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Brussels, 7 May 2009

EU Employment Summit agrees on ways to tackle rising unemployment

The EU today held a special summit in Prague dedicated to tackling the impact of the economic crisis on jobs in Europe. The Troika Presidencies (the Czech, Swedish and Spanish governments) joined the European Commission, employers and trade unions to pool their best ideas on how to keep people in work and help them back into new jobs. The summit identified ten actions to fight unemployment and create new jobs. The Commission will build on the summit's discussions when formulating its input to the European Council of 18-19 June.

President Barroso said: "Today's EU employment summit is a significant step towards more and better coordinated action on employment. We cannot prevent this crisis from causing unemployment. But acting now can reduce job losses, and help millions of people to find new and better jobs. Acting now also means paving the way for sustainable recovery. EU action on employment neither starts nor stops with today's summit. But with today's summit we are telling our citizens that we want their employment to be Europe's objective number one. I call on all Member States to commit to work together to swiftly step up action on employment."

"Our first priority in this crisis is people – keeping them in jobs and getting them back into jobs as quickly as possible. We must use all the tools at our disposal to limit the impact of the crisis on the real economy, and on people and their livelihoods in particular" said Vladimír Špidla, EU Commissioner for Employment.

"This summit has been an important step in determining how best to tackle unemployment and create new jobs. Our strategy must be based on strong social dialogue, acting together and creating a synergy between social and economic policies. There is no trade-off between core social values and a competitive internal market."

The summit showed a wide consensus among participants on the way ahead. The main messages agreed emphasise that future action on employment should be guided by a number of principles and aim at maintaining employment and create jobs; increase access to employment particularly to the young and upgrade skills, match labour market needs and promote mobility. Ten concrete actions, addressing both short-term and long-term challenges, are suggested that should be implemented at national and European levels together with the social partners:

  • 1. Maintain as many people as possible in jobs, with temporary adjustment of working hours combined with retraining and supported by public funding (including from the European Social Fund).
  • 2. Encourage entrepreneurship and job creation, e.g. by lowering non-wage labour costs and flexicurity;
  • 3. Improve the efficiency of national employment services by providing intensive counselling, training and job search in the first weeks of unemployment, especially for the young unemployed.
  • 4. Increase significantly the number of high quality apprenticeships and traineeships by the end of 2009.
  • 5. Promote more inclusive labour markets by ensuring work incentives, effective active labour market policies and modernisation of social protection systems that also lead to a better integration of disadvantaged groups including the disabled, the low-skilled and migrants.
  • 6. Upgrade skills at all levels with lifelong learning, in particular giving all school leavers the necessary skills to find a job.
  • 7. Use labour mobility to match supply and demand of labour to best effect.
  • 8. Identify job opportunities and skills requirements, and improve skills forecasting to get the training offer right.
  • 9. Assist the unemployed and young people in starting their own business, e.g. by providing business support training and starting capital, or by lowering or eliminating taxation on start-ups.
  • 10. Anticipate and manage restructuring through mutual learning and exchange of good practice.

The summit also discussed how national and European-level action could work together to best effect, and how to make the best use of EU tools and resources such as the European Social Fund and the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund. Both funds have recently been revised to maximise their effectiveness in times of crisis.

To prepare the summit, the European Commission organised a series of workshops with the current and future EU Presidencies (held in Madrid on 15 April, in Stockholm on 20 April and in Prague on 27 April). In addition, a special debate was held at the European Parliament in Brussels on 5 May. This consultation process brought in views from the broadest possible range of stakeholders including social partners at all levels, representatives from various EU institutions, Member States, public employment services, academics, and civil society.

For further information

Main messages of the Employment summit report from the preparatory workshops

MEMO/09/223 on the Employment summit

President Barroso's crisis website:

DG Employment's / Commissioner Spidla's website on the social impacts of the crisis:

Infoclip: I-061271 Economic Downturn: Employment

IP/09/703: Road to recovery: Cohesion Policy will help Europe to get out of the crisis, say Commissioners Hübner and Špidla

MEMO/09/221: Revision of the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF)

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