Luxembourg, 21-22 February 1999
6119/99 (Presse 44)
2161st Council meeting
Luxembourg, 21-22 February 1999
Presidents:Mr Joschka FISCHER
Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs and Deputy Federal Chancellor of Germany
Mr Hans-Friedrich VON PLOETZ
State Secretary, Foreign Affairs of Germany
S U M M A R Y
For further information call 285.87.04 or 285.68.08
The Governments of the Member States, the European Commission and the General Secretariat of the Council were represented as follows:
On Sunday afternoon, the Council discussed - in a conclave format - the Agenda 2000 dossier on the basis of a non-paper containing the Presidency's revised "negotiating box" prepared as a preliminary outline draft of the March European Council conclusions, taking on board the work of the General Affairs, ECOFIN and Agriculture Councils since last January. The Presidency stated that the content of this draft did not commit any delegation at this stage and that no part of this text could be considered definitively agreed until final agreement is reached on Agenda 2000 as a whole.
The objective of the Conclave's discussions was to bring about some initial orientations in order to steer further negotiations, particularly in view of the forthcoming informal meeting of Heads of State and Government in Königswinter/Petersberg on 26 February.
To that end the Presidency invited Ministers to focus their discussions on the following topics:
* presentation of the financial perspective: constant rather than current prices; ringfencing of expenditure relating to the Union as currently constituted and that reserved for future acceding countries and amounts foreseen for pre-accession assistance over the coming period.
* heading 1 (agriculture): financial framework for agricultural reform: stabilisation of agriculture expenditure while allowing a worthwhile and genuine CAP reform, coverage of heading 1
* heading 2 (structural operations): overall level of structural fund expenditure; number of Community initiatives; phasing-out arrangements; Cohesion Fund
* other headings (3, 4, 5): ranges for these headings as a basis within which the annual ceilings could be fixed.
* own resources and budgetary imbalances: Ministers were invited to indicate their overall assessment of possible elements of a final agreement on issues related to the Union's resources and budgetary imbalances, including the elements in the Commission's Own Resources Report.
In his concluding remarks the President indicated that he will report to Heads of State and Government about the outcome of today's meeting which he considered as a good basis for a substantial and concentrated discussion of the main issues of Agenda 2000 at their Petersberg meeting.
PREPARATION OF THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE AMSTERDAM TREATY
The Council took note of the interim progress report of the Presidency on the necessary preparations for implementation of the Amsterdam Treaty and confirmed its commitment to achieve the preparatory work in time to allow the functioning of the Amsterdam Treaty on the day of its entry into force.
The Council invited the Committee of Permanent Representatives in particular to tackle the questions relating to the integration of the Schengen acquis into the EU framework as a matter of urgency.
The Presidency will update its report in the light of the work of Coreper and will bring back this file to the Council in case of need.
ENLARGEMENT - MALTA
The Council took note of a presentation by Commissioner VAN DEN BROEK of the Commission's report updating its opinion on Malta's application for membership, as well as of remarks made by delegations on this subject.
The Council asked the Committee of Permanent Representatives to examine this updating of the Commission's opinion and to report to the Council at one of its forthcoming sessions.
SPECIAL ASSISTANCE TO THE NEW INDEPENDENT STATES
The Council welcomed the Commission's recent communication concerning the impact of the economic crisis in Russia on the other New Independent States and Mongolia. It noted with satisfaction that a detailed needs assessment in the seven NIS most severely affected by the economic crisis has already been carried out. It encouraged the Commission to pursue its action in this field and to provide further information on the implementation of the additional assistance in the form of targeted humanitarian support to vulnerable groups in these countries.
It further noted the Commission's intention to disburse aid through ECHO pending a decision by the budget authority on a transfer of funds from TACIS. Should the Commission conclude that assistance under the Humanitarian Aid regulation is not feasible for certain countries, the Council requested the competent bodies to make further recommendations.
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
The President of the Council reported to his colleagues on his visit to the region from 10 to 14 February together with Vice-President of the Commission Manuel Marín and EU Special Envoy Ambassador Moratinos. The Council tasked the relevant bodies to examine how the EU can continue supporting the Peace Process in all its aspects.
The Council invited the Commission to examine possibilities for further Community support to Jordan, taking into account the contributions which Member States will also make.
