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The Social Policy Agenda (2006-2010)
The European Commission proposes a new social policy agenda for the period 2005-2010. The main objective of this new agenda is "a social Europe in the global economy: jobs and opportunities for all".
Communication from the Commission. The Social Agenda [COM(2005) 33 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
This communication identifies the priorities that should guide the European Union's action in the development of the European social model. It is also intended to promote social cohesion as part both of the Lisbon strategy and the Sustainable Development Strategy. This review of the Agenda has a key role in promoting the social dimension of economic growth and improving the implementation of the measures foreseen by the old Social Agenda (2000-2005).
The added value of the Social Agenda is beyond doubt because it facilitates the modernisation of national systems against a background of far-reaching economic and social changes. It supports the harmonious operation of the single market while ensuring respect for fundamental rights and common values.
The Agenda develops a two-pronged strategy: Firstly, it emphasises its role in strengthening citizens' confidence; secondly, it presents key measures under two major headings, namely employment and equal opportunities and inclusion.
STRENGTHENING CITIZENS' CONFIDENCE
The measures proposed are designed to enable citizens to gain confidence in their own ability to effectively manage change, viz.: increased competition in a global context, technological development and population ageing.
In this context, the Agenda presents several key conditions:
- an intergenerational approach;
- a partnership for change;
- integration of the external dimension
An intergenerational approach
The changes brought about by the demographic development - notably the ageing of the European populations - the need to adapt systems of social protection and pensions to these changes, the need to improve the integration of young people and to address the whole question of migration are major challenges.
To this end, the Commission plans to analyse future challenges and proposes a series of measures to analyse the demographic changes of European populations.
A partnership for change
Given that the partnership between the authorities, the social partners and civil society is one of the keys to the success of European policies, the Commission will propose the organisation of an annual meeting of all players concerned in a forum. The aim of this meeting will be to evaluate the implementation of the Agenda on a regular basis.
Integration of the external dimension
The Commission also plans to incorporate the European social model into external dialogue and measures at bilateral, regional and multilateral level
THE TWO PRIORITY AREAS
The two priority areas concerning the strategic objectives of the new Agenda are:
- employment, under the prosperity objective;
- equal opportunities and inclusion, under the solidarity objective.
Achieving full employment
In order to attain the Lisbon growth and jobs objectives, the Commission has proposed a revamped cycle of the European Employment Strategy (EES) in the framework of the mid-term review of the Lisbon strategy. This new cycle should underpin long-term economic growth, combat unemployment and regional disparities and promote social cohesion.
To ensure that the European Social Fund fosters convergence, employment and competitiveness, the Commission plans to put forward several measures, notably a measure to sensitise the ESF players in 2006 and a communication campaign among parliaments and players concerned in 2006-2007.
The Commission also proposes developing a strategy for anticipating, triggering and managing economic change more effectively. This strategy is developed around four themes:
- greater interplay between European policies;
- greater involvement of the social partners;
- greater synergy between policies and their financial levers, especially the ESF;
- a stronger link between the EES and the development of the legal frameworks and social partners' agreements.
In this new Agenda, the Commission also introduces a new dynamic for industrial relations and provides for several initiatives concerning the development of labour law, health and safety at work and corporate social responsibility
The Commission considers that the creation of a genuine European labour market is essential. This objective implies both removing the remaining direct and indirect barriers and, besides, drawing up policies that create the conditions for the players concerned to derive maximum benefit from the European area.
With a view to giving the social partners a basis for increasing their capacity to act at transnational level, the Commission plans to adopt a proposal designed to make it possible for the social partners to formalise the nature and results of transnational collective bargaining in an optimal way.
Equal opportunities and inclusion
The EU has been a driving force in implementing the principle of equal treatment. As the current framework strategy 2000-2005 comes to an end, the Commission plans to propose several actions to resolve such problems as the gender pay gap, women's access to and participation in the labour market, training, career advancement, reconciliation of family and working life, equal opportunities for the disabled, etc.
The Commission also plans to organise a European year of equal opportunities in 2007 with a view to highlighting the results achieved and showing the advantages of diversity for the economy and society of Europe.