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 TTIP negotiations entered a critical year in 2016. The EESC therefore decided to draw up an own-initiative opinion on specific key issues of the TTIP, which details its position expressed in previous opinions and analyses how previous EESC opinions related to TTIP have been taken into account in the EU proposals currently available to the public. In this opinion, the EESC, stressing its institutional role, makes the following recommendations.
The TTIP negotiations are creating new momentum for increased regulatory cooperation with higher expectations. Therefore the Committee notes with satisfaction greater place given in the EU proposal to the pursuit of public policy objectives and a high level of protection in a number of identified fields. It also notes positively that regulatory cooperation will not be used to adopt legal acts nor will replace any domestic regulatory procedures. The EESC however calls for the Chapter on good regulatory practices not to limit parties' right to regulate or introduce procedures equivalent to the US notice-and-comment process. In addition, the EESC asks the European Commission to clarify the arrangements for representative stakeholders' involvement, in particular the social partners and civil society representatives.
The EESC considers that the proposals on standardisation, technical regulations, marking and labelling must be considered as important offensive interests of the European Union. It takes note of the important provisions regarding transparency. However, it calls for the concerns of the EU standardisation bodies CEN/CENELEC regarding the risk of mutual recognition of voluntary standards to be taken into account and for more detailed work in the field of marking and labelling requirements. The EESC also calls for further reassurances regarding the application of the precautionary principle.
The EESC recognises the importance of trade facilitation, in particular for small firms, and welcomes the European Commission's proposed Chapter but it calls for further simplification of customs procedures for small packages and for clarification of the rules regarding penalties and responsibility for breach of customs legislation.
The EESC welcomes the meaningful commitments made by the EU in the Chapter on services and reiterates its calls for increased market access at federal and state level, for enhanced regulatory cooperation – in the recognition that market access depends also on it – and its request to preserve public services in accordance with the TFEU.
The EESC welcomes the comprehensive and detailed scope of the Commission proposal on trade and sustainable development. It recalls, however, that the actual value of these provisions depends primarily on the possibility of effectively enforcing them. The EESC calls for an effective enforcement mechanism and a strong monitoring mechanism via civil society.
The EESC welcomes the proposal aiming to reform the investment protection system and the objective of establishing a permanent multilateral investment court that replaces private arbitration tribunals. However, the EESC still sees some critical points of concern as listed in the opinion to be addressed. It also asks the European Commission to draw up an impact assessment covering both the cost and the functioning of the new investment court system.