A partnership approach is the key to success in the Europe 2020 strategy and the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) must fully play its role as the link between the EU and civil society. This is to ensure that the voice of the most vulnerable is not drowned out, said László Andor, Commissioner with responsibility for employment, social affairs and inclusion at the EESC plenary session yesterday.
At the plenary session, chaired by EESC President Staffan Nilsson, Commissioner Andor briefly presented the methods and challenges of the Europe 2020 strategy. Drawing lessons from failings of the Lisbon Strategy, i.e. Europe 2020's predecessor, the Commissioner pointed to the principle of partnership as a means of meeting the current strategy's goals. "Engaging stakeholders in dialogue and ownership of the strategy must continue throughout the implementation process", he said.
Replying to this plea for partnership, President Nilsson highlighted the fact that Member States at their March EU summit had entrusted the EESC with the task of closely monitoring the implementation of Europe 2020 Strategy. This will help to reduce the risk of the strategy's legitimacy deficit, he added. The Committee will contribute to the governance of the strategy through its opinions and consultations with economic and social councils across the EU. By way of example, the Committee has recently adopted an opinion on the Annual Growth Survey, one of the economic tools of the strategy, in which it questioned some of the Commission's recommendations for growth.
To the Committee's delight and in line with its repeated recommendations, Mr Andor spoke unequivocally in favour of reinforcing social dialogue, which has proven to be a vital factor of resilience during the crisis. He quoted a recent Commission report that showed how agreements between workers and employers in the first phase of the crisis enabled workers to keep their jobs and employers to manage their businesses successfully, making the most of the recovery.
However, he struck a cautious note, saying that many countries in the EU do not make full use of social partnership potential. He highlighted the utility of social dialogue in striking a balance for reforms required by fiscal consolidation. In the Commissioner's eyes, this is one of the most urgent challenges and a prerequisite for a return to a long-lasting growth.
Poverty is still a major problem in Europe, and it is clear that the European social model, although it has proved its worth in cushioning the recession, still is not inclusive enough. In this context, Commissioner Andor underscored the pressing need for effective Roma inclusion strategies. He reiterated that the Commission has asked Member States to draw up such strategies by the end of 2011. "It will be impossible to achieve the Europe 2020 targets without a breakthrough in Roma integration", said the Commissioner. EESC President Staffan Nilsson made it clear that the Committee as a relentless advocate of Roma inclusion will play its part in ensuring that Roma communities attain their due place in society.
In their comments, many EESC Members vented their concerns over the rise of xenophobia and racism in Europe, which, condemnable in itself, has also had a negative effect on the labour market. "Desperation can push people to follow anything or anyone, even a madman", said George Dassis, President of EESC Workers' Group. Members also pointed to some lacunas of the strategy. Krzysztof Pater (Poland, Various Interests Group) called for more focus on low-skilled people and people with disabilities who, as he said, are having "a particularly hard time getting a job". Vladimíra Drbalová (Czech Republic, Employers' Group) accused the strategy of not paying enough attention to competitiveness and productivity as pathways to a stronger Europe.
Click here to watch a clip with Commissioner Andor's message to the EESC.
For further information, please contact:
Barbara Gessler, EESC Press Unit,
Tel.:+32 2 546 8066;