This morning the Committee hosted the third Western Balkans Civil Society Forum. The opening key note speaker was Michael Leigh, Director-General for Enlargement in the European Commission, who was followed notably by Montenegro Ambassador Andrija Pejovic, before a series of thematic workshops addressed such issues as the implementation of economic and social rights and the reinforcement of the role of civil society organisations. In parallel, in different meeting rooms on the same floor, the EESC’s Budget Group and Communication Group were meeting. The latter was discussing, among other things, a possible mission statement for the Committee. The draft speaks of the Committee’s three roles. The first, explicitly Treaty-based, role is to provide opinions on legislative proposals or at the request of the institutions. The second, more implicitly Treaty-based, role concerns the growing concept of participatory democracy and the need for structured and regular dialogue with civil society (I’ve written quite a lot about this on the blog in the past). The third role is not Treaty-based but is nevertheless of growing importance. Increasingly the Committee is looked to by the other institutions – and particularly the Commission – to ‘look after’ the civil society aspects of external relations, whether in the enlargement context or bilateral or regional relations or, indeed, trade and development. This morning’s forum was a good illustration of that third role.