In view, inter alia, of his hearing by the European Parliament today, these are the written replies by László Andor, Commissioner designate for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion to questions 4 and 5 of the European Parliament to the EP's Committee on Employment and Social Affairs
They do offer a good insight of his and Pres. Barroso's plans for social policy in 2010-2014:
4. What are the three main priorities you intend to pursue as part of your proposed portfolio, taking into account, where relevant, the financial, economic and social crisis and concerns related to sustainable development?
Mr. Andor's reply:
"My top priority will be to tackle the consequences of the crisis on the employment and social
situation in the EU. This means preventing further job losses and creating jobs. It also means
addressing social exclusion and the concerns of the most vulnerable. "
And he adds: "The EU has reacted promptly to the crisis in a coordinated manner through the European Economic Recovery Plan. It is my intention to build on what has been done and, under the EU 2020 strategy, I plan to work with the Member States to coordinate their actions and combine our efforts."
"Beyond that", he adds, "we need to strive for dynamic, sustainable and inclusive economies and labour markets in the long-run. The crisis offers us the opportunity to develop a competitive and
sustainable economy that efficiently deals with environmental and social policy challenges."
He argues that "new sources of growth, such as the green economy and healthcare and social services need to be considered."
Regarding Flexicurity: "It is with this in mind that I will pursue the “flexicurity” agenda and the
promotion of training and life-long learning as a reform pathway towards modern labour
The funds: Mr. Andor says that he also intends to support Member States’ recovery efforts by making full use of the European Social Fund and the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund. "We will hopefully have the new micro-financing facility soon too. In my initiatives and actions, I am determined to work with the full involvement of the European Parliament."
Other areas of priority:
"Another priority area will be to promote policies to support vulnerable groups and address the
root causes of poverty and social exclusion, including issues such as child poverty and
multiple discrimination, or the alarming development in the situation of many Roma people.
In partnership with the Member States, the European Parliament and other stakeholders, I
will ensure that the common principles on active inclusion are fully implemented and further
promoted. 2010, the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion is an important opportunity to raise citizens' awareness in this respect."
"In the wake of the crisis, national welfare systems have contributed to stabilising the
economy and to supporting vulnerable people. To address the challenges facing these
systems, I will also deal with the problems of an ageing society as a matter of priority, more
specifically with the rising number of pensioners and increased health and care costs, and I
will continue to work with the Member States, the European Parliament and Social Partnersto improve the adequacy and sustainability of social protection systems. This means encouraging people to remain active longer, and ensure that they have the resources to grow old in dignity."
Monitoring the transposition and implementation of existing Directives:
"I will give great attention to the proper implementation of the acquis in the social area. This
means monitoring the transposition and implementation of existing Directives, providing support and guidance for their correct implementation, and taking legal action vis-à-vis Member States as appropriate."
Finally, in his priorities, he concluded:
Assessment of Social Impact
"I will also ensure that, within the Commission's integrated approach to impact assessment, all new initiatives involve an in-depth assessment of social impacts that is sound, robust and evidence-based."
"5. What are the specific legislative and non-legislative initiatives you intend to put forward, and according to what timetable? What specific commitments can you make regarding in particular the committees' priorities and requests attached hereto which would fall within your portfolio? How would you personally ensure the good quality of legislative proposals?"
Mr. Andor's reply:
"The most pressing challenge Europe faces in the coming years is to combat massive and
long-term unemployment", he asserts.
And he adds: "Joblessness is set to hit double digit figures in 2010 and to bring employment levels back to levels of 2008 means rethinking the European Employment Strategy in the context of an unprecedented economic crisis. This is where I will focus my main efforts."
2020 Strategy and European Social Dialogue:
"My intention is to contribute significantly to the EU 2020 strategy and, as a consequence, I expect an intense social dialogue at EU level. This will not be easy - the challenge will be to find the right policy mix, which implies political compromises from all sides. What we need at this stage is not a shopping list, but rather a common understanding
and agreement on the necessary steps to take."
"Flexicurity", if rightly interpreted, says Mr. Andor, "can be the guiding concept for the further development of labour markets. This is why it must continue to be the cornerstone for modernising European labour markets and social security systems, bearing in mind that our ultimate goal should be the creation of competitive, sustainable and inclusive economies. An indispensable component of this will need to be a forward-looking skills policy."
"We will need new jobs which will require new skills. In this context, active labour market policies, lifelong learning, training and tailored support for jobseekers are vital, and reflecting on New Skills for New Jobs is the conceptual work we need to do first."
Comprehensive review of the Working Time Directive (via European Social Dialogue first):
Says Mr. Andor: "Following a thorough and wide-ranging impact assessment process, I will consider the options for a comprehensive review of the Working Time Directive, and if necessary put a proposal for adoption by the Commission in due time. Due to specific provisions of the
Treaty, I will first have to give the European social partners the possibility to express their views and let them choose whether they wish to initiate a social dialogue."
Improve the implementation of the Posting of Workers Directive:
"In line with President Barroso’s commitment, I will take initiatives to improve the implementation of the Posting of Workers Directive and strive in particular to make the obligations of national authorities, companies and workers clearer."
Adaptations of the EU acquis in the area of health and safety at work:
"I will also propose adaptations of the EU acquis in the area of health and safety at work to
respond to emerging risks, seek ways how to prevent work-related musculoskeletal disorders
and to improve the protection of workers against the risks arising from exposure to
Reflection on a modern service sector and other topics:
"I will launch a reflection on a modern service sector, efficient social protection systems and active policies for the integration of immigrants, in close cooperation with the Commissioner designate for Home Affairs. This may result in the launch of specific initiatives and, linking up with the EU 2020 Strategy, I will look at the labour-market and social aspects of immigration. "
Green Paper on Pensions:
"In line with President Barroso's political guidelines, I will launch a Green Paper
on developing a European Framework for adequate and sustainable pensions .."
Public and Social Services:
"...and a reflection on public and social services, thus recognising their importance in the European model of society."
"Also, a debate on the changing workplace and its implications will be launched, in
close cooperation with the Commissioner responsible for the Digital Agenda.
It is also my intention in close cooperation with Vice-President designate for Justice,
Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, to promote Fundamental Rights, in particular bearing in mind the Charter's provisions.
Lastly, and keeping in mind that we need to have the tools and resources to live up to our ambitions, I will see to it that the new generation of financial instruments responds more effectively to medium and longer-term challenges."