INDONESIA : ELECTORAL ASSISTANCE
The Council emphasised the importance of the Indonesian elections being conducted in a free, fair and credible manner and of the Union providing significant assistance to that end. It welcomed the intention of the Commission to come forward with a substantial proposal for electoral assistance with funding from the EC Budget (credit line for assistance to Asia and Latin America) and agreed to the necessary measures to allow for an early decision. It also agreed that assistance provided by the Union should be consistent with the position of the Union, and of the United Nations, in regard to the status of East Timor.
Furthermore the Council discussed the desirability of a comprehensive EU policy towards Indonesia and asked its relevant bodies to examine this.
DECLARATION OF THE EUROPEAN UNION
The European Union reiterates its condemnation of all forms of terrorism. The legitimate fight against terrorism must be conducted in full respect of human rights, the rule of law and democratic norms. Legitimate interests must be expressed through a political process, not through violence.
The EU strongly deplores the fact that the arrest of Abdullah Ocalan has sparked massive unrest and violent acts which have resulted in death, hostage-taking, intimidation and extensive destruction. It reaffirms its position that such acts of violence are inadmissible and under no circumstance tolerable.
The European Union takes note of the assurance of the Turkish Government that Abdullah Ocalan will have a fair trial. It expects this to mean fair and correct treatment and an open trial according to the rule of law before an independent court, with access to legal counsel of his choice and with international observers admitted to the trial. It underlines once more its strict opposition to the death penalty.
The EU fully upholds the territorial integrity of Turkey. At the same time, the EU expects Turkey to resolve its problems by political means with full respect for human rights, the rule of law in a democratic society and in full accordance with Turkey's commitments as a member of the Council of Europe. In this context it welcomes all genuine efforts to separate the fight against terrorism from the search for political solutions and to promote conciliation. In support of this the EU stands ready to contribute, including through continued financial assistance.
Turkey's efforts in dealing with these problems in this spirit cannot but affect EU-Turkey relations positively.
The Council took note that the Contact Group has granted the parties an extension until Tuesday, 23 February 1999, 15:00, to come to an agreement on the future status of Kosovo and on all aspects of its implementation. The Council supported the continuing efforts of the Contact Group and expressed its highest appreciation to the three negotiators for their relentless efforts in the pursuit of peace, in particular EU Special Envoy Wolfgang Petritsch.
The Council urges the parties to the conflict to come to a comprehensive agreement including on the security aspects in the time remaining.
The Council emphasised that it holds FRY President Milosevic and the leadership of the Kosovar Albanians personally responsible for success or failure of this last opportunity to achieve a comprehensive agreement and avoid severest consequences from the international community. They know what is at stake; it is for them to choose the future of their peoples.
The Council, recalling its conclusions of 25 January 1999, confirmed its preparedness to take the necessary action against any party responsible for a breakdown of the peace efforts at Rambouillet.
At the same time the Council underlined that the EU remained prepared to play an essential role in the implementation of an agreement, including in the civil implementation structures, not least through efforts of economic reconstruction and community building. Kosovo related sanctions against the FRY would be suspended gradually, linked to concrete benchmarks.
The Council took note of a Commission report on the Kosovo damage assessment meeting that had taken place in Brussels on 3 February. The Council reaffirmed the readiness of the EU to devote significant resources to helping all the people of Kosovo to rebuild their lives in security on the condition that the parties have begun to implement a peace agreement and would take the responsibility of reconstruction into their own hands.
The Council noted that its competent bodies and the Commission, pursuing the mandate given by the last GAC, were continuing their examination of conditions for reconstruction assistance. It also noted the intentions of the European Commission regarding the geographic distribution for 1999 of the OBNOVA budget line. In this regard, the Council underlined the importance of a coherent approach with a view to achieve EU political priorities, particularly in Kosovo. Conditionality should be applied to all projects in line with principles governing the implementation of a peace agreement. The Council instructed its competent bodies to finalise their work accordingly.
The Council noted the Commission's readiness to organize, at an early date, after an agreement has been reached, a Donors Conference. It instructed its competent bodies to elaborate an EU position for such a conference.
SOUTH AFRICA - NEGOTIATIONS ON A TRADE AND COOPERATION AGREEMENT
The Council heard a report by Commissioner Pinheiro on the outcome of his latest contacts with his South African negotiating partners.
