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Brussels, 2 July 2008

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Commission proposes Renewed Social Agenda to empower and help people in 21st century Europe

On 2 and 3 July, the Commission is putting forward a comprehensive and ambitious package of initiatives. It represents a new commitment to social Europe and consists of an integrated approach bringing together various policies. It shows how the EU can help to create opportunities, provide access and demonstrate solidarity – by taking initiatives to foster employment creation, education and skills development, fight discrimination, support mobility and enable Europeans to live longer, healthier lives. The renewed social agenda seeks to empower and equip Europeans, in particular also young people, to deal with rapidly changing realities - shaped by globalisation, technological progress, ageing societies – and developments such as the recent hikes in food and oil prices and turmoil in financial markets. It also aims to help those who have difficulties coping with these changes.

"Europe's social dimension has never been as relevant as it is today", said President Barroso. "It is inseparable from the EU's Lisbon Strategy to stimulate growth and provide better jobs for Europeans. Europe needs a modern social agenda, which responds to rapid economic and social change and promotes opportunities, access and solidarity for citizens in the EU. Economic success brings social benefits, and the package proposed by the Commission today is designed to ensure that nobody is left behind and Europe's prosperity can be shared by all."

"Europeans are concerned about the impact of globalisation on their jobs and the risk of falling into poverty," added Social Affairs Commissioner Špidla. "They also recognise that too many people are still denied chances in life because of discrimination. Jobs are lost because Works Councils don't work together efficiently across borders. By acting together, the EU can bring an added value to action at national level to improve people's lives."

Actions in the social field are primarily the responsibility of the Member States and have to be taken closest to the citizen at national, regional and local levels. Member States devote 26% (2005) of GDP to spending on social policy, compared with 15% in the USA and 17% in Japan. But this spending could be done in a more targeted and efficient way. The EU has been successfully complementing national action and fostering cooperation to manage socio-economic change. The EU is helping coordinate efforts to promote active inclusion, including labour market integration, making work pay and life-long learning, particularly for those who are furthest from the labour market, as part of the fight against poverty. The Commission is also working to ensure that single market and competition rules facilitate the development of good quality, accessible and sustainable social services, including those supplied by social economy enterprises (e.g. cooperatives, mutual undertakings).

Building on a strong base of past achievements of social Europe (see MEMO/08/466), including in the area of free movement of workers, the Renewed Social Agenda aims to adapt the EU's policies to new social realities and trends, without changing the fundamental goals of social Europe: harmonious, cohesive and inclusive societies respecting fundamental rights in healthy social market economies. The Renewed Social Agenda is built around opportunities, access and solidarity and focuses on empowering and enabling individuals to realise their potential while at the same time helping those who are unable to do so.

Altogether, the package adopted on 2 and 3 July as part of the Renewed Social Agenda contains 19 initiatives in the areas of employment and social affairs, education and youth, health, information society and economic affairs (see MEMO/08/471). The initiatives are centred on the following priorities:

1. Preparing for Tomorrow: Children and Youth

2. Investing in People: Managing Change

3. Supporting Longer and healthier lives

4. Fighting discrimination

5. Strengthening Instruments

6. Shaping the International Agenda

7. Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion

The Commission is for example proposing legislation to fill the gaps of the existing legal framework and to protect against discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation outside the field of employment. (see IP/08/1071). Another legislative proposal contained in the package aims to facilitate patients' access to healthcare in other European countries (see IP/08/1080).

Further, the package contains the Commission's views on the kind of schools Europe needs for the 21st century, and it also examines the issues relating to the education and social integration of children with a migrant background.

The Renewed Social Agenda follows a broad public consultation launched by the Commission in 2007 to take stock of Europe's changing social reality. A new Eurobarometer poll published today details the expectations of citizens across the EU for their social well-being in 20 years time (see MEMO/08/467).

Further information

The new European Commission portal on social affairs:

Discuss Europe's social challenges on the Debate Europe forum:

Various related infoclips

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