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Joint assessments of employment policies in the candidate countries
As part of the cooperation process with the candidate countries on employment, the Commission has set out the challenges identified, the progress made and the measures which still need to be taken.
Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, of 30 January 2003, entitled "Progress on the implementation of the Joint Assessment Papers on employment policies in candidate countries" [COM(2003) 37 final - Not published in the Official Journal]
Joint Assessment Papers (JAPs)
With a view to joining the European Union, the candidate countries must adopt the Community acquis. It is the task of the European Commission to assist them in this and to monitor their progress.
To this end, in 1999 the European Commission initiated a cooperation process with the candidate countries in the area of employment. Together, in Joint Assessment Papers (JAPs), they identified the employment policy challenges resulting from applying the Lisbon objectives and from implementation of the Employment Title of the Treaty establishing the European Community. EU financial support for accession can thus focus on the priorities identified.
The European Commission provides a summary of the challenges identified in the JAPs and carries out a preliminary review of progress made in implementing them.
Challenges encountered by the candidate countries
In their progress towards achieving the objectives of the European Employment Strategy, the candidate countries encounter many challenges in transforming their labour markets -- made more complex by economic restructuring -- and in policy development.
The candidate countries must therefore:
- increase employment rates, which are generally below the EU average and lower than the Lisbon objectives;
- increase labour supply, the transition process having led to substantial withdrawals from the labour market;
- support the restructuring of the economy via labour market structures which enable employees to adapt to economic change and move from declining to modern industries;
- increase skill levels among the workforce in order to improve productivity and competitiveness.
The Commission has translated the candidate countries' challenges into areas of action:
- promoting employment via developments in wages and tax and benefit systems;
- investing in human resources and addressing skills gaps by reforming education and lifelong learning systems;
- enabling the public employment services, which are essential in periods of economic restructuring and transition, to play an effective role;
- promoting a more proactive and preventive policy approach;
- ensuring social cohesion by integrating ethnic minorities, most of whom are in a disadvantaged position in the labour market, and some -- Roma in particular --are at high risk of social exclusion and poverty;
- modernising the labour market with an active contribution from the social partners, in particular in relation to work organisation, working conditions, flexibility and security;
- promoting gender equality on the labour market in the candidate countries, where there is a significant degree of discrimination on grounds of sex;
- strengthening the administrative capacity necessary for developing and implementing employment policy, which is part of the overall economic policy strategy, and paying particular attention to the preparations for implementing the European Social Fund (ESF);
- ensuring availability of resources for employment policies, including human capital investment and social infrastructure.
The cooperation process will conclude when the candidate countries join the Union. Before the date of accession, they must draw up national development plans (NDPs) setting the framework for employment and human resources development and for future ESF funding. Each candidate country must also carry out an in-depth review of policies, of the institutional setting and of administrative capacities for employment policy and related ESF activities. Since 2003 the candidate countries have been participating in the "Employment Incentives Measures".