The European Economic & Social Committee
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) is a consultative body of the European Union.
In short ( these are my words not the official description!!) before legislation and directives can be made the Committee should be consulted on the impacts of these regulations on civil society.
The Committee is made up of 350 members from across the 28 member states representing organised civil society. For this it is split into 3 Groups – the Employers ( of which I am a member) the Trade Unions and various Interests (academia, consumers, women groups, farmers ….basically everybody else! )
Our work is conducted through meeting around topics, called study groups, where policy can be influenced. Sometimes we are officially asked to comment, other times we chose to raise an issue of importance. However, the end result must be a consensus of the 3 Groups and is voted on by all the member at the plenary.
Each Member State government appoints their Members in different ways but officially the Member is independent of the views of the Government. My appointment was granted by the UK Prime Minister, but all members have to also be endorsed by the Council of Ministers. The position is an unpaid role where our expenses are reimbursed.
For further information on EESC www.eesc.europa.eu
My Role in the Committee
Being a woman in the EESC is probably the greatest challenge I face in my work. Although the EESC is a civil society body its structures are very male dominated and less than 22% of members are women! The majority of members represent large organisations and so fighting for the 98% small business sector is my second challenge! However , fortunately I love a challenge!
I am proud to have been a UK member of the Employers Group of the EESC for the past 10 years. The knowledge and experience I have gained from running my own businesses has proven invaluable within the Committee. It is rare that “real” entrepreneurs, particularly SMEs and additionally females, are represented within the Employers group of the EESC, and for this reason my insight into business start-up, entrepreneurship, education, skills and training and female empowerment through entrepreneurship together with the knowledge of international relations, have been welcomed. Additionally I bring the rare insight of minority representation, and the cultural challenges it poses.
I have written many opinions during my period of office, have participated in a wide range of study groups and am known to be one of the most active members of the EESC, both in terms of my proactive approach and my willingness to support the activities of the Committee.
At the same time I have brought the knowledge and information back from Brussels and spoken to UK groups, within schools, at seminars and conferences across the world representing business, women, the UK and the EESC opinions.
Working closely with the East Midlands Office in Brussels, and the sharing of networks, we have managed to attract key Commission representatives to the region for the promotion of business and civil society, and regular meetings with social partners, institutional officials and foreign ambassadors provides networks and opportunities to be utilised and consulted.
There is a strong recognition that whilst I have a minimum of formal qualification I have extensive knowledge of grass roots and civil society activities from across the globe and have a unique ability to transfer knowledge and learning to address key global challenges at local level.
Working at a high political level with the EU Commission, EU Parliament and the FCO and UK Perm Rep, as well as business organisations my communication and proactive nature have been encouraged to the point where I have supported the promotion of female Business Ambassadors and Young European Entrepreneurs and Have now been appointed to the Advisory Group of The Commissioner Antonio Tajani for Industrial Policy in the European Union.
For the majority of my missions I produce a mission report to share the findings of the meetings with others.