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International Internet Magazine. Baltic States news & analytics Thursday, 20.06.2019, 10:28

The voice of European workers: mission of change in EESC

Eugene Eteris, European Studies Faculty, RSU, BC International Editor, Copenhagen, 06.11.2018.Print version
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC, often called EcoSoc) is the second-oldest institution in the history of the European Union after the European Parliament. It has been seen as a “voice of European workers” in the EU’s bureaucracy. There are seven Latvians, six Estonians and 9 Lithuanians to take part in its activities.

Eugene Eteris. BC.

The Committee has been struggling for decades to represent workers’ interests in the EU’s decision-making. Although with a consultancy and coordinating status (so-called “advisory status”), EcoSoc was quite influential in numerous European socio-economic issues.

It successfully claimed the mantle of European workers and customers’ voice in Brussels.

Mr. L. Jahier, who’s been in Brussels since 2002 as a member of the committee, is determined to change the institution’s profile. Traditionally, it’s been seen as a voice of people at work (two-thirds of the committee is made up of employer and trade union representatives). Jahier also wants it known as an EU link to its grassroots. Luca Jahier took over as head of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) from April 2018.


EESC history and functions

The EESC was set up by the 1957 Rome Treaties to involve economic and social interest groups in the establishment of the common market and to provide an institutional structure for briefing the European Commission and the Council of Ministers on European Community issues.


Note. EESC takes into account in the conception of the EU common policies the interests of the various economic and social groups. Its 353 members are proposed by the governments of the member states.

There are three groups in EESC:

= the Employers' Group (known as "Group I"), which is made up of representatives of industry, banking or financial institutions, transport operators' federations, etc.;

= the Workers' Group (known as "Group II"), mainly composed of representatives of trade union organisations; and 

= the Various Interests Group (known as "Group III"), which comprises representatives of agriculture, skilled trades, small and medium-sized enterprises, the professions, consumer associations and organisations representing various interests, such as families or ecological movements.

However, the members of the Committee are not elected by the corresponding national groups but are appointed by the governments. There are 6 thematic sectors including that of EMU, Single Market, energy, transport, agriculture and employment.

The Committee must be consulted by the Council of Ministers or by the Commission in certain areas provided for by the Treaty on the functioning of the EU. The Committee may be consulted by these institutions in all cases where they consider it appropriate. Furthermore, the EESC may issue an opinion at its own initiative when it considers such action appropriate (see art. 304 TFEU). Whether they are requested by the Commission or the Council or issued at its own initiative, the Committee's Opinions are not binding on the institutions, a shortcoming that weakens their significance.

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The EESC fulfils three key missions:

  • helping to ensure that European policies and legislation tie in better with economic, social and civic circumstances on the ground, by assisting the European Parliament, Council and European Commission, making use of EESC members' experience and representativeness, dialogue and efforts to secure consensus serving the general interest;
  • promoting the development of a more participatory European Union, which is more in touch with popular opinion, by acting as an institutional forum representing, informing, expressing the views of and securing dialogue with organised civil society;
  • promoting the values on which European integration is founded and advancing, in Europe and across the world, the cause of democracy and participatory democracy, as well as the role of civil society organisations.

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EESC: towards more inclusion

Aside from pushing more generally for a “European Renaissance,” including the in-vogue EU slogan of “empowering and protecting,” he specifically wants the EESC to be more inclusive.

With Jahier’s election there are now two male Italian former journalists running EU institutions (the other is the Parliament’s Antonio Tajani). That’s twice the number of women leading EU institutions (Emily O’Reilly, the EU Ombudsman, is the only woman).

Jahier is beginning his push by appointing a female chief of staff – Alicja Magdalena Herbowska. He already works with two female vice presidents and a senior team that is majority female.

Mr. Jahier’s underlying argument is that the EU is losing the war of emotions in the wider world. In struggling to win as many hearts and minds the EU risks being unable to adapt to its broader political environment. “In addition to the justice – that women deserve the right to equal opportunities and an end to the gender pay gap – women are, in general, much more capable to develop and to put into practice emotional intelligence.

The EESC would like to use more efficiently the enormous reserves of good energy that women have to help the member states to build a new vision, a new positive capacity to re-engage in the states’ socio-economic development.



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