Of the many institutions and agencies of the European Union, there are a couple that have always stood out as the ones that nobody really knows much about, don't seem particularly useful, and still receive big budgets. I know it might be an unfair description, but I am not questioning whether they actually do something useful, I am only arguing that what is done is not perceived as useful that is not saying the same thing. But as 'perception is reality', the difference becomes slightly blurred. Anyway, all this long introduction to say that, just to mention two that popped into my mind, the Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee clearly fall under this category.
Let's leave the Committee of Regions to one side for the moment (or maybe forever..).
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) is - as you all know, right? - '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'. I am not so sure about this last sentence actually, but if you look at its role - in this current anti-European climate - it seems an incredibly important body. It might have started as the liaison office between the Trade Unions, Employers Federations and the EU, but it has now a wider remit. It aspires to be the channel European citizens use to reach the larger institutions and the way for the EU to communicate and open a dialogue with European civil society. Is this not key at the moment? It is for me but, nonetheless, there isn't much talk about the initiatives the Committee is carrying out and the communication it does on such initiatives is not generating enough interest, if one excludes the people and the organisations that are directly linked to EESC projects. But, at least from a visual perspective, they are doing some pretty good things (yes, I did say it, so you see I am not always being negative?). A couple of examples.
This week the Committee has awarded the Civil Society prize, a prize that aims to 'reward excellence in civil society initiatives' in Europe; the three winners (from the UK, Portugal and Sweden) were captured in a video (6 minute-long) that described very well what the organisations do and hopefully can inspire others to start similar projects in their countries.
Here it is (and don't get put off by the still image of the EESC president!):
Another initiative that from my 'visual' angle is great is the Europe Past Forward video competition: amateur video producers are asked to send in a 2 minute video on what it means to be a citizen of the EU.
Here is the animated trailer for the 2013 submissions (56 seconds): original, good animations and, how can I put it, non-EU?
And finally, to give you an idea of the kind of videos that are sent in for the competition, here is the 2012 Belgian winner: simple, effective idea.
Are these not great ways to connect to European civil society? Maybe the theory is that the less power you have in the EU, the more creative you can be (discuss). Still, ten points for trying to be daring! Why then, when you mention the EESC (and of course if one uses the acronym it's even worse!), you get yawns in return?