EESC Plenary Session 22 and 23 February in Brussels

Section: Engagement in EuropeType: News Item Date Published: 10th March 2017

ALLIANCE Director, Irene Oldfather, provides an update on her role as Third Sector representative at the EESC.

The EESC held its Plenary Session on the 22-23 February in Brussels, unfortunately overlapping with the Gathering but placing at the heart of its agenda issues around future directions for the EESC.

The ongoing commitment to tackling Poverty and Inequalities was again highlighted through the Balon Report which was approved.

Reports on how to ensure high quality further education for all and the decarbonisation of transport in the EU were also discussed and approved.

On the evening of the 22 I was pleased to participate in a discussion held with the Young Professionals in Foreign Policy group. The implications of the Brexit vote was high on the agenda with young professionals from Scotland, Northern Ireland and London, raising questions about democracy and the meaning of democratic legitimacy.

The discussion that followed centred around how to balance the narrow majority for Leave in the whole of the UK with the clearer majorities for Remain in Scotland, Northern Ireland and London. There is a need to ensure the voices of the devolved nations and London are heard in the Brexit negotiations.

In addition, the democratic justification of not allowing 16 and 17 year olds or expats to vote in the referendum was debated. Expats, especially those living in the EU will be directly affected by the vote to leave the EU and the fact that they were not consulted was the source of lively debate and opinion in the meeting.

Third Sector Representative on EESC Irene Oldfather with other speakers and Young Foreign Policy Professionals Brussels.

Along with other Scottish members of the EESC Committee representing Employers, Workers and the Various Interests I had the pleasure of meeting the new Head of Office, Mike Neilson at Scotland House in Brussels.  Discussions centred around how Scottish members could more effectively engage and link up representation in Brussels to ongoing Government and Parliamentary work in Scotland, particularly in the light of a potential Brexit and its implications for Scotland. This discussion opened up new avenues to explore and the members will look to build on this fruitful first meeting in the future.

Next morning, the Committee debated the future of the EESC Committee. The discussion and debate which ensued highlighted the need to make the committee more representative going forward. There was a good deal of debate about how to achieve a higher level of representation from women, people with disabilities and young people and to move forward to a position where the Committee’s opinions were followed up and had greater impact.

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