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The European Economic and Social Committee after enlargement

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Institutions of the Enlarged European Union: Continuity and Change
EditorsE Best, T Christiansen, P Settembri
Publisher or commissioning bodyEdward Elgar Publishing
Pages140-161
Number of pages21
ISBN (Print)9781849800334
DatePublished - Sep 2008

Abstract

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) was created by the Rome Treaty as an advisory committee to the European Commission and the Council of Ministers. It was thought at the time that decision-making in the socio-economic areas delegated to the EEC would profit from the advice of a committee composed of the main sectoral interests in these areas, such as management, labour, craft, and agricultural organisations. The institutional set-up of the EESC has not been substantially changed since, but it has had to compete increasingly with other fora of consultation which have often proved more efficient access channels for the interest groups concerned, such as specialised advisory committees in specific sectors, the European social dialogue procedure, or – simply – direct lobbying of the main Community Institutions. By the end of the 1990s, the EESC attempted (again) to re-invent itself; this time by stressing its role as representative of organised civil society in a European Union ever more in search of legitimacy. It is in this institutional context that one should place the EESC’s adjustment to the EU’s eastward enlargement since 2004. Like all EU institutions the EESC had to integrate a high number of new members from countries with a considerably different political, socio-economic and cultural background. Yet, the main changes that have occurred in the functioning and role of the Committee over the last years are not necessarily due to the accession of ‘new’ Member States (NMS). Over the last decade the EESC has also sought to overcome its marginalisation within the institutional framework of the EU by redefining its role and trying to change its working methods. The aim of this chapter is more specifically to identify the effects of enlargement on the EESC, but as our analysis below will show, it is not always easy or possible to disentangle institutional change related to enlargement from institutional change related to the broader EESC’s objective of redefining its role.
This chapter will first examine the formal adaptation of the EESC to enlargement through new legal provisions. Secondly, we will look at how enlargement has changed the composition of the EESC and its role as ‘representative of civil society’. Thirdly, beyond the formal procedural changes and the different composition of the EESC we will assess whether enlargement has influenced the daily internal functioning of the Committee; and finally, whether it has affected the Committee’s policy priorities.

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