Rules of Procedure of the European Economic and Social Committee
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) is a consultative body of the European Union (EU). In the European decision-making process, the Committee must be consulted by the Council, the Commission or the Parliament in a number of areas. It may also deliver own-initiative opinions whenever this seems appropriate.
Article 303 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (EU) confers upon the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) the power to self-regulate. These rules of procedure establish the functioning and organisation of the EESC.
In accordance with Article 300 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, the Committee consists of representatives of organisations of employers and of the employed. It also includes representatives of civil society, notably in socio-economic, civic, professional and cultural areas.
Moreover, the members are proposed by the governments of the Member States and are appointed by the Council, for five years. Their number cannot exceed 350.
THE COMMITTEE'S CONSTITUENT WORKING BODIES
It consists of:
- the President and the two Vice-Presidents;
- the three Group Presidents (Group I: employers; Group II: employees; Group III: various economic and social interests);
- the six section Presidents;
- a variable number of members, which cannot exceed the number of Member States.
The President is elected from among the members of the three Groups and the Vice-Presidents are elected from among the members of the two Groups to which the President does not belong. They are elected for a period of two years, in accordance with the principle of group rotation.
The Bureau's chief tasks are as follows:
- it lays down the organisation and working procedures of the Committee and has political responsibility for its general management;
- together with the President of the Committee, it exercises the budgetary and financial powers provided for in the Financial Regulation and the Committee's Articles of Procedure;
- it lays down the Implementing Provisions of the Rules of Procedure, whose interpretation it clarifies;
- every six months it examines, on the basis of a report drawn up for this purpose, the action taken on opinions delivered by the Committee.
The Presidency and the President
The Presidency (the President and the two Vice-Presidents) meets with the Group Presidents to prepare the work of the Bureau and the assembly.
The President, elected for two and a half years, directs the work of the Committee. He involves the Vice-Presidents in his activities on a permanent basis. He represents the Committee in its external relations. He reports to the Committee on action and measures taken on its behalf. After his election, he presents his work programme for his term of office at the plenary assembly and presents a review of achievements at the end of his term.
The specialised sections
The Committee comprises six specialised sections:
- Agriculture, Rural Development and the Environment;
- Economic and Monetary Union and Economic and Social Cohesion;
- Employment, Social Affairs and Citizenship;
- External Relations;
- Single Market, Production and Consumption;
- Transport, Energy, Infrastructure and the Information Society.
Other sections may be set up by the plenary assembly on a proposal from the Bureau, in the fields covered by the Treaties. Apart from the President, every member of the Committee must be a member of at least one specialised section and a maximum of two (with exceptions). The members of the sections are appointed by for two and a half years.
The task of the specialised sections is to draw up opinions or information reports on questions referred to them. They may set up from among their members a study group or drafting group or appoint a rapporteur working alone. The rapporteur is responsible for preparing opinions and monitoring action taken on opinions by the European institutions, once the opinion has been adopted in plenary session.
For some subjects, especially those where different specialised section remits overlap, the Committee may set up ad hoc sub-committees. These subcommittees operate in the same way as the specialised sections and their draft opinions are submitted directly to the Committee for discussion.
The observatories, hearings, experts
The Committee may set up observatories when the nature, extent and specific character of the subject to be dealt with calls for particular flexibility in terms of the working methods, procedures and instruments to be used.
Likewise, if an issue under discussion is of sufficient importance, the various bodies and working units of the Committee may invite guest speakers from outside the Committee to a hearing.
Finally, the President may appoint experts to clarify technical questions posed by the activities.
The consultative commissions
The Committee has the option of setting up consultative commissions. These commissions are made up of members of the Committee and of delegates from areas of civil society that the Committee wishes to involve in its work.
Dialogue between the EU’s social and economic organisations and third countries
Because of its specific mission, the Committee may maintain structured relations with economic and social councils and similar institutions and with civil society organisations in the European Union and third countries. The Committee appoints the delegations responsible for maintaining these relations.
The groups and categories
The Committee is made up of three Groups representing respectively employers, employees and the various other economic and social components of organised civil society. The Groups elect their Presidents and Vice-Presidents. They participate in the preparation, organisation and coordination of the business of the Committee.
- The Employers' Group (Group I) has members from private and public sectors of industry, small businesses, chambers of commerce, wholesale and retail trade, banking and insurance, transport and agriculture.
- The employees' group (Group II) has members from national trade union organisations, both at the level of confederations and that of sectoral federations.
- The group including the other components of civil society (Group III) consists of members of farmers' organisations, consumers' organisations, small businesses, the crafts sector, liberal professions and NGOs in the field of social protection and environmental protection.
Members of the three groups of the Committee may, on a voluntary basis, form categories representing the various economic and social components of organised civil society in the European Union.
PROCEDURE OF THE COMMITTEE
Consultation of the Committee
The Committee produces opinions requested by the Council, the Commission or the European Parliament.
The Committee may also deliver opinions on its own initiative, information reports or resolutions on any question pertaining to the tasks assigned to the European Union.
Furthermore, the Committee’s opinions set out its position on the issue referred to it. They are generally accompanied by concrete proposals. In its opinions, the Committee defends the interests of civil society in particular, which it represents at European level.
Work of the specialised sections
When an opinion or information report is to be produced, the Bureau designates the specialised section that is to be responsible for preparing the work in question.
The rapporteur, assisted where appropriate by one or more co-rapporteurs and an expert, studies the question referred, collect the views expressed and, on this basis, compile the draft opinion, which is sent to the specialised section for discussion and approval by voting.
Proceedings of the plenary sessions
The Committee meets in plenary assembly during the different sessions (ten sessions each year as a rule). The Committee's plenary assembly adopts its opinions on the basis of the opinions of the specialised sections and sends them to the Council, the Commission and the European Parliament.
The draft agenda is drawn up by the Bureau on a proposal from the Presidency in collaboration with the Group Presidents. It is sent to all Committee members and to the Council, the Commission and the European Parliament. It is submitted for approval by the assembly before the opening of the relevant session.
Opinions adopted by the Committee and minutes of Committee sessions are sent to the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission. They are published in the Official Journal of the European Union. Regardless of the legal basis for consultation (mandatory or optional referral) the Committee's opinions are a legally necessary component in the Council's final decisions.
Methods of voting
Except where otherwise provided, adoption of the texts and decisions of the Committee and its constituent bodies shall be by a majority of the votes. Voting is by open ballot, by recorded vote, or by secret ballot.
The urgency procedure
Where the urgency results from a deadline for the submission of its opinion imposed on the Committee, the urgency procedure may be applied. The President may, immediately and without consulting the Bureau beforehand, take all requisite steps to enable the Committee to carry out its work. He informs the members of the Bureau of the steps which he takes.
Publication and distribution of Committee texts
The Committee publishes its opinions in the Official Journal of the European Union. Likewise, the names of the members of the Committee, its Bureau and its specialised sections are published in the Official Journal.
The Secretary-General of the Committee is responsible for taking the measures necessary to guarantee the public's right of access to the corresponding documents. Any citizen of the European Union may write to the Committee in one of the official languages and receive a reply written in the same language
Plenary sessions and meetings of the specialised sections are public. Moreover, the members of the European institutions may attend and address meetings of the Committee and its.
This summary is for information only. It is not designed to interpret or replace the reference document, which remains the only binding legal text.
- The website of the European Economic and Social Committee