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Brussels, 30 May 2011

Statement of Commissioner Štefan Füle following his meeting with Staffan Nilsson, President of the European Economic and Social Committee

Today, I met with Staffan Nilsson, President of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC). We discussed the importance of dialogue with civil society in the countries covered by the Enlargement and the Neighbourhood Policies.

I am fully aware of the role of the EESC in rallying civil society behind the cause of European integration and in transmitting good practices to candidate, potential candidate and neighbouring countries through joint consultative committees and civil society fora. The Committee is at the centre of the European Union's efforts to export the European model of social dialogue.

It is essential that all EU institutions work in close contact and build on the input of local civil society while preparing for the EU membership of all countries currently in the pipeline and while accompanying all neighbourhood countries during their process of rapprochement with the EU. This will help the EU benefit from the feedback of citizens and ensure a deep-rooted acceptance of the values of the European Union in the Western Balkans, Iceland, Turkey and the European Neighbourhood.

The work of the EESC allows civil society organisations to be in a position to assess to what extent legislation is being implemented in their country on the ground. Pre-accession should also be a process of preparation for the whole society.

I thanked President Staffan Nilsson for the role that the EESC played and for his interest in the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) Review. We agreed to cooperate closely with the EESC on delivery of the strategic ENP Review objectives.

Our new ENP approach aims for a new level of commitment, particularly as regards our ambition for stronger partnerships with societies, greater differentiation and our agenda to implement ambitious political and economic reforms with our neighbours.

I also thanked the EESC for its proposal to organise seminars for Civil Society organisations to assess progress in the implementation of action plans. I very much hope to continue the good working relations which the Commission has built with the EESC in the fields of Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy.

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