The Council welcomed the progress made during the last round of negotiations but noted that some questions, according to some Member States, had not yet been solved satisfactorily.
After an in depth discussion of these issues the Council agreed to ask the Commission to bring forward, as rapidly as possible, proposals for the solution of these questions with the aim of reaching at its meeting of 22 March 1999 a political consensus on the conclusion of the agreement, in accordance with the remit of the Vienna European Council.
The Presidency underlined the determination of the EU to reach agreement still before the March European Council in Berlin.
SPECIFIC MEASURES AND ACTIONS TO IMPROVE MARKET ACCESS TO JAPAN
The Council reached a political agreement on a legal base - articles 113 and 235 of the EC Treaty - for the draft regulation on implementation by the Commission of a programme of specific measures and actions to improve market access to Japan intended to enable the Commission to continue its action in this field.
This solution will not affect the activities of Member States to design and implement policies and programmes to promote their exports of goods and cross-border services to third country markets.
The draft regulation will be submitted for adoption by the Council once the European Parliament has given its opinion.
EXTERNAL REPRESENTATION OF THE COMMUNITY IN THE G7 (FINANCE)
Statement by the Council and the Commission
The Council and the Commission would refer to the Vienna European Council conclusions, which state that "it is imperative that the Community should play its full role in international monetary and economic policy cooperation".
Those conclusions set out arrangements for the Community's external representation, in particular at G7 Finance Ministers' meetings.
The European Council confirmed that "the President of the ECOFIN Council, or if the President is from a non-euro area Member State, the President of the Euro 11, assisted by the Commission, shall participate in meetings of the G7 (Finance)".
The Council and the Commission note the reasons for which it was not possible to put the Vienna European Council conclusions into practice at the latest G7 Finance Ministers' meeting, since the Commission's participation could not be satisfactorily ensured and there is no guarantee of future participation by the Presidency of the Euro 11.
The Council and the Commission urge the Presidency, which is also chairing the G7, to continue its efforts to ensure that the Vienna European Council conclusions are fully and properly put into practice.
The other Member States participating in the G7 are requested to lend the Presidency their full assistance in its efforts.
- Relations with Russia
Ministers were informed by the Presidency and the Commission of the outcome of the EU-Russia Summit in Moscow on 18 February 1999 (see also Press Release 6118/99 (Presse 43)).
- Situation in Angola
The Portuguese Minister briefed his colleagues on the situation in Angola following his recent visit to this country.
- East Timor
The Portuguese Minister briefed his colleagues on his recent discussions in particular with Indonesian Foreign Minister ALATAS and the UN Secretary General concerning the future of East Timor.
(Adopted without discussion.)
EC/Israel - Agreement on scientific and technical cooperation
The Council adopted the Decision concerning the conclusion of the Agreement on scientific and technical cooperation with Israel signed on 25 March 1996.
Considering the importance of scientific and technical research for Israel and the EC and their mutual interest in cooperating in this matter, this Agreement renews their scientific and technical cooperation for the duration of the 5th Framework Programme. It provides in particular that all research entities established in Israel may participate in the specific programmes of the 5th Framework Programme and in the activities of the Joint Research Centre, and that conversely EC research entities may participate in similar research programmes in Israel.
The Agreement establishes a joint committee that will in particular review and evaluate its implementation, examine measures to develop cooperation and discuss future research orientations and priorities in Israel and the EC. The Agreement also defines the rules governing Israel's financial contribution deriving from participation in the implementation of the specific programmes, as well as the conditions for the participation of Israeli representatives in the programme management committees of the 5th Framework Programme.
Belarus - Lifting of visa ban
The Council adopted a Decision repealing the common position of 9 July 1998 which imposed a visa ban against members of the Government following measures taken by Belarus affecting the residences of ambassadors from several Member States of the EU at the Drozdy diplomatic compound in Minsk.
Further to its conclusions of 25 January 1999 which stated that visa restrictions could be lifted if the agreement reached on Drozdy on 10 December 1998 was respected, the Council reaffirmed its interest in a continued constructive dialogue with Belarus and stated its satisfaction that the Belarus Government has so far fulfilled the terms of that agreement. The Council will monitor the development of the situation and review its decision if necessary.
