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Brussels, 10 March 2011

Vassiliou hosts Cypriot reception for Nobel Prize winner Pissarides

Brussels - Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, hosted a Cypriot reception in honour of Professor Christopher Pissarides, winner of the 2010 Nobel Prize for Economics for his work on labour-marked policy and combating unemployment. Pissarides, who was joined at the event by Cypriot officials of the European Commission and media representatives, was in Brussels to address a conference on the future of European labour markets and a seminar on employment policies in times of crisis. During his visit, he also took part in a working dinner with Commission President José Manuel Barroso, Commissioner Vassiliou, Commissioner Olli Rehn (Economic and Monetary Affairs) and László Andor (Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion).

"I am very happy to have been instrumental in organising the visit of Professor Pissarides to the Commission. As well as being a world authority in his field, he is a great ambassador for Cyprus," said Commissioner Vassiliou.

The visit by Pissarides, Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics, was timely, coming on the eve of a Eurozone Summit, gathering the leaders of the 17 countries which use the euro currency. The focus of their 11 March meeting is the need for stronger coordination of economic policies – a policy which the European Commission has advocated since the start of the economic and financial crisis.

The Commission has issued a package of proposals aimed at strengthening economic governance and structural reforms (IP/10/1199), including tougher enforcement of budgetary surveillance in the euro area. In January, it presented its 'annual growth survey', a comprehensive plan to return Europe to stability, growth and higher employment (IP/11/22).

Professor Pissarides said that Europe's response to the crisis had undoubtedly lessened its impact and that he supported the Commission's emphasis on the need for reforms.

He said education – a key part of Commissioner Vassiliou's portfolio – also has a significant role to play in mitigating the effects of crises. Young people should be encouraged to stay on in education when unemployment is high and the money that would be spent on benefit cheques should instead be channelled into education, he suggested.

Pissarides also favours more support for higher education. "A policy of subsidization in higher education is important," he stated. In case where universities charge tuition fees, these should be waived for people from poorer and disadvantaged backgrounds.

He wants to see governments doing more to encourage the parents of young children to find employment. He strongly supports more public funding for childcare provision, for instance, because this creates jobs in childcare centres and frees up parents to work at the same time. "This kind of investment is an employment multiplier," he said.

Regarding Cyprus, Pissarides said there was still a need for modernisation in the public sector. "The economic model in Cyprus is working reasonably well, but we need to modernise. The public sector employs too many people in some cases and the system is not always convenient for the public who use it," he stated. He suggested greater flexibility in the opening hours of public offices, so that they are more in line with the private sector. He also highlighted the fact that in too many cases people are still required to deal with issues in person at a public office.

"If you live in Nicosia this isn't such a big problem, but if you're coming from outside it's an inconvenience," he added.

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