50 years of the EESC: look into the past for future inspiration

On 28th May 2008, 50 years after the creation of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), current EU leaders, former EESC presidents and young Europeans from different European countries gathered in Brussels for a commemorative plenary session to celebrate its birthday. This special plenary session included a discussion of young Europeans and EESC members on the challenges facing the European Union and the EESC.

The plenary session was opened by EESC President Dimitris Dimitriadis, who stressed that in the past 50 years, the EESC has played an important role as bridge between the European institutions and organised civil society providing a visible and tangible contribution to the European Union’s legislative process. He assured that the EESC will continue to work closely with the EU institutions and European citizens. 'One of the main challenges facing the EESC is to reinforce its presence in the debate on the future of Europe regarding the ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon and to make its work more transparent and more available for citizens', he said.

In his key address, Mr Hans-Gert Pöttering, President of the European Parliament, highlighted the great added value of the EESC opinions and its members as a major repository of expertise based on the local experience. He underlined the importance of solidarity in achieving European goals and of social dialogue at the European level. 'Our common task is to build a common future', stressed Mr Pöttering.

Youth Declaration: "The EESC and the future of the EU project: the youth perspective"

In the second part of the plenary session, EESC members and young Europeans (members of the European Youth Forum and EESC trainees) discussed the Youth Declaration, a document containing a vision for the future of the EU and the EESC projects. The young people called on the EU and the EESC to concentrate on issues such as globalisation, ageing population, climate change, sustainable development, and gender equality. They also called for reinforcing participatory democracy in a stronger partnership between all stakeholders in European governance. 'It is only by fostering synergies between stakeholders and political bodies that we can respond to the perceived democratic deficit and thus help to encourage Europeans to take ownership of the EU project', concludes the document.

What is the EESC?

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) is a consultative body that gives representatives of Europe's socio-occupational interest groups, and others, a formal platform to express their points of views on EU issues. Its opinions are forwarded to the larger institutions - the Council, the Commission and the European Parliament. It thus has a key role to play in the Union's decision-making process.