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Agenda for social policy (2000-2005)
The European Commission proposes a series of actions with a view to improving the European social model. This model is designed to promote full employment, economic dynamism and greater social cohesion and fairness in the European Union (EU).
Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. Social policy agenda [COM(2000) 379 final - not published in the Official Journal].
1. The rationale of the Commission's communication has been articulated in the preparation of the Lisbon European Council (March 2000), which resulted in a political agreement designed to promote "the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion".
2. The Commission's new agenda aims to provide a comprehensive and coherent approach for the European Union to confront the new challenges to social policy. This new agenda stresses the essential linkage between Europe's economic strength and its social model, and is also designed to permit positive and dynamic interaction of economic, employment and social policy.
3. It is based on a series of measures designed to reinforce social policy as a productive factor: employment and quality of work, the knowledge-based economy, the social situation in the Member States, enlargement and internationalisation.
Employment and quality of work
4. The European Union has made considerable progress in strengthening its economic fundamentals and fostering job creation. However, the current employment rate is unsatisfactory and unemployment remains high (around 9% of the European workforce). Hence the objective is to work towards raising the employment rate to as close as possible to 70 % by 2010.
5. The employment strategy include actions to create more and better jobs, reinforcing the role of the European Social Fund (ESF), the main Community instrument to foster human resources development, developing and evaluating labour market policies on the basis of a peer review approach and the exchange of good practices, and ensuring consistency between economic, structural and employment policies.
The knowledge-based economy
6. A knowledge-based society and a knowledge-based economy can contribute to sustainable economic growth, an increase in employment and more social cohesion. Despite the European initiatives in the field of research and the " e-Europe " initiatives, Europe lags behind the US in taking up new technologies.
7. Hence the Commission's main objective is to accelerate the development of the knowledge-based economy in such a way as to create more jobs in Europe. This will involve pursuing the objectives of the knowledge-based society in the framework of the European Employment Strategy (EES), ensuring life-long learning and closing the skills and gender gaps, and promoting cooperation at European level between research establishments, scientific centres, the universities and schools.
The social situation in the Member States
8. The social systems of the Member States now face a series of significant common challenges such as the need to adapt to the changing world of work, new family structures, persistent gender inequalities, demographic changes. Failure to adapt and modernise social protection systems would increase the risk of more unemployment, poverty and social exclusion.
9. With a view to preventing and eradicating poverty and exclusion and promoting the integration and participation of all into economic and social life, the Commission proposes a series of actions designed to promote more and better job opportunities for vulnerable groups, including those with disabilities, ethnic groups and new immigrants, evaluate the impact of the ESF, including the community initiative Equal and prepare new strategies, including actions in the field of education and training, to support the efforts of the Member States.
10. By preparing for European Union membership, the candidate countries are already in the process of adopting a comprehensive body of laws and rules, which should ensure the compliance with the European Union social acquis by the time of accession.
11. In order to contribute to preparing the enlargement of the Union under conditions of balanced economic and social development, the Commission proposes to continue with the elaboration of the Employment Policy Reviews with all candidate countries, to promote co-operation between civil society organisations from the European Union and from the candidate countries, to prepare for joint analysis in the field of social protection and to ensure the successful participation of candidate countries in Community action programmes in the social area as part of the pre-accession strategy.
12. Internationalisation and globalisation are important facets of the conditions confronting Europe and its social systems. This does not imply abandoning social objectives. Rather, it reinforces the economic need for social investment by way of well-designed social policies.
13. A key aim will be to strengthen the employment and social dimension of globalisation, through the respect of core labour standards, close cooperation with the international organisations (ILO, OECD, Council of Europe) and the promotion of an integrated economic and social agenda in a global economy.
14. In order to achieve the political commitments adopted at Lisbon, the Commission proposes a new five-year agenda (2000-2005) that will contribute to pursuing the social objectives of Lisbon.