Framework Cooperation Agreement with the Republics of Central America
The Council adopted a Decision concerning the conclusion of the Framework Cooperation Agreement between the EEC and Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama, signed in San Salvador on 22 February 1993 on the occasion of the San José IX Ministerial Conference (see Press Release 4529/93 (Presse 20)).
As on their side, the Central American countries have completed the notification of the necessary procedures, the Agreement will come into force on the first day of the month following the EEC's notification of the completion of its internal procedures.
The Framework Cooperation Agreement places particular emphasis on the strengthening and consolidation of the system of Central American integration and states that the Community will implement development cooperation in the most favourable way possible for the Central Americal countries.
To this end, priority will be given to development projects aimed at satisfying the fundamental needs of the most disadvantaged peoples of Central American countries. In particular, cooperation will include actions aimed at combating extreme poverty, mitigating the consequences of structural adjustment programmes and promoting job creation.
The Parties, taking into account their mutual interest and long and medium-term economic objectives, undertake to pursue economic cooperation of the widest possible scope.
Association Council with Latvia
The Council defined the EU's position in preparation for the Association Council to be held on 22 February (see Press Release UE-LV 853/99 (Presse 51)).
Association Council with Lithuania
The Council defined the EU's position in preparation for the Association Council to be held on 22 February (see Press Release UE-LT 905 (Presse 52)).
Association Council with Slovenia
The Council defined the EU's position in preparation for the Association Council to be held on 22 February (see Press Release UE-SI 953 (Presse 53)).
Relations with Cyprus and Malta - financial and technical cooperation
The Council adopted the Decisions concerning the conclusion of protocols on the extension of the period during which the funds laid down in the 4th Protocols on financial and technical cooperation of the EC with Cyprus, respectively with Malta, may be committed.
The Protocols extend the period during which the funds concerned are to be committed from 31 December 1998 - as these funds were not fully committed at this date - to 31 December 1999.
EEA - cooperation in the field of research and scientific development
The Council approved on behalf of the EU the decision of the EEA Joint Committee amending Protocol 31 to the EEA Agreement on cooperation in the field of research and scientific development.
The aim of this decision is to extend the cooperation of the contracting parties to include the 5th Framework Programme of the EC activities in the field of RTD (1998 to 2002).
Anti-dumping - Bicycles from Taiwan
The Council adopted a Regulation imposing a definitive anti-dumping duty on imports of bicycles from Taiwan.
The rate of the definitive anti-dumping duty is set at 18.2 %, except for companies which cooperated with the investigation for which a lower rate is applied, ranging between 2.4 and 10.2 %. The amounts secured by way of the provisional anti-dumping duty imposed by Regulation (EC) No 1833/98 will be definitively collected at the rate of the definitive duty.
Vietnam - Trade in footwear products
The Council authorized the Commission to open negotiations for the establishment of a double-checking system for the import of footwear products from Vietnam.
Specifications of euro coins
The Council approved an amendment to its Regulation of 21 December 1998 (No 975/98) on the denominations and technical specifications of euro coins intended for circulation.
The amendment accedes to two requests :
- on the one hand, from the vending industry, to increase the weight of the 50 cent coin in order to ensure a clearer differentiation of that coin and reduce the risk of fraud : 7.8 gr instead of 7 gr ;
- on the other hand, from the European Blind Union, to modify the specification of the edge of the 10 and 50 cents coins in order to better reflect the shape of the edge originally agreed by the European Blind Union during the consultation process preceding the adoption of the Regulation in December 1998 : shaped edge with fine "scallops" instead of "course milling" in order to avoid any risk of misinterpretation in future.
LABOUR AND SOCIAL AFFAIRS
Guidelines for Member States' employment policies in 1999
The Council adopted the "Resolution on the 1999 employment guidelines" annexed to this Press Release. The Resolution ensues from the provisional agreement on these guidelines reached by joint "Labour and Social Affairs / ECOFIN" Council of 1 December 1998 which had subsequently been confirmed by the Vienna European Council. The guidelines are an essential component of the European Employment Strategy which was launched by the Extraordinary European Council in Luxembourg in November 1997, thereby anticipating the implementation of the employment title included in the Treaty of Amsterdam.
Committee of the Regions
The Council adopted Decisions appointing as members of the Committee of the Regions
- Mr Lewis SMITH a member of the Committee of the Regions in place of Mr Peter J. PEACOCK for the remainder of the latter's term of office, which runs until 25 January 2002,
- Mr Mathias RÖSSLER an alternate member of the Committee of the Regions in place of Mr Arnold VAATZ for the remainder of the latter's term of office, which runs until 25 January 2002.
