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José Manuel Durão Barroso Président de la Commission européenne Session plénière du Comité économique et social européen Bruxelles, 30 septembre 2009

Commission Européenne - SPEECH/09/427   30/09/2009

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SPEECH/ 09/427

José Manuel Dur ã o Barroso

Président de la Commission européenne

La d imension sociale de l'Europe face à la crise

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED


Session plénière du Comité économique et social européen

Bruxelles, 30 septembre 2009

Monsieur le Président, cher Mario Sepi,

Mesdames et Messieurs les Conseillers,

Je vous remercie de m'accueillir pour votre session plénière consacrée à la dimension sociale de la réponse européenne à la crise actuelle. Je suis heureux de venir débattre avec vous de cette question extrêmement importante. C'est un domaine dans lequel vous avez une expertise irremplaçable. Vous connaissez mieux que personne les solutions qui "marchent" sur le terrain.

La crise que nous traversons a commencé par gripper les rouages économiques et financiers. Elle arrive désormais "à hauteur d'homme" et se traduit par des conséquences très concrètes sur la vie de nos citoyens et de nos sociétés.

L'Europe doit surmonter la crise. Elle doit aussi préparer la reprise. Ce que nous voulons, c'est une Europe qui place les citoyens au cœur de son projet. Une société qui prend en compte le changement climatique de manière dynamique et qui mise sur l'innovation, la recherche, la société de la connaissance, une nouvelle approche industrielle, de nouvelles sources de croissance et de nouveaux modèles énergétiques.

Nous sommes donc devant une épreuve de vérité. Ou bien nous faisons ensemble des choix de société axés sur l'avenir, ambitieux et conformes à nos valeurs, et l'Europe, unie, sortira renforcée de la crise. Ou bien nous naviguons à vue sans véritable cap politique commun, et l'Europe, faute d'union, sera marginalisée.

Je n'ai pas besoin de vous dire à quelle option vont mes faveurs!

Mon projet, c'est d'accompagner l'Europe à la fois vers la sortie de crise et vers un nouveau modèle de croissance durable. Mon ambition, c'est de renforcer parallèlement la cohésion sociale, car dans un modèle d'économie sociale de marché comme le nôtre, croissance et protection sociale vont de pair. Ma conviction, c'est que nous avons énormément de talents et d'atouts à exploiter si nous "jouons collectif " et si nous "pensons européen".

Je ne reviens pas sur le plan de relance européen, adopté à l'initiative de la Commission. Au plus fort de la tempête, il a joué un rôle de bouée de sauvetage, notamment pour notre système financier. Aujourd'hui, les quelque 6% du PIB européen que nous injectons dans les circuits économiques en 2009 et 2010 apportent l'oxygène dont l'économie réelle a besoin pour préparer la reprise.

Soyons clairs, il y a encore beaucoup à faire et nous sommes loin d'être sortis d'affaire. Mais nous avançons. La dynamique du G20, dont la mise en place doit beaucoup à l'Union européenne, s'est imposée comme une véritable tour de contrôle de l'économie mondiale. Les résultats de sa troisième réunion à Pittsburgh la semaine dernière - à laquelle j'ai participé - en témoignent. Et je suis fier que l'Europe ait proposé au monde un modèle pour réformer la supervision financière, grâce aux propositions que la Commission a adoptées la veille du sommet de Pittsburgh.

La coordination au sein du G20 a enrayé la chute libre de l'économie mondiale. En Europe, la consommation privée et publique a bien résisté. L'économie se stabilise. Les entreprises reprennent confiance. Le rythme des destructions d'emplois ralentit dans de nombreux États membres. La Commission vient même de réviser légèrement à la hausse ses projections de croissance pour le deuxième semestre 2009. Nous espérons que le pire est derrière nous.

Il n'empêche que, pour ceux qui ont perdu leur emploi, la crise est là et bien là. Et il faut le dire, hélas, elle n'a pas encore déployé tous ses effets – je devrais dire ses méfaits - sur les marchés du travail. On ne peut pas parler d'une véritable reprise tant qu'il y a un taux élevé de chômage.

Personne ne peut rester sourd à ces situations de détresse.

Le chômage est notre préoccupation numéro 1. Après avoir créé 18 millions d'emplois entre 1997 et 2007, nous pourrions en perdre 8,5 millions d'ici à la fin de l'année prochaine.

Les personnes peu qualifiées et les jeunes en sont les premières victimes. 5,3 millions de jeunes Européens étaient sans emploi en juillet dernier. Sur les quelque 4,3 millions de jeunes qui ont quitté le système éducatif en 2007, 14% se sont inscrits au chômage en 2008.

Ces chiffres sont intolérables. Nous avons tous - responsables politiques, acteurs sociaux et représentants de la société civile ici présents – une obligation politique et morale. Nous ne pouvons pas nous permettre une "génération perdue" de jeunes condamnés à des périodes de chômage de plus ou moins longue durée.

Ladies & Gentlemen,

Responsibility for labour market policy of course lies primarily with Member States. But the Commission can help by working with Member States and Social Partners to identify and advocate concrete measures to maintain and create employment. Many such measures were included in the Recovery Plan and in our Employment Communication to the June European Council. They include measures to encourage companies to retain people on their payrolls, for example by reducing social security contributions and providing incentives for training and acquiring new skills in the workplace, often combined with short-time working.

