I would first like to thank the Croatian Presidency for organizing this video-conference with employment and social ministers in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Covid-19 outbreak is having wide-ranging implications on our citizens, the economy and society. The EU and its Member States have mobilised a great amount of resources and are committed to do their utmost to protect citizens during the crisis and to help mitigate the large-scale socio-economic impact of this crisis.
Yesterday's successful global pledging conference, led by the EU exemplified the importance to join forces and mobilise resources to develop as soon as possible a vaccine, produce it and deploy it to every single corner of the world.
While at this point all our efforts go into protecting our citizens and addressing all immediate negative consequences of this on-going crisis, we need to ensure that we put Europe on a path of sustainable recovery and growth.
For this we need to look at our current challenges also in the face of other key changes that impact on our societies, such as the green and digital transformations and the demographic change.
On the issue of demographic change, we had a good occasion for reflection today: First, the virus has not hit every Member State in the same way, and evidence points to the fact that demographics have been far from neutral in the propagation of the virus.
In light of that, a better understanding of a country's age structure, population concentrations, households structures or intergenerational interactions can help predict the burden of critical cases and aid in more precise planning.
It can also warn localities of the need to take more effective protective measures, and better organise successful exit and recovery plans.
Second, demographic change - such as an ageing population, low birth rates and decreasing working-age population - impacts on our economy, social and employment policies, on public finance and it also has an impact on territorial cohesion.
Different regions are affected differently by demographic change. At regional level, population movements can also have a big impact on a region's demographic profile.
One of the key questions is how we can best offer support to people and regions to adapt to changing realities. The evidence set out in the upcoming Commission report on the impact of demographic change will help identify the people and regions most affected by demographic change. The goal is to maintain or improve the quality of life for the people living in these regions, not fighting long-term demographic trends.
The report will be the basis for a well-informed policy debate and pave the way for a green paper on ageing, which will launch a debate on a broad range of questions, including issues related to care and pensions, and on how to foster active ageing and for a long-term vision for rural areas.
A forthcoming long-term vision for rural areas will help rural areas in meeting challenges such as demographic change, connectivity, and limited access to services.
To conclude: the Commission is committed to continue its efforts to help Europe's societies and economy get back to a normal functioning and to sustainable and inclusive growth. The work on demographic change plays an important role in the aftermath of COVID-19 and in supporting long-term growth.