Public access to Council documents
The Council approved the reply to the 15th confirmatory application for access to Council documents submitted by Mr Steve Peers in 1998, the Danish delegation voting against the reply.
Council Resolution on the 1999 Employment Guidelines
THE COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION,
Having regard to the Treaty establishing the European Community,
Whereas under Article 2 of that Treaty the Community has as its task the promotion, in particular, of a high level of employment,
In accordance with the conclusions of the Amsterdam European Council of 16 and 17 June 1997 and the Resolution on Growth and Employment which referred to the procedure as envisaged in the new Title on Employment in the Amsterdam Treaty and stated that the Council should seek to make those provisions immediately effective,
On the basis of the conclusions of the extraordinary European Council meeting on Employment of 20 and 21 November 1997 which launched the Luxembourg process, based on the implementation of a coordinated European employment strategy,
On the basis of the conclusions of the Vienna European Council of 11 and 12 December 1998,
Having regard to the Council Resolution of 15 December 1997 on the 1998 Employment Guidelines ((1)), the conclusions of the Cardiff European Council of 15 and 16 June 1998 and the contribution of all Member States to the development of the process set out in the Resolution, in particular through the presentation of National Action Plans for Employment,
Having regard to the 1998 Joint Employment Report, prepared jointly with the Commission, describing the employment situation in the Community and examining the action taken by the Member States in implementing their employment policy in line with the 1998 guidelines,
Having regard to the Commission proposal of 14 October 1998 for Guidelines for Member States' Employment Policies in 1999,
Having regard to the Commission's "Report on ways of improving the comparability of statistics to monitor and value progress under the European employment strategy established in view of the European Council in Vienna"; having regard also to the progress made by the Commission and the Member States in the field of indicators, referred to in the 1998 Joint Employment Report,
Having regard to the Resolution embodying the contribution of the European Parliament,
Having regard to the Opinion of the Economic and Social Committee,
Having regard to the Opinion of the Committee of the Regions,
Having regard to the Opinion of the Employment and Labour Market Committee,
Having regard to the Social Partners' contribution to the implementation of the 1998 Employment Guidelines and to the results of the contacts established with the troika of Heads of State or Government and the Commission,
(1) Whereas employment is the top priority of the European Union; whereas coordinated action must be pursued in a sustained manner to combat unemployment and raise the present levels of employment on a lasting basis;
(2) Whereas the 1998 Employment Guidelines, endorsed at the Luxembourg European Council, have launched a process with high visibility, strong political commitment and a wide-ranging acceptance by all actors concerned;
(3) Whereas the Vienna European Council has given the Council and the Commission a mandate to report to the forthcoming Cologne European Council on the development of a European Employment Pact in the framework of the Luxembourg process;
(4) Whereas all fifteen Member States have submitted reports on the implementation of their National Action Plans, and on this basis a fruitful dialogue has been established with the Commission, and a peer-group review has been launched, which have allowed for the clarification of the aims, methods, funding and timescales of their policies in the context of the respective action plans;
(5) Whereas for the continued success of the European Employment Strategy, it is important to maintain the integrated and coordinated approach based on sound macro-economic policies and structural reforms in labour, product, services and capital markets;
(6) Whereas this coordination of Member States' employment policies should be implemented through the adoption by the Council, having received the Opinion of the Employment and Labour Market Committee acting in close cooperation with the Economic Policy Committee, of employment guidelines, which are compatible with the broad economic policy guidelines and which set specific targets, the achievement of which is regularly monitored under a common procedure for assessing results;
(7) Whereas the implementation of the guidelines may vary according to their nature, their impact on Member States and the parties to whom they are addressed; whereas they must respect the principle of subsidiarity and Member States' responsibilities with regard to employment;
(8) Whereas the differing situations of the Member States in relation to the problems addressed by the guidelines will result in differing solutions and emphases in line with individual situations;
(9) Whereas the 1999 Employment Guidelines preserve the four pillar structure: improving employability, developing entrepreneurship, encouraging adaptability of businesses and their employees and strengthening the policies for equal opportunities between women and men;
