the European integration of Montenegro and contributes to the strengthening of public debates with key stakeholders inclusively and transparently. The Montenegrin members of the JCC look forward to participating in the EESC's "Enlargement Candidate Members (ECMs)" initiative – an important step forward in including the vibrant civil societies from the enlargement countries, which are the beating heart of the EU integration project.
EESC member and co-chair from the EU side, Decebal-Ștefăniță Padure said: In this mandate of the JCC, we look forward to working closely together with our Montenegrin counterparts and to see the country steadily advance towards EU membership. Organised civil society from both the EU and Montenegro will do everything possible to positively contribute to this common goal.
Further to the Commission's recent report on Montenegro, EESC president Oliver Röpke said: Montenegro has always been a frontrunner in the EU enlargement process. I have full trust that it will continue on this path with the new government in place. We need clear commitments and action; I cannot stress this enough: for any functioning democracy, strong civil society is crucial. More than ever, Montenegrin civil society can count on our unwavering and active support.
Maida Gorčević, Minister for European Affairs, Government of Montenegro, underlined: When the government is sincerely committed to seeking open and transparent dialogue, and interest-based bargaining without political calculation, we have a win-win situation between partners and political opponents, where we can freely share the responsibility and credit for opening up new prospects in the accession negotiations.
Discussing the "Fundamentals" cluster of the EU accession process, the members of the JCC highlighted the importance of public administration reform, especially in terms of cooperation with civil society. They urged the Montenegrin authorities to swiftly change the current legislative framework, a call which was clearly reflected in the declaration published following the meeting.
In particular, they called for this legislative review process to include the Law on the Prevention of Corruption, which treats representatives of the social partners and civil society organisations as public officials, solely because they have been formally appointed by the government.
This, as they claim, is in contradiction with their mission to represent the interests of the organised social partners, putting in jeopardy their autonomy and independence as non-governmental and non-profit organisations.
The Declarationwill be distributed to the Montenegrin authorities and to all relevant EU institutions.
The JCC is a civil society platform established between the EESC and Montenegrin civil society. The first meeting was hosted by the EESC on 2 October 2012. This joint institution allows civil society organisations on both sides to monitor the country's accession negotiations. It is also a platform to discuss issues of common interest and to inform the public at large on the challenges ahead during the accession period.