Squeezed by the economic crisis, Europe's labour markets can find new dynamism through social innovation, said Vladimir Špidla, EU commissioner for employment, social affairs and equal opportunities, in an exclusive interview with EURACTIV.
EU leaders meeting in Brussels today (20 March) are rejecting pressure from the US to increase stimulus packages, and instead placing their hopes of economic recovery on European welfare and social spending.
The Commission yesterday revealed plans to update the current social agenda and better integrate it into the EU's overall policy framework. The main focus lies in addressing cross-border health care, improving workers' rights and promoting better education systems.
The European Trade Union Confederation and social NGOs have welcomed the new 'Reform Treaty' agreed upon by EU leaders in Lisbon last week. At the same time, they expressed disappointment over Poland and the UK's opt-outs from the Charter of Fundamental Rights.
Although they were somewhat overshadowed by decisions that the Council made on climate change and better regulation, a large part of trade-union and social-NGO demands found their way into the Conclusions of the 8-9 March Spring Summit in Brussels.
Employment and social affairs ministers are meeting for a three-day informal summit in Berlin, to discuss future social models in Europe and reforms necessary to reconcile the needs for flexibility and social security.
A panel gathered by Pierre Jonckheer MEP (Greens) and European social think tanks discussed a report on social developments in 2005 and questioned the redefining of the EU project around the growth and employment paradigm.
Where should the priorities in EU labour policy be? Can the Danish flexicurity success be exported? How to reconcile flexibility and social security? Those questions and more were debated by a panel at Employment Week.
In spite of the choice for the symbolic Hampton Court venue, the UK Presidency has failed to make important progress on any of the EU's burning issues at the 27 October 2005 Council, commentators agree.
Social Europe, innovation and globalisation issues are the topics the EU summit should address in order to win back support for the European project, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and the French President Jacques Chirac agree.
At two important events, leaders of the EU and its member states will discuss the European model, focusing on whether successful models such as the Nordic one can be transferred to countries in distress.
The model of flexicurity - a combination of easy hiring and firing, high benefits for the unemployed and a pro-active labour market policy - could solve many of Europe's unemployment problems, experts at a conference agreed.