(10) Whereas the Member States, in drawing up their National Action Plans for 1999, should fully exploit the new possibilities opened up by information and communication technologies for job creation, employability, more flexible and adaptable forms of work organisation and progress on equal opportunities;
(11) Whereas the implementation of these Guidelines could help to tackle the problem of undeclared work;
(12) Whereas the role and responsibility of partners at the regional and local levels in job creation and in ensuring supportive conditions and structures needs to be more fully recognised and supported;
(13) Whereas the European Social Fund is making a positive contribution to the qualification of human resources and its reform should be used to strengthen support for the Employment Strategy;
(14) Whereas sustainable development and the integration of environmental concerns in other Community policies were endorsed by the Amsterdam European Council; whereas Member States are invited to give effect to this integration within their national employment strategies by promoting employment creation in the environmental field;
(15) Whereas the role of the cultural sectors in creating sustainable jobs should be considered in the context of the National Action Plans;
(16) Whereas the Vienna European Council invited the Commission to present in Spring 1999 a communication on mainstreaming employment policies at Community level, based on the future Article 127 of the Treaty establishing the European Community;
(17) Whereas the Vienna European Council invited the Commission to allow those Member States which so desire to experiment with reduced VAT rates on labour-intensive services which are not exposed to cross-border competition;
(18) Whereas the experience in implementing the Luxembourg process in 1998 showed that streamlining is necessary for 1999 and the following years,
HEREBY ADOPTS THIS RESOLUTION:
1. The 1999 Employment Guidelines appended hereto are adopted.
2. In 1999 each Member State will submit by mid-June, to the Council and the Commission, one implementation report, comprising the implementation of the 1998 National Action Plan and describing the adjustments made to the National Action Plan to take account of the changes introduced by the 1999 Guidelines.
3. The Council notes that the Commission will, on the basis of its evaluation of the Member States' implementation reports, make its proposal for the Joint Employment Report and the revised Employment Guidelines for the year 2000 by September 1999.
4. The Council will, on the basis of the Member States' implementation reports and having received the views of the Employment and Labour Market Committee, carry out an examination of the implementation of the employment policies of the Member States in the light of the Employment Guidelines. On the basis of the results of that examination, the Council and the Commission will make their joint report to the European Council on the employment situation in the Community and on the implementation of the guidelines for employment. The Joint Employment Report 1999 will contain a first evaluation of the impact of the National Action Plans on the employment situation.
5. The Council affirms that the social partners at all levels will be involved in all stages of this approach and will make an important contribution to the implementation of these guidelines and the promotion of a high level of employment. That contribution will be regularly assessed.
6. The Council recognises the key importance of a broad and intensive dialogue between all actors involved, i.e. the European Parliament, the Council, the Commission, Social Partners, the European Central Bank and the European Investment Bank for the future success of the Luxembourg process.
7. The Council invites the Commission and the Member States to reach an agreement on the definition of all relevant indicators in time for the forthcoming Cologne European Council.
Annex to the ANNEX
THE 1999 EMPLOYMENT GUIDELINES
INTRODUCTION: QUANTITATIVE TARGETS AND INDICATORS
It is essential that the Employment Guidelines are transformed into concrete national action plans. The use of common indicators, based on comparable statistics, is of crucial importance for an effective monitoring and evaluation of policies, both at national and at Community level. So far, Basic Employment Performance Indicators have been used in several Joint Employment Reports and the work on Policy Indicators, referring to the concrete Guidelines, is well under way. It was agreed at Luxembourg that the ultimate objective of a coordination of Member States' employment policies is to arrive at a significant increase in the employment rate in Europe on a sustainable basis.
In order to produce concrete results, Member States:
are urged to support the process of defining and collecting comparable data in order to implement the three Community-wide operational targets under Guideline 1-3. This includes in particular developing reliable flow data on employment and unemployment,
will need, in order meaningfully to evaluate progress on implementing the Guidelines, to ensure that adequate and comparable data systems and procedures are available.
In addition, Member States are invited to set themselves national targets which could be quantified wherever possible and appropriate.
Furthermore, objective criteria will have to be developed for selecting best practices.
