Put the social pillar back into Lisbon, urge NGOs

Social NGOs have carried out their own review of the Lisbon
strategy, criticising the lack of progress made in creating ‘more
and better jobs’ and fostering ‘social cohesion’. 

As they have not been involved in the work of the high level
group on the Lisbon agenda chaired by Wim Kok, social NGOs have now
published their own review of the strategy “to make Europe the most
competitive economy in the world by 2010”.

During the presentation of their paper at a conference on
20 October 2004, the Social Platform criticised the fact that “the
social aspects of Lisbon have been subordinated to economic
stability, cost cutting and deficit reduction”.

“The continuous erosion of the Lisbon goals from a sustainable
development strategy to a ‘growth at any cost’ approach has further
weakened the European social model,” complained President
Anne-Sophie Parent.

After initial progress in creating new employment rates are now
stagnating, finds the Platform, complaining that “recent
initiatives have focused more upon quantity than quality of
employment”. The organisation points out that policy-makers often
wrongly assume that unemployed people are unwilling to work,
thereby neglecting the real problem, which is the lack of quality
jobs.

In the area of education and training, the Social Platform
recognises some progress. However, it has expressed concerns that
the debates around education focus on the employment factors alone,
rather than taking into account “personal fulfilment” and “active
citizenship”. 

According to social NGOs, Lisbon has not helped in modernising
the social protection systems. In their view, any reform should not
only focus on “cost-cutting and risk-shifting from society to the
individual”, but it should be ensured that social systems fulfil
their role as collective guarantees against poverty and social
exclusion.

The high level expert group chaired by Wim Kok will present its
report to the Commission on 3 November 2004 and to the European
Council on 5 November 2004.

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