The EESC and the CoR are advisory bodies of the EU. In practice, this means that they give their opinions to the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers during the legislative process. The Committees thus involve regional and local authorities as well as societal and economic actors in the decision making process and express their views on all common policies concerning them. This is showed by the picture below.
The EESC was set up under the Treaty of Rome (1957) as a consultative representation for civil society and ‘social’ interests, at the European institutions. It must be consulted by the decision-making bodies of the EU – the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament – in certain areas, as provided by the Treaties. The EESC can also assist and advise the European Commission when the proposals for laws are drafted. The institutions may also consult the EESC in other areas if they find it appropriate. Finally, the EESC may issue an opinion itself, if it considers that there is a need to express interests of the economic and societal groups that it represents (Moussis, 2008, p. 59).
The CoR was founded much more recently under the Treaty on European Union in 1994. It must be consulted by the Council, the Parliament and the Commission on matters related to employment, environment, education, vocational training, culture, public health, European networks, structural funds and social matters, as provided by the Treaties. It may be consulted in other areas if the Council and the Commission find it appropriate. It can also issue an opinion by itself, if it thinks that regional interests are at stake (Moussis, 2008, p. 59).
Now read the two short passages below describing the composition and the work of the EESC and the CoR. Notice the similarity in the make up of the two and the policy areas on which they contribute.
The opinions of the EESC and the CoR are not binding, which means that the Council and the Parliament may or may not take them into consideration (Moussis, 2008, p. 59). Both the EESC and the CoR have a limited influence in the EU. This is for several reasons:
- The EESC and the CoR do not have to be consulted on all issues on which the EU legislates.
- When they are consulted their opinions carry little influence and do not have to be adopted by the Council and Commission.
- The EESC and the CoR are only one of the ways in which the interests that they represent can influence EU legislation. Many feel that direct lobbying of the Council and the Commission can be more productive than advocacy through the EESC and the CoR.