I. IMPROVING EMPLOYABILITY
Tackling youth unemployment and preventing long-term unemployment
In order to influence the trend in youth and long-term unemployment the Member States will intensify their efforts to develop preventive and employability-oriented strategies, building on the early identification of individual needs; within a period to be determined by each Member State which may not exceed four years and which may be longer in Member States with particularly high unemployment, Member States will ensure that:
1. every unemployed young person is offered a new start before reaching six months of unemployment, in the form of training, retraining, work practice, a job or other employability measure;
2. unemployed adults are also offered a fresh start before reaching twelve months of unemployment by one of the aforementioned means or, more generally, by accompanying individual vocational guidance.
These preventive and employability measures should be combined with measures to promote the re-employment of the long-term unemployed.
Transition from passive measures to active measures
Benefit, tax and training systems where that proves necessary must be reviewed and adapted to ensure that they actively support employability. Each Member State:
3. will endeavour to increase significantly the number of persons benefiting from active measures to improve their employability. In order to increase the numbers of unemployed who are offered training or any similar measure, it will in particular fix a target, in the light of its starting situation, of gradually achieving the average of the three most successful Member States, and at least 20%;
4. will review and, where appropriate, refocus its benefit and tax system and provide incentives for unemployed or inactive people to seek and take up work or measures to enhance their employability and for employers to create new jobs. In addition, it is important to develop, in the context of a policy for active ageing, measures such as maintaining working capacity, lifelong learning and other flexible working arrangements, so that older workers are also able to participate actively in working life.
Encouraging a partnership approach
The actions of the Member States alone will not suffice to achieve the desired results in promoting employability. Consequently:
5. The social partners are urged, at their various levels of responsibility and action, to conclude as soon as possible agreements with a view to increasing the possibilities for training, work experience, traineeships or other measures likely to promote employability.
6. In order to reinforce the development of a skilled and adaptable workforce, both Member States and the social partners will endeavour to develop possibilities for lifelong learning, particularly in the fields of information and communication technologies, and, in consultation with the Employment and Labour Market Committee, define lifelong learning in order to set a target according to national circumstances for participants benefiting from such measures. Easy access for older workers will be particularly important.
Easing the transition from school to work
Employment prospects are poor for young people who leave the school system without having acquired the aptitudes required for entering the job market. Member States will therefore:
7. improve the quality of their school systems in order to reduce substantially the number of young people who drop out of the school system early. Particular attention should also be given to young people with learning difficulties;
8. make sure they equip young people with greater ability to adapt to technological and economic changes and with skills relevant to the labour market, where appropriate by implementing or developing apprenticeship training.
Promoting a labour market open to all
Many groups and individuals experience particular difficulties in acquiring relevant skills and in gaining access to, and remaining in, the labour market. A coherent set of policies promoting the integration of such groups and individuals into the world of work and combating discrimination is called for. Each Member State will:
9. give special attention to the needs of the disabled, ethnic minorities and other groups and individuals who may be disadvantaged, and develop appropriate forms of preventive and active policies to promote their integration into the labour market.
II. DEVELOPING ENTREPRENEURSHIP
Making it easier to start up and run businesses
The development of new enterprises, and the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), is essential for job creation and for the expansion of training opportunities for young people. This process must be promoted by encouraging greater entrepreneurial awareness across society, by providing a clear, stable and predictable set of rules and by improving the conditions for the development of risk capital markets. The Member States should also reduce and simplify the administrative and tax burdens on SMEs. These policies will support Member States' attempts to tackle undeclared work. To that end the Member States will:
10. give particular attention to reducing significantly the overhead costs and administrative burdens for businesses, and especially SMEs, in particular when an enterprise is being set up and when hiring additional workers;
11. encourage the development of self-employment by examining, with the aim of reducing, any obstacles which may exist, especially those within tax and social security regimes, to moving to self-employment and the setting up of small businesses as well as by promoting training for entrepreneurship and targeted support services for entrepreneurs.
Exploiting new opportunities for job creation
If the European Union wants to deal successfully with the employment challenge, all possible sources of jobs and new technologies and innovations must be exploited effectively. To that end the Member States will:
12. promote measures to exploit fully the possibilities offered by job creation at local level, in the social economy, in the area of environmental technologies and in new activities linked to needs not yet satisfied by the market, and examine, with the aim of reducing, any obstacles in the way of such measures. In this respect, the special role of local authorities and the social partners should be taken into account;
13. develop framework conditions to fully exploit the employment potential of the services sector and industry-related services, inter alia by tapping the employment potential of the information society and the environmental sector, to create more and better jobs.
