EU will not deliver on promises without democratic accountability

EESC Plenary session of 20-21 March 2013. (EESC Audiovisual library).

EESC Plenary session of 20-21 March 2013. (EESC Audiovisual library).

The two main advisory bodies of the European Union, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and the Committee of the Regions (CoR) expressed their anguish over the growing distance between Brussels and the Peoples of Europe. Last Thursday on the occasion of the plenary session of the EESC, its President Staffan Nielson invited Ramon Luis Valcárcel Siso, president of the Committee of the Regions in order to look at ways of developing political cooperation between the two Committees. Their joint aim is to make their voice better heard by the Brussels executives and  bureaucracy.

The two bodies felt they had to join forces in order to better serve the cause to build a Europe “of the people and for the people”. This was the logo of the EESC plenary. If today’s Europe corresponded to this ideal, EESC and CoR wouldn’t have felt the need to act together towards this end. Obviously this task is still undone and the gap grows fast.

“This would increase the efficiency and the impact of the advice that both EU consultative committees provide to the EU institutions”, stressed President Nilsson, who on several occasions during his mandate has pleaded for closer cooperation between the two Committees.

“The success of the European project depends on effective participation of all local, regional and civil society players in policy design and implementation and efficient coordination at all levels of governance”. This was the main recurring message in Thursday’s EESC plenary debates with the president of the CoR.

Currently, under a cooperation agreement, the CoR and the EESC share premises and pool logistics and translation resources for their advisory and operational work, arrangements which provide economies of scale.

The two presidents however do not confine their cooperation in drastically cutting down the operational costs of their respective organisations. They have much broader common targets. Probably the, most important of them is to make sure that the European Union exists and grows for the interests of the civil society. Obviously this is also a unaccomplished target.

Nilsson and Valcárcel Siso agreed that the EU had everything to gain by incorporating the two Committees’ recommendations into their policies and decisions, as those recommendations reflected the expectations and needs of society’s political and socio-economic players. Seemingly they both consider this task as far from accomplished. That’s why they joined forces towards this direction. In short increasing the democratic accountability within the EU is their major target.

“It is crucial that greater coordination of budgetary, financial, social and economic policies at EU level should be accompanied by greater democratic accountability”, said Valcárcel Siso. “The EU must use all the means and channels available to ensure that the people are heard and their needs met”.

In this way the two presidents, expressing authentically the civil society of the European Union member states’, pointed their finger to the fact that while the EU economies are obliged to accept very strict common economic rules, those who are to enforce those rules, lack any democratic legitimisation. If this is not remedied, the Union cannot last for long.

During the plenary session of EESC a number of its members noted that the EESC’s recommendations regarding the management of the economic and financial crisis, including the need to slow the pace of austerity, had not been heeded. Without local and regional authorities and civil society being seen as partners in the design and implementation of the European strategy, it would not deliver on its promises, the two presidents concluded.

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