The Economic and Social Committee (ESC) has just published an Information Report on the evaluation of the PHARE programme (economic aid to certain countries of Central and Eastern Europe). Its overall assessment is positive, but a range of improvements are suggested. On the credit side, the Committee highlights the Commission's dynamism in seeking to make the programme's management more efficient, in particular by replacing the initial annual programmes with multi-annual ones. Among areas requiring improvement, the Committee points to the need for cooperation between businesses in the EU and those of the PHARE countries. The need is real, since in the past, the socio-occupational groups of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe had little knowledge of the priorities, workings and even opportunities for access to programmes funded by the Commission. A further problem highlighted is that, until now, the PHARE programmes have concentrated on the public sector of the countries concerned, to the detriment of the private sector. In order to redress the situation, the Committee recommends that: - The Commission should ensure closer cooperation between its Directorate-General responsible for external political relations and the other services involved; - The views of the socio-occupational organizations should carry greater weight in the process of defining and following up the PHARE programme; - The selection procedures for awarding contracts to businesses should be more transparent; - Short-term counselling by Community experts should be replaced by a long-term effort in conjunction with local experts in key areas (such as legislative preparation for membership); - "PHARE Centres" should be set up in the countries in question, to disseminate expert reports and information on Community legislation. The ESC is willing to hold periodic meetings with the PHARE countries' socio-occupational organizations in order to hear their concerns and pass on to them the benefit of its own experiences.