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Brussels, 20 december 2001

Employment : New high-level report says EU labour markets must be more fluid.

A high-level, independent task force on skills and mobility says in its new report to the Commission that there are still too many obstacles to real labour mobility in the EU. The report, which diagnoses the main problem areas and presents a series of recommendations, calls for more and better basic language training, ICT skills, simpler systems for transferring pensions and social security rights and an overhaul of systems to regulate professions and recognise skills and experience acquired in another member state. Simple lack of information about job options abroad can also be a problem. This independent report, commissioned by Anna Diamantopoulou, will now give the Commission a firm basis to push ahead with its Action Plan for EU-wide labour markets by 2005. The Action Plan is scheduled to be presented to the Barcelona summit of Spring 2002 as part of the Commission's new EU objective of 'managing change'.

Welcoming the report of the task force, Anna Diamantopoulou, European Commissioner for employment and social affairs said: "At present, EU citizens find it too hard, too often when they try to move between jobs and between countries. The skills gap is a major culprit in this, but there is a potent cocktail of factors at play. No wonder some people think the EU is just a figment of someone's imagination and little use to them when it matters for their job. The Commission's aim is to push for open and accessible EU-wide labour markets by 2005."

The 'High-Level Task Force on Skills and Mobility', set up under the Commission's initiative to open up EU labour markets by 2005 and endorsed by the Stockholm European Council in March 2001, has presented the following key recommendations :

  • All pupils should master at least two EU languages in addition to their own by the end of their compulsory education; it would be an advantage if one of these languages was English. By 2005 the early acquisition of language skills should start in pre-primary and primary schools (by age 8 at the latest), and be strengthened in secondary schools.

  • A guarantee should be given that all citizens can acquire the basic skills, including literacy, numeracy, information and communication technology (ICT), which are the basic prerequisites to employability, adaptability and learning to learn, by 2006.

  • One third of the curriculum of post secondary students should be spent in another EU Member State, and EU international exchange programmes should be boosted to facilitate the greater exchange of education, training and work experience for youth and adults abroad. The share of the population with post secondary levels of educational attainment should be increased to reach the levels of the three best performing Member States.

  • Participation in lifelong learning and training by enterprises should be greatly increased, with an exchange of best practice at European level, (e.g. ICT companies' initiatives in the field of training and qualifications); European Lifelong Learning Awards and labels should be awarded to enterprises which introduce competence development strategies.

  • ICT skills need better defining and developing, made transparent and available throughout the EU, to be backed up by EU-wide standards. The demand for ICT and e-business skills, and the related curriculum developments, should be matched against industry requirements. The access of women to ICT skills and careers should be strengthened.

  • The regulatory framework on freedom of movement, the transferability of pensions and social security rights should be modernised by 2004; an EU-wide social security card should be considered to improve access to benefits across the EU by 2004.

  • The application of the regime for recognising regulated professions needs rapid and thorough modernisation, to be completed by 2005.

  • The recognition and validation of skills, competence and experience needs to be improved, for example, through the development of European standards and methodologies for valuing non-formal and informal learning.

  • A One-stop European Mobility Information Site should be set up by 2002 to provide a comprehensive, high quality, timely and easily accessible information to citizens on key aspects of jobs, mobility, learning opportunities and rights for mobile citizens in Europe. EURES should be integrated into the Member States systems by 2004.


The Task Force was brought together in June 2001 by Anna Diamantopoulou, Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs, as an important part of its strategy to remove barriers to mobility and to raise the skill levels of the European workforce at all levels. The Task Force based its work on three main principles: First, the freedom of movement within the European Single Market is a fundamental objective of the European Union, and barriers to it must be eliminated. Second, the development of a knowledge based society is a central determinant of competitiveness and growth in a global economy, and therefore policies to foster skills endowment in Europe must be strengthened. Third, achieving both freedom of movement and the construction of a knowledge based society are key conditions for attaining the objective of full employment in Europe, set at the Lisbon European Council in the spring of 2000. On the basis of the report of the Task Force the Commission intends to present to the Barcelona European Council of March 2002, an Action Plan with further initiatives so as to allow everyone access to genuine European labour markets by 2005. This Action Plan will be also an important input in the revision of the European Employment Strategy, foreseen in 2002.

Members of The High Level Task Force were the following:


Dr Ulrich Schumacher

President and CEO of Infineon (SIEMENS group) (DE)


Prof. Tito Boeri

Bocconi University (IT)

Mr Juan Chozas

Secretary General for Employment (ES)

Mr Giles Clarke

EU 500 entrepreneur, Majestic Wine, Pet City, Chairman Fosters Rooms Ltd. (UK)

Mrs Mona Hemmer

Former Vice President of EUROCADRES, (FIN)

Ms Lore Hostasch

Former Minister of Labour, Health and Social Affairs (AU)

Mr Jan E Kvarnström

Chairman, Castellum AB, former CEO Esselte and Securum (SV)

Mr John Monks

General Secretary of Trades Union Congress (UK)

Dr Jo Ritzen

Vice-President of the World Bank (NL)

Mrs Rose-Marie Van Lerberghe

Director General Altedia Group (FR)

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