European Economic and Social Committee
The European Economic and Social Committee (ECOSOC/EESC) is a European-level institution, the purpose of which is to enable representatives of Member States’ economic, social and civic organisations to play an integral part in the process of shaping policy and decisions at Community level. The main task of this advisory body, set up by the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community in 1957, is to assist the Council and the Commission acting in an advisory capacity (Article 13(4) TEU). It consists of 344 members, who are appointed for four years by unanimous Council decision.
Many Treaty provisions require the consultation of the Committee during the preparation of Community measures, in particular those of a legislative nature. In addition, the Commission, the Council and the European Parliament can ask the Committee’s opinion in all cases where they deem it appropriate. Finally, the Committee has the competence to issue opinions on its own initiative. Increasingly, the Committee is engaging in the preparation of exploratory opinions independent or in advance of any regulatory initiative proposed by the Commission, and pays growing attention to broadening contacts with civil society organisations and supporting the development of civil society in the Member States and candidate countries.
The consultative role of the Committee enables its members, and the organisations they represent, to participate in the Community’s decision-making process. Reaching agreement often requires negotiations that involve the social partners but also other categories of economic and social activity in organised civil society, for example, farmers’ organisations, small businesses, organisations representing consumers, the crafts sector, the professions, social enterprises, the scientific and academic community and voluntary bodies. The provisions governing the Committee are set out in Articles 301-304 TFEU.