European Commissioner responsible for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion
Press points at EPSCO Council
Luxembourg, 4 October 2012
Against the background of the unacceptable record jobless figures, I am pleased that today's Council has endorsed the Commission's April 2012 Employment Package.
I also welcome that the Council held a crucial debate on European Governance, its employment and social dimensions and its future
The Employment Package is an important strategy providing a medium-term agenda for EU and Member State action to support a job-rich recovery. It also offers concrete measures that have been incorporated in the Compact for Growth and Jobs adopted by the European Council in June.
I am relying on each of the Ministers present today to do all they can to ensure rapid implementation of the measures outlined in the Employment Package and to decide swiftly on the Commission's proposals in the package. This is essential to deliver inclusive growth, to prevent macroeconomic imbalances and to reduce the increasing divergence between Member States. The European Semester mechanisms, and strengthening the governance and coordination of employment policies, can together play a valuable role in this respect.
The Council debate has made very clear that we need to build the social dimension of economic and monetary union and that this question should be dealt with urgently by the European Council in October as well as in the December European Council report on genuine economic and monetary union.
As regards the economic and social situation, youth unemployment is reaching historical levels and I informed the Council that I will present in December a Youth Employment Package. This will include a proposal for a Recommendation on Youth Guarantees and a second phase consultation of social partners on a quality framework for traineeships.
I very much welcomed the opportunity to discuss the European Social Fund today. At least 25% of cohesion policy – namely 84 billion euros – should be devoted to human capital investment by the ESF.
I have recalled that this is the direct way for the EU budget to underpin economic, employment and social priorities with funding. With the current social and employment crisis and long term demographic challenges, the European Union cannot afford to reduce its budget for human capital investment.
Yet, given the current state of play in the MFF negotiations, there is a very real risk that EU investment in people could be significantly reduced. I therefore urged the Employment and Social Policy Ministers to ensure consistency in their respective national positions in negotiations on the MFF given the apparent lack of understanding among the negotiators in the General Affairs Council about the fundamental contribution of the ESF to a job-rich recovery and human capital investment.
On child poverty, I welcome today's Council Conclusions. They address one of the most profound sources of injustice of our time, which the current crisis unfortunately has only made worse.
These Conclusions will serve as a valuable input for the planned Commission Recommendation on child poverty which we plan to adopt at the beginning of 2013 as part of a larger Social Investment Package.
I welcome the Council's adoption of a General Approach on the proposed Directive to update and improve EU rules to protect workers from electromagnetic fields in their daily tasks. The rules are to protect workers such as doctors and nurses giving patients magnetic resonance imaging scans (MRI), people working with radar, welders and workers repairing power lines. We now look forward to receiving the amendments from the European Parliament and to continue work with the co-legislators with a view to rapid adoption of this important measure.
Finally, during the upcoming informal lunch with my colleagues I look forward to discussing the issues related to workers' mobility, in particular the transitional arrangements for workers from Bulgaria and Romania.
In the current situation of high unemployment across Europe, labour mobility can play an important role and we should remove all obstacles for Europeans to make use of their rights to free movement across borders.
In this context, I welcome the fact that the Cyprus Presidency has revived work on the Commission's portability of pensions proposal. This Directive would directly contribute to improving the free movement of workers.