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European Commissioner responsible for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion
Press conference remarks at Employment and Social Affairs Council
Brussels, 6 December 2012
I presented to the Council the 2013 Annual Growth Survey, the Joint Employment Report and the Alert Mechanism Report, all of which were adopted by the Commission on 28th November. I underlined that employment and social policies are key priorities of this year's AGS because of their crucial role in pursuing growth-friendly fiscal consolidation and in tackling the consequences of the crisis. I emphasised that strategies to restore the sustainability of public finances must be implemented in a way that supports growth, employment and social fairness.
I am pleased that the Council has made progress on our proposal to improve enforcement of the posting of workers Directive. The proposal would ensure posted workers enjoy their full social rights across Europe and safeguard against abuse. During the orientation debate, I urged the Member to take a constructive attitude towards finding a compromise on two key elements of the proposal, the control measures and joint and several liability. With an increasing number of posted workers (currently 1.2 million), an agreement on this important proposal becomes pressing. I urged Member States to agree the proposal under the Irish Presidency of the Council in the first half of 2013 so as to pave the way for an agreement with the European Parliament as soon as possible.
I also urged rapid agreement on the Commission's proposal to maintain the European Globalisation Fund during the 2014-2020 period. The Fund has demonstrated its added value, in terms of targeted support to help workers hit by large scale redundancies to find new jobs.
As regards the Commission proposal for an EU Programme for Social Change and Innovation (PSCI), I stressed the importance of investing in human capital in these times of crisis. For its part the Commission is ready to do all it can to facilitate the adoption of a strong and ambitious Regulation in early 2013 under the Irish Presidency.
I am pleased that the Council and the Parliament have found a common understanding - in line with the Commission proposal - for the microfinance and social entrepreneurship elements. Negotiations are now progressing on PROGRESS and EURES, as well as on the governance of the Programme.
This new Programme can promote social innovation via exchange of best practice, targeted mobility schemes and entrepreneurship activities. We should bring the discussions to a fruitful outcome without delay.
I have presented to the Council the Youth Employment Package that was put forward by the Commission yesterday. Its aim is to help address the unacceptable levels of youth unemployment in Europe. The Package contains 4 key initiatives.
Firstly, we call on each Member State to implement the Youth Guarantee to ensure that all young people up to 25 years of age receive a quality offer of a job, continued education, apprenticeship or a traineeship within four months of becoming unemployed or leaving formal education.
Secondly, the Commission has launched a consultation of the social partners to come up with a Quality Framework for traineeships. This is because traineeships need to be of good quality in terms of learning content and adequate working conditions, in order to increase young people's chances of getting a permanent job.
Thirdly, we wish to improve the quality and the supply of apprenticeships in the EU by creating a ‘European Alliance for Apprenticeships’. This is because company-based apprenticeship schemes that enable young people to gain work experience and acquire theoretical knowledge at the same time also increase the chances of young people getting a permanent job.
Fourthly, we are improving the EURES job-search network. It will not only include targeted mobility schemes for young people but also cover work-related apprenticeships and traineeships. This will give young people more possibilities to work and train in another EU Member State and so increase their employment opportunities. Despite the crisis, there are over two million unfilled vacancies in the EU.
I welcome the fact that today's Council has adopted Guiding Principles on Active Ageing and solidarity between generations. Those guiding principles will help all relevant authorities and stakeholders build on the European Year 2012.
I would like to thank the Cyprus Presidency for re-launching Council discussions on the proposed Directive on minimum requirements for enhancing worker mobility by improving the acquisition and preservation of supplementary pension rights.
This is an important initiative to increase labour market mobility, which is more important than ever given the economic crisis, high levels of unemployment and imbalances in employment opportunities across the EU. I now look forward to the adoption of the Directive under the forthcoming Irish Presidency.
Finally, I presented the Commission's proposal to set up a Fund for European Aid to the most deprived, in light of the EU's commitment to reduce the number of people in or at risk of poverty by at least 20 million by 2020.
The proposed Fund would plug a gap of the EU social cohesion policy by providing tailor-made support to the most vulnerable, which are left out of the existing financial instruments. I call on all Member States to support this proposal.