The EESC in support of the ECI instrument
Many ECI organizers have already benifited from the European Economic and Social Committe’s (EESC) support infrastructure for ECIs. In the meantime the BUREAU of the EESC has deepened the question how it could further facilitate and help to improve the ECI instrument through an ECI Help Desk. This is a very important and welcomed step to make the ECI fully work. Please find the BUREAU’s note with more background information.
607th meeting – 17 September 2013
Subject: The EESC and European Citizens’ Initiatives (ECIs): project in support of the ECI instrument.
FOR DISCUSSION AND DECISION
The EESC’s position is set out in two opinions adopted in March and July 2010. In those two opinions, the Committee stresses its neutral approach towards the various ECIs and their policy goals, in order to give equal treatment to every initiative, not judging them for their respective content. This aims at preserving the Committee’s consultative role, by not anticipating the official position the Committee might take during the Commission’s evaluation phase. As a consultative body, the Committee’s approach to each initiative should be neutral, during its preparation phase and during signature collection. At the same time, it also proposes to deal with initiatives on two levels:
• As a facilitator for emerging initiatives, being a platform for dialogue and information, bringing together interested organisers or hosting meetings, in its role as the home of civil society;
• As an institutional mentor, offering the Commission its assistance in the evaluation phase of an ECI, by co-organising a public hearing, and/or drawing up an opinion on a successful ECI in time for the Commission’s evaluation, as part of its normal consultative function.
II. EESC actions so far
The following actions have been undertaken in recent years:
• Communicating the ECI process: the Committee has produced a pocket guide to the ECI, available in all EU languages (37 000 copies distributed so far).
• Conferences: A series of conferences and information events have taken place, including the first ECI Day, held in conjunction with the Committee of the Regions (CoR) on 31 March 2012. The second edition, now an annual event, was held on 9 April 2013 with an even wider group of partners from interested civil society organisations supporting the ECI concept. A series of regional information conferences were held throughout 2012, organised by EESC members with local partners.
• Meeting platform: The Committee has also offered its premises to ECI stakeholders, meeting to work on resolving practical problems that arose during the initial stages of initiatives. Group I has also held launch events for the ECI on the Single Communication Tariff Act and on High Quality European Education For All. Several ECIs have been invited to the EESC Plenary session at the initiative of the President.
III. Creation of an ad hoc group dealing with the ECI
As a first step, an ad hoc group of three members could be created in order to steer future EESC policy on ECIs in general. Its main task would be to propose to the Bureau specific actions to be implemented by the EESC during the remainder of the 2010-2015 term, with specific target dates.
IV. Implementation of specific actions
Proposals for concrete operational recommendations for actions could focus on, for example:
• stepping up communication efforts by EESC members at local and national level
• continuing distribution of the ECI Guide
ECI support actions
• supporting on-going civil society initiatives in support of the ECI process;
• giving visibility to ECIs through invitations to plenary sessions and section meetings;
• offering to host ECI meetings, based on agreed policy criteria;
• continuing the annual ECI Day in order to position the EESC as the platform to discuss progress and necessary steps for revision.
Feasibility of an ECI Helpdesk
• offering more EESC support to organisers of ECIs, such as
• advice on networking, campaigning and IT problems;
• support on legal questions (whether the proposed ECI is within the competence of the European Commission);
• translation support: offering to translate the 800-character description into the 24 languages.
The group could examine the operational needs in terms of human and financial resources for setting up such an ECI helpdesk in the future.
Revision process in 2015
• how to support the revision process for the ECI regulation in 2015
• possibly making concrete reform proposals to the Commission ahead of its formal revision, drawing on the expertise and experience acquired in the first few years of operation
Secretarial support for the ad hoc group would be provided by the CSS unit.
The Bureau is asked to take note of this information memo and to set up an ad hoc group of three Committee members to steer EESC policy on ECIs.