Making the taxation system more employment friendly
and reversing the long-term trend towards higher taxes and charges on labour (which have increased from 35% in 1980 to more than 42% in 1995). Each Member State will:
14. set a target, if necessary and taking account of its present level, for gradually reducing the overall tax burden and, where appropriate, a target for gradually reducing the fiscal pressure on labour and non-wage labour costs, in particular on relatively unskilled and low-paid labour, without jeopardising the recovery of public finances or the financial equilibrium of social security schemes. It will examine, if appropriate, the desirability of introducing a tax on energy or on pollutant emissions or any other tax measure;
15. examine, without obligation, the advisability of reducing the rate of VAT on labour-intensive services not exposed to cross-border competition.
III. ENCOURAGING ADAPTABILITY OF BUSINESSES AND THEIR EMPLOYEES
Modernising work organisation
In order to promote the modernisation of work organisation and forms of work, a strong partnership should be developed at all appropriate levels (European, national, sectoral, local and enterprise levels):
16. The social partners are invited to negotiate at all appropriate levels agreements to modernise the organisation of work, including flexible working arrangements, with the aim of making undertakings productive and competitive and achieving the required balance between flexibility and security. Such agreements may, for example, cover the expression of working time as an annual figure, the reduction of working hours, the reduction of overtime, the development of part-time working, lifelong training and career breaks.
17. For its part, each Member State will examine the possibility of incorporating in its law more adaptable types of contract, taking into account the fact that forms of employment are increasingly diverse. Those working under contracts of this kind should at the same time enjoy adequate security and higher occupational status, compatible with the needs of business.
Support adaptability in enterprises
In order to renew skill levels within enterprises Member States will:
18. re-examine the obstacles, in particular tax obstacles, to investment in human resources and possibly provide for tax or other incentives for the development of in-house training; they will also examine new regulations and review the existing regulatory framework to make sure they will contribute to reducing barriers to employment and helping the labour market adapt to structural change in the economy.
IV. STRENGTHENING EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES POLICIES FOR WOMEN AND MEN
Gender mainstreaming approach
Women still have particular problems in gaining access to the employment market, in career advancement, in earnings and in reconciling professional and family life. It is therefore important, inter alia:
to ensure that active labour market policies are made available for women in proportion to their share of unemployment,
to reduce tax-benefit disincentives, wherever identified, because of their negative effects on the female labour supply,
to give particular attention to obstacles which hinder women who wish to set up new businesses or become self-employed,
to ensure that women are able to benefit positively from flexible forms of work organisation.
Therefore, the Member States will:
19. adopt a gender-mainstreaming approach in implementing the Guidelines of all four pillars. In order meaningfully to evaluate progress on this approach, Member States will need to provide for adequate data collection systems and procedures.
Tackling gender gaps
Member States and the social partners should translate their desire to promote equality of opportunity into increased employment rates for women. They should also pay attention to the imbalance in the representation of women or men in certain economic sectors and occupations, as well as to the improvement of female career opportunities. Member States will:
20. attempt to reduce the gap in unemployment rates between women and men by actively supporting the increased employment of women and will take action to bring about a balanced representation of women and men in all sectors and occupations. They will initiate positive steps to promote equal pay for equal work or work of equal value and to diminish differentials in incomes between women and men. In order to reduce gender gaps, Member States will also consider an increased use of measures for the advancement of women.
Reconciling work and family life
Policies on career breaks, parental leave and part-time work, as well as flexible working arrangements which serve the interests of both employers and employees, are of particular importance to women and men. Implementation of the various Directives and social-partner agreements in this area should be accelerated and monitored regularly. There must be an adequate provision of good quality care for children and other dependents in order to support women's and men's entry and continued participation in the labour market. An equal sharing of family responsibilities is crucial in this respect. In order to strengthen equal opportunities, Member States and the social partners will:
21. design, implement and promote family-friendly policies, including affordable, accessible and high quality care services for children and other dependents, as well as parental and other leave schemes.
Facilitating reintegration into the labour market
The Member States will:
22. give specific attention to women, and men, considering a return to the paid workforce after an absence and, to that end, they will examine the means of gradually eliminating the obstacles in the way of such return.
(1)() OJ C 30, 28.1.1998, p. 1.