By financing training and anti-discrimination activities, the European social fund (ESF) contributes to reducing economic and social differences between EU countries, centring mainly on the poorest areas of Europe. Its mission is to help the most vulnerable groups in the labour market – older workers, women, the disabled, young people and ethnic minorities – to find jobs.
ESF projects cover a wide range of issues, from setting up training centres in Ireland for young people who have not finished their schooling, to creating programmes in Spain to help Roma people improve their job skills. One Austrian project has been helping ex-prisoners reintegrate into society: "The men and women who join the training course come from all walks of life. Many have a history of personal problems, such as drug-addition, debts, alcoholism, and have few qualifications” said Mr. Hanser-Mantl, responsible for the project.
Events are being organised throughout Europe to raise awareness of the opportunities offered by the ESF. A conference and an itinerant photographic exhibition are set to open on the anniversary date, 28-29 June, in Potsdam, Germany. The events will revisit the Fund's past achievements and showcase future projects for 2007-13. In the autumn, the exhibition will travel to Brussels, Malta, the UK and Portugal.