We are using existing instruments and Community funding to help Member States finance these measures.

The European Social Fund and our education and training programmes are doing their bit, helping to upgrade the skills and job prospects of some 10 million Europeans every year.

For example, we have simplified Structural Fund procedures to allow these funds, and the Globalisation Adjustment Fund, to be used as rapid reaction tools, to upgrade people's skills, to enable a quick re-integration into work. And we can be proud of achievements so far: of 10.000 workers benefiting from support from the Globalisation Adjustment Fund in 2008, 69% got re-employed. We have also proposed 100% funding of European Social FundSF projects for the next two years, to help those Member States which have problems finding the money for co-funding. Unfortunately, these proposals have not yet been approved by Member States. We have recently introduced micro-credits worth €500 million for people who have lost their jobs and want to start their own business. We have urged Member States to make an additional 5 million apprenticeships available this year and next – so as to avoid young people moving straight from school into unemployment.

So our first priority is working with Member States to alleviate the impact of this crisis on our labour markets and our citizens. But to lay the foundations for a more sustainable future, we must already look beyond this to a longer-term vision for the new economy.

This implies an overhaul of the Lisbon Strategy for Growth & Jobs, turning it into a strategy to deliver the integrated vision of "EU 2020", which I have set out in early September. The aim of EU 2020 is to transform Europe into a low-carbon, knowledge-based economy. The date 2020 was chosen to tie in with our climate change ambitions, but the vision is very broad, covering economic and social aspects, as well as environmental.

The post-2010 Lisbon Strategy should therefore be seen as the exit strategy from the current crisis – defining what Europe we want when we come out at the end of the tunnel – and what needs to be done by the EU, by Member States, by social partners, by regional and local authorities, stakeholders and, last but not least, by our citizens to realise the vision. You have a great deal of knowledge, expertise and grassroots experience that I would like to tap into. I would therefore encourage you to respond to the public consultation that we will soon launch on the post-2010 Lisbon strategy.

Making a successful transformation cannot be done without investing in new sources of growth. It means boosting research, development and innovation. It means higher quality education and upgrading of skills as the basis for more employment. It means more competitiveness and less administrative burden, in particular for small and medium-sized enterprises, to strengthen our industrial base, a modern service sector and a thriving rural economy.

It means also closing the "missing links" in the internal market to realize its full potential. It means action against climate change and for energy security to make our economies and societies more sustainable. It means deploying the networks of the future, be it broadband or new European super grids for electricity and gas.

And all this has to be done whilst securing sound public finances for our and the next generations. To this end, we will have to look at strengthening the links between the Stability and Growth Pact, which should provide the budgetary underpinning, and the post-2010 Lisbon Strategy. We will have to explore innovative ways of financing – e.g. using Public-Private Partnerships, enhancing further the role of the EIB, finding ways to secure long-term investments such as from pension funds, and last but not least, use market-based instruments such as energy taxation to promote green growth and help invest in our future.

We must not fear the future. I passionately believe that the European Union can lead the world towards a greener, cleaner and more inclusive society. But it can succeed only by being open to the rest of the world.

In fact, other countries around the world, such as the US, China, Japan and Korea are stepping up efforts to deliver a low carbon, knowledge-based economy. One only has to take a look at their national recovery plans to see that they are investing massively in green technologies, in research and innovation.

So we need to step up our efforts. We can't keep going at the same speed, if others are putting their foot on the accelerator. In that case, we would soon lose our lead in important areas of eco-innovation.

The investments to create a green economy will create millions of new, green jobs. Meanwhile, the ageing of our population will create more so-called "white jobs" – caring for older people – and indeed children – as more and more women enter the labour force. I believe there is a great potential for employment the social sector.

Our task is to ensure that people have the skills they need to move into these jobs. Europe’s citizens must have the opportunity to - and understand the need to - continually update their skills. We must make lifelong learning a concept with meaning. For too long, we have talked about this concept, yet we simply have not made enough progress towards making it a reality.

Our future economic prosperity also depends on investing in our future workforce, and ensuring that the youth of today can be given the opportunity to be the leaders of tomorrow.

So we must significantly reduce the number of young people leaving school early without any qualifications.

We must work together to ensure better access to high quality education. As low-skilled jobs disappear, it is becoming more and more difficult for people without qualifications to enter or re-enter the labour market and secu re a decent standard of living.

Innovative investment is now needed in education and training. This requires a partnership approach: European Institutions, Member States, social partners, local and regional actors, civil society – we must all work hand in hand to make the transition towards a knowledge and innovation society that will provide employment for the future.

I am looking forward to continuing our good co-operation on these matters in the future.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The crisis poses huge challenges. However, I am a fervent believer in the notion expressed by Albert Einstein that "in the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity". While most of the challenges require urgent and decisive action, the opportunities may take longer to harvest. Partnership between the Commission, the Member States and our stakeholders has produced the decisive action required to turn the crisis around. We must now look to the longer term, towards sustainable and fair growth as a motor for full employment. This is my vision, the vision of the European Commission, and I look forward to working with you to achieve it .


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