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José Manuel Durão Barroso
President of the European Commission
Statement by President Barroso at the Tripartite Social Summit
Tripartite Social Summit/Brussels
24 October 2013
I am very pleased to be here with the social partners ahead of today's European Council. Social issues are and always have been a top priority for the European Commission.
And we have proved this with our recent Communication on strengthening the social dimension of the Economic and Monetary Union.
Our message is clear: social and employment considerations must feature more prominently in current EU economic governance structures, and social partners at European Union and national levels must become more involved in this process.
We will reinforce the monitoring of employment and social developments within our existing rules for economic surveillance.
We have also proposed a new, stand-alone employment and social indicators scoreboard, which will serve as an analytical tool to identify major employment and social problems earlier on in the game.
It will also allow employment and social concerns to be better integrated into all of our policies, including, of course, in our country-specific recommendations.
The European Union budget is crucial in this respect. Through reinforced European Union financing instruments, we should enhance and support increased labour mobility, and effective transnational skills matching will be stepped up. This is in line with our actions to support youth employment, for instance by stronger cooperation of Public Employment Services.
The Commission attaches a strong importance to a high-quality social dialogue, at European and national level, and will work to exploit the existing mechanisms for the consultation of social partners.
But while there are good signs in the economy, the reality is that the recovery is still very fragile and we are still faced with unacceptably high levels of unemployment, namely, youth unemployment. Today at the European Council, I will press European Union heads of state and government to maintain the momentum to tackle this problem. The Member States - with the support of the Commission - are in the process of finalising the design of their Youth Guarantee Implementation plans and Youth Employment Initiative programmes.
The Commission is ready to frontload 6 billion euro already now and up to 8 billion euro from the Youth Employment Initiative over the next two years, because this is the most urgent challenge, we believe. But we need Member States to come up with useful ways to invest it, and this is a very important challenge, to put in place those programmes so that they can start in January 2014.
That is why it is also important that the Council and the Parliament reach an agreement on the related regulations swiftly, so that we can make this happen.
It is also particularly timely that today's European Council will focus on the digital economy and innovation. There is a very massive potential for job creation.
And I would like the European Union leaders today to clearly commit to adopting key legislation on telecoms, high-speed broadband, online payments and data protection, if possible before the European Parliament breaks for elections next May. Taken together, our proposals to create a pan-European digital economy could add 4% to our collective GDP by 2020. So it is a very important sector, also for our prosperity.
And innovation is at the core of growth and jobs creation. I will call upon Member States to deliver structural reforms needed for the European Research Area to become a reality.
Now, to secure the recovery and to create jobs, we also need to get banks lending to businesses, especially SMEs. And what happens in Europe is simply unacceptable, because we have good companies that don't have the necessary credit, just because they are located in a country that has been facing specific problems. So this is a problem of divergence inside the European Union and divergence inside the euro area.
That is why, while of course some work will take more time in terms of the correction of the imbalances, we have come up with ideas and options for using available European Union funds to share the risk of new lending with the European Investment Bank. We have put those ideas in front of the European Council some time ago. And there, I have to be very frank with you; I am a little bit disappointed. Or, better said, I am disappointed. I am disappointed because I think we need more ambition from heads of state and government to make a real difference for our SMEs. So far, we have not yet seen the necessary commitment to mobilise the structural funds with the EIB so that we can have money – credit - flowing to the real economy, namely, to SMEs to create jobs. And we believe it is possible to do more.
Another issue that is critically important to solve the problems of divergence of the financial situation in Europe is the Banking Union, a true Banking Union. That is the systemic response to what exists today, where there is a very clear fragmentation. That is why we can make progress on the Banking union to end the unfair lending conditions in financial markets.
Another point that we believe is important is what we have called REFIT, a programme for removing unnecessary burdens on businesses. Since 2005 we have worked on this. We have already repealed 5590 legal acts and reduced the administrative burden by 32.3 billion euros.
I want to make it clear that this is not about calling into question established policy goals, from social policy to environmental policy, for instance, or public health policy. That is way I'm making the point at the European Council that we should do this in a pragmatic way, if we are really interested in delivering. Reducing the administrative burden, but not in an ideological way by trying to reduce competences that are part of the European Union acquis, namely the social and environmental competences, public health or for instance rights of consumers in Europe.
This is a very important point and I expect a good discussion on this. This is not about a repatriation of powers; it's about using the existing competences of the European Union with full respect for subsidiarity and proportionality.
Finally, for all this to become a reality we need investment. That's why I very much welcome the joint letter signed by all the leaders of the social partners putting the emphasis on the need for investment. As the Commission has been saying, at least since 2010, our policy should not be about fiscal consolidation alone, or structural reforms alone. This is important and indispensable, but we need also investment. And since most of our Member States simply do not have the fiscal space for investment, we need to help them through the MFF. Our countries, our regions, our farmers, our researchers, our workers, they need - also for social purposes, the Globalisation Adjustment Fund or the Social Fund. Our workers they need the MFF to be approved.
That is why I'm asking the Council and Parliament to come as soon as possible to an agreement on the MFF, also because we need this European investment. And I was encouraged to see that the social partners, from the trade unions to the business leaders, they are on that line for the need for more investment at the European level, because this is what can bring growth. Growth does not come by increasing debt, either public or private debt, growth comes if we also have the proper investment, namely for the future of our economies.
So I think it was a very good, frank and open discussion. As usual I can tell there was no unanimity, but I think in the most important points we saw a convergence of views, even if there are, of course, different perspectives on the best way to achieve our goals. But the goals of sustainable growth, I am sure, are shared by all the social partners.