Juncker: If Costa can’t succeed at social summit, no one can

Former European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said he had good expectations for the Porto Summit on 7 May. [EPA-EFE/STEPHANIE LECOCQ]

Former European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker believes that Portugal will be able to achieve concrete results at the Porto Social Summit, commenting that if Prime Minister António Costa is not successful, “no one will be, because he is one of the best”.

In an interview with Lusa, Juncker, host of the first European summit devoted to social affairs in 1997, said he had good expectations for the Porto Summit on 7 May.

He acknowledged, though, that the conclusions adopted by European leaders are often forgotten – as happened in 1997 when it was decided to hold an annual summit devoted to social issues. The next one took place only 20 years later, in Sweden.

Juncker believes that Porto may pave the way for the effective implementation of the principles enshrined in the European Social Pillar even without binding targets.

This issue is always controversial and invariably meets with resistance from various member states.

“Yeah, that’s an old debate. We had the same debate back in 97, during the first social summit, which took place in Luxembourg. We need strong commitments as far as the content of social policies in Europe concerned. But we don’t need to put figures on each and every one of the particular ambitions, which will be mentioned in the common declaration”, he said.

Even so, the former Commission president notes the importance of concrete targets.

And although he does not make a habit of giving “public advice to prime ministers” and even less to his “good friend António Costa”, Juncker considered it very important to establish concrete objectives in certain areas to facilitate the development of policies to achieve them.

“I think he [António Costa] has to insist on concrete targets concerning youth unemployment, concerning lifelong learning, concerning the employment rate. And I think he will do it. If he doesn’t succeed, nobody will succeed because he is one of the best,” he told Lusa.

The Portuguese government, which until 30 June chairs the Council of the European Union, wants the principles of the Social Pillar discussed and proclaimed in 2017 in Gothenburg to be materialised through the adoption of concrete action plans.

Its intention is for the Porto Summit to set concrete targets to be achieved by 2030, in terms of employment, labour equality or gender equality between men and women, and reducing the number of people at risk of social exclusion or poverty.

The meeting at the highest level next Friday, 7 May, aims to strengthen the commitment of member states, European institutions, social partners and civil society, with the implementation of the action plan of the European Pillar of Social Rights presented by the European Commission last March.

This action plan provides for measures such as ensuring an employment rate of at least 78% in the European Union that at least 60% of adults participate in training each year or reducing the number of people at risk of social exclusion or poverty by at least 15 million people, including 5 million children.

[Edited by Josie Le Blond]

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