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Mr. László ANDOR

Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion

"Europe 2020 and inclusive growth: Beyond 100 days"

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED

European Policy Center - Well being project 2030

Brussels, 11 June 2010

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure to be here today and tell you more about my first 100 days as Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion and my vision for the future.

This Commission entered into office when the economic and financial crisis hit society the hardest. But the crisis has also forced us to reflect on the future's economic and social models.

The Well-being 2030 project, which is co-funded by the European Commission, will contribute to this reflection by examining the trends, challenges and constraints, framing policy choices for improving people’s quality of life. The outcome of the project will be taken into account in the Commission's work.

This project is particularly important since Employment and social policies in the European Union are faced with and will continue to be faced with a number of major challenges over the coming years.

These challenges are both complex and interlinked in nature:

  • First, unemployment has increased to more than 10%. Young people in particular have been hit by the crisis - almost 21% are out of work.

  • Second, the crisis has affected public finances, placing them under great strain – both from declining revenue and from rising social benefits.

  • Third, it has become increasingly apparent that the EU must make the transition to a knowledge-based society and a low-carbon economy. We must ensure that the European labour force is equipped with the necessary new skills for new jobs.

  • And finally, the EU is faced with a demographic challenge. The EU's working age population will shrink from 2013/2014. Our employment and social protection systems (including pension systems) will need fundamental reform if they are to cope with increased pressure.

What is needed is a strategy that is:

  • ambitious with realistic objectives;

  • multi-dimensional to deal with the interlinked challenges;

  • and European to encourage joint solutions to tackle common challenges.

We need a strategy to tackle the immediate effects of the crisis on people — a strategy that attacks its root causes and also lays the foundations for safeguarding our well-being in the future.

Our response came in one of the very first decisions of the new Commission, proposing a strategy for Europe in the next decade.

The fact that Europe 2020 sets EU headline employment and poverty reduction targets is hugely important in itself.

When you add education, it means that politically the European Council has accepted the Commission’s proposal to put social issues at the top of the agenda.

In the Europe 2020 strategy, under the banner “a strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth”, three out of seven flagship initiatives, and two out of five headline targets fall within the employment and social affairs field.

This sharper focus on employment and social affairs is reflected in the Commission’s work programme for 2010. We now need to act on the following flagship initiatives: Youth on the move, Agenda for New Skills and Jobs and the European Platform on Poverty. "An agenda for new skills and jobs" aims to match labour supply and demand more effectively and raise people’s — particularly young people’s — participation in the labour market.

It is also about exploring the new opportunities offered by the transition to a low-carbon economy. We are seeing the creation of jobs in the renewable energy and transport sectors and in the construction industry. So there is every reason to promote and to be ready to fill these green jobs.

We need to encourage the development of skills at all stages of life — in basic education and later too, by giving people support to move forward in their careers and ensuring that older workers remain up-to-date with new technologies and labour-market needs.

Another flagship initiative, the "European platform against poverty", is designed to ensure that the benefits of growth and jobs are widely shared and people experiencing poverty and social exclusion are able to live in dignity and play an active part in society.

2010 is the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion. I am very pleased that the European Year will not only be remembered for the campaigns but also for the EU managing to set a poverty target. The latest employment and social affairs ministers meeting on 7 June set a target of lifting at least 20 million out of poverty or exclusion and I hope that the EU leaders will endorse this target on 17 June.

Another flagship initiative — "Youth on the move" — will seek to improve the way our education systems perform and ease young people’s entry into the labour market. Unemployment among young people strikes me as particularly worrying. Together with Ms Vassiliou, I will be presenting this initiative in the autumn.

There are still a number of issues to resolve with Europe 2020. The EU headline targets need to be translated into national targets and various governance issues need to be settled.

Nonetheless, I believe Europe 2020 is taking shape and we can now start concentrating on tackling the challenges for the future.

Among the thorniest issues is pensions. Over the last 15 years, most Member States have reformed their pension arrangements with an eye to the fast-declining ratio between the working-age population and the retired population.

For the first time, the working-age population will be significantly smaller than those who have retired.

The crisis has made it all the more urgent to tackle the long-term problem of our pension systems’ sustainability.

In collaboration with my fellow Commissioners Barnier and Rehn, I have taken steps to draft a Green Paper on adequate, sustainable and safe pensions.

It will provide a basis for a wide consultation of all stakeholders on how we should modernise the current EU framework for pensions.

Contrary to some press reports, the Green Paper will not propose a pensionable age, which is an issue for the Member States to decide, along with many other aspects of pensions.

Ladies and gentlemen, among the files I have inherited are the complex issues of working time and the posting of workers.

The Commission has started work on reviewing the Working Time Directive. We have just completed the first stage of consultation of the social partners.

Our fundamental goal is to ensure that exceptions to working time rules do not put workers' health and safety at risk. But we aim to take a fresh look at all the issues, including the structural changes in working patterns over recent years, and their implications for the working time needs of businesses and workers.

Given the preparatory work necessary, we will not be able to table a proposal for legislation in the immediate months.

The other hot potato is the Posting of Workers Directive, which has been difficult to apply in some Member States.

The Commission is considering the options on how to ensure a more uniform enforcement of the Directive across the Member States.

Naturally, we will also be taking account of the social partners' recent contribution and the report from Mr Monti on the relaunching of the Internal Market.

Recently, we launched the mid-term review of the health and safety strategy. Let me also flag that a proposal on electromagnetic fields will be presented in 2010

Another important point I must mention is the future of our financial instruments.

The upcoming budget review may bring significant changes to the European Social Fund and the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund and we need to ensure that they can fully support the implementation of Europe 2020.

Ladies and gentlemen, my first 100 days as Commissioner have been very full and very exciting too.

During that time the Commission has set out its programme for this year and sketched out a strategy for the next decade.

We cannot do it on our own. We need to work with the other institutions, the Member States, the social partners and civil society.

We need the inspiration that comes from such projects as Well-being 2030.

Finally, let me say a few words about an aspect of social inclusion which is particularly close to my heart: sport. Sport provides citizens with opportunities to interact and join social networks. It contributes to economic growth and job creation, it can also help to revitalise disadvantaged areas. The Football World Cup starts today. I am certain that we will all gain inspiration from the games, especially those in South Africa.

Thank you.

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