In this section, you will learn about the evolution of powers and identities of the advisory bodies of the European Union: the Committee of Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee.
First. you will learn what the Committees are and you will find out about their historical origins. Then, we will look at their functions, as originally envisioned in the Treaties: the advisory role in the decision-making process. We will also discuss whether they add value to the process. You will find out how they had to adjust their roles and identities in a struggle for powers with other institutions or even a struggle for survival.
As you remember from the introductory unit, the EU institutions are evolving along a European integration continuum. The same applies to the advisory bodies. While the Economic and Social Committee was created by the original Treaties, the Committee of the Regions was added formally by the Maastricht Treaty (1992) to respond to European integration matters (Moussis, 2008, p. 56).
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) represents the interests of various economic and social groups: the Employers Group, the Workers Groups and Various Interest Groups (representatives of agriculture, small trades, enterprises, consumer associations, ecological movements etc. (Moussis, 2008, p. 58). Its origins are to be found in the French notion of consulting social partners, such as trade unionists and employers, on proposals of legislation (Nello, 2009, p. 65). The members of the Committee are not selected by the groups that they represent, but are chosen by the governments of the 28 Member States (Moussis, 2008, p. 59). The 344 members meet nine times per year for 2-day meetings. Their work is co-ordinated by a President and a bureau that are elected among its members for two and a half years (McCormick, 2011 B, 249).
Watch the video ‘Presentation of the European Economic and Social Committee‘ to better understand who the members are.
How do the members function as the ‘bridge between Europe and organised civil society’?
In what ways, if any, can they represent our opinions better than the MEPs?
The Committee of Regions (CoR) represents regional and local interests. It was created to deal with regional economic disparities. It consists of 344 members proposed by the Member States governments and is appointed by the Council (Moussis, 2008, p. 59). The members of the CoR are local government officials such as mayors and regional, district, and county councils governors. They meet in plenary sessions five times a year (McCormick, 2011 B, p. 250).
Watch the video below and consider how does the CoR define its role?