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European Social Fund support for the European Employment Strategy

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This communication aligns the priorities of the European Social Fund (ESF), a financial instrument used to promote regional cohesion, with those of the European Employment Strategy (EES). It explains how the financial instrument supports the four main objectives for the improvement of the labour market in the European Union and underpins the commitments made by the Member States in their National Action Plans for employment.

ACT

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 16 January 2001 on European Social Fund support for the European Employment Strategy [COM(2001) 16 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

Regulation No 1784/1999 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 July 1999 redefined the priorities of the ESF proposed in Agenda 2000 and introduced the ESF programmes for the period 2000-2006. This communication explains how these priorities must be integrated into the objectives of the European Employment Strategy (EES).

It broadens the scope of the ESF, which ceases to be a training programme and becomes a strategic tool encompassing a wide range of measures for investment in human resources, acknowledged as the main driving force for economic growth. The ESF aims to coordinate national labour market policies in order to make them more effective and place the emphasis on job creation. The programmes focus on preventive measures, equal opportunities, social integration and access to information and communication technologies (ICT).

EUR 60 billion are allocated to the ESF for measures relating to the European Employment Strategy (EES) for the period 2000-2006.

The European Employment Strategy highlights four major areas: employability, entrepreneurship, adaptability and equal opportunities. Under Objectives 1 and 3, the ESF will support these areas in the following way:

  • Employability: about 60% of the European Social Fund's budget (EUR 34 billion) will be devoted to improving employability throughout the European Union. One third of this sum, i.e. almost EUR 11 billion, is set aside for combating social exclusion.
  • Entrepreneurship: this will receive EUR 8 billion from the ESF, which will provide the necessary stimulus for new businesses and job creation in the services sector.
  • Adaptability: almost EUR 11 billion will be invested in promoting the adaptability of Europe's working population, the main priorities being the development of continuing training, the use of ICT and activities for SMEs.
  • Equal opportunities: on account of the mainstreaming of equal opportunities throughout the EES, it is not possible to state the precise sum set aside for this pillar. However, the budget allocated to specific measures amounts to some EUR 4 billion.

In order to facilitate flexibility with regard to national priorities, the distribution of appropriations between the four pillars shows significant variations from one Member State to another.

The communication also shows how the ESF supports the National Action Plans (NAPs) in order to provide a springboard into the labour market rather than a safety-net and to act as catalyst for national policies on equal opportunities.

The participation of the EU candidate countries in the EES is a major priority. It is a question of identifying the priority areas where progress has to be made and showing how the Phare programme can provide its financial support. This programme supports projects in the field of employment and human resources development under its main strand Strengthening of institutional capacities and the specific action Economic and social cohesion. The special programme of preparation for the Structural Funds gives the candidate countries the resources to manage efficiently the appropriations granted by the Structural Funds.

The Commission is also improving the implementation of each programme through appropriate monitoring and evaluation and taking more account of the regional and local dimensions. It also has to coordinate the investments of the ESF and the other Structural Funds and consult the social partners, NGOs and other interested parties.

For the figures on ESF assistance between 2000 and 2006 and the country fiches, please consult the annexes to this communication, which also shows the measures taken between 1994 and 1999 and the ESF commitments for 2000-2006.

The publication of the Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities entitled The European Social Fund in action 2000-2006 presents the success stories supported by the ESF in the fields of active labour market measures, social inclusion, lifelong learning, adaptability and the participation of women.

Last updated: 03.03.2005
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