EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

European Economic and Social Committee

Definition

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) is an EU-level institution that serves to give representatives of economic, social and civic organisations within the Member States a formal platform to express their points of view on EU issues. Its opinions are addressed to the Council, the European Commission and the European Parliament and thus it has a key role to play in the EU's decision-making process.

Regulatory aspects

The main task of this advisory body – which was set up by the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community in 1957 – is to assist the European Council and the European Commission by acting in an advisory capacity (Article 13(4), Treaty on European Union).

The EESC consists of 350 members, who are appointed for a renewable five-year term of office. Members are nominated by national governments and appointed by the Council of the European Union. The number of members per country is in proportion to the country’s population; however, members are independent and perform their duties in the interest of all EU citizens. They work in three groups, representing 1. employers 2. workers and 3. various interests (‘Diversity Europe’) – farmers, the professions, consumers, etc.

Many treaty provisions require the consultation of the Committee during the preparation of EU measures, particularly measures of a legislative nature. In addition, the Commission, the Council and the European Parliament can request the Committee’s opinion in all cases where they deem it appropriate to do so. Finally, the Committee can issue opinions on its own initiative. It is also seeking to broaden its contact with civil society organisations and supports the development of civil society in the Member States and candidate countries. It organises several annual initiatives and events such as the Civil Society Prize, the Civil Society Days, the Your Europe, Your Say youth plenary and the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) Day.

The consultative role of the Committee enables its members and the organisations they represent to participate in the EU’s decision-making processes. Reaching an agreement often requires negotiations that involve not only the social partners but also other categories of economic and social activity in organised civil society, such as 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 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

 

Please note: the European industrial relations dictionary is updated annually. If errors are brought to our attention, we will try to correct them.

 

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