EP EMPL MEPs welcome Italian labour minister

Parliament's Employment and Social Affairs committee has met with Italian Labour and Social Policy minister Giuliano Poletti to discuss the Italian Presidency’s employment and social affairs programme. 

By Hendrik Meerkamp

25 Jul 2014

Please note that this does not constitute a formal record of the proceedings of the meeting. It is dependent on interpretation and acts as an unofficial summary of the debate.

On July 22, the European Parliament Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL) met with Giuliano Poletti, the Italian Minister of Labour and Social Policy, to discuss the Italian Council Presidency’s programme in the field of employment and social affairs. Please find a summary of the debate below. 

Giuliano Poletti, Italian Minister of Labour and Social Policy, began by saying that the overarching objective of the Italian Council Presidency’s programme is ‘growth and employment’ and that this can, in the field of employment and social affairs, be broken down to five priorities: the fight against youth unemployment, the development a social dimension of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), the fight against poverty and social exclusion, the boosting of the EU social economy, and the enhancement of green growth in the EU. He added that these priorities are going to be promoted in the context of the review of the Europe 2020 strategy and that central meetings to this end will be the EPSCO Council meeting of October 16 in Luxembourg and the Tripartite Social Summit for Growth and Employment ahead of the European Council meeting on October 23-24. He further elaborated that in the context of the Italian Council Presidency’s priorities in the field of employment and social affairs there is an all-encompassing need to make the European Semester more functional in order to ensure that the Europe 2020 strategy targets can be reached and that to this end the Italian Presidency will promote a very honest exchange with the European Commission in order to draw up proposals that will be able to strengthen ownership in the programme, promote surveillance instruments and the sharing of activity between the main stakeholders, possibly readjust timescales, and make the process more incentive-based. He highlighted that the Italian Presidency welcomes the involvement of the European Parliament in the European Semester and the Europe 2020 process and that it hopes that it can make constructive contributions.

Turning to the first of the five concrete fields of action of the Italian Council Presidency in the field of employment and social affairs, Mr Poletti then declared that youth employment is one of the main challenges for Europe and that it will therefore also be the topic of a third summit on youth employment (with the past meetings in Berlin in July 2013 and in Paris in November 2013 being the first two summits) which will take place towards the end of the Italian Presidency. He specified that the focus of the summit will be on macroeconomic policies that are capable of creating work and guarantee quality and financial sustainability for the Youth Guarantee. He said that the EPSCO Council of December 11 will also address youth employment. Mr. Poletti concluded by stressing that the importance of achieving high youth employment must not distract from efforts that need to be made to bring down long-term unemployment and to improve gender equality in employment and occupation.

In matters of the second priority, Mr Poletti declared that the informal EPSCO Council of July 17-18 in Milan already addressed the strengthening of the social dimension of the EMU, especially in terms of automatic stabilisers and a subsidy system for European unemployment, and that the Italian Presidency aims to continue the debate. He called for European Parliament involvement in the discussions on this topic.

Turning to the third priority, Mr. Poletti said that the Italian Presidency’s objective to fight against poverty and social inclusion will be closely linked to the mid-term review of the Europe 2020 strategy. He announced that there is clearly a need to re-visit the choice of indicators in the Europe 2020 strategy and to develop an appropriate toolkit if the Europe 2020 strategy’s target of reducing by 20 million the number of people at risk of poverty by 2020 is to be achieved.

On the fourth priority, Mr Poletti stated that the development of the EU social economy must be brought to the centre of the debate because it is in fact not economically non-productive but central for maintaining welfare and for creating quality jobs.

Finally, as the fifth priority, Mr Poletti stated that the Italian Presidency aims to better exploit green growth potentials in the EU. In this context, he highlighted the contribution that green growth can make to the reduction of unemployment and the increase of inclusive and sustainable growth.

Mr Poletti then elaborated on a number of major ongoing legislative files that the Italian Council Presidency aims to drive forward. He named three dossiers in particular:

  • With regards to the European Commission proposal on a European platform to enhance cooperation in the prevention and deterrence of undeclared work of April 9 2014, Mr Poletti assured that the Italian Presidency regards the prevention and tackling of undeclared work as being very important because undeclared work inhibits fair competition (companies that engage in undeclared work take cost advantages over those that provide regular work), leads to social dumping (workers providing undeclared work usually do not enjoy decent work conditions), and puts public budgets at a disadvantage (undeclared work means less tax revenues for the state). He declared that in this context, it is important to continue working on the Commission’s legislative proposal on undeclared work, which aims to boost cooperation and the sharing of information and good practices as to which tools work in the fight against undeclared work. Mr Poletti expressed his optimism that a general approach can be achieved by October, and called on the European Parliament to appoint a rapporteur on the file soon so that negotiations on the file with the Parliament will not be delayed.
  • In matters of the European Commission proposal on a European network of employment services, workers' access to mobility services and the further integration of labour markets (EURES), Mr Poletti stressed that the Italian Council Presidency is very attached to the subject of worker mobility because it can help to bring down (youth) unemployment in hard-hit regions. He announced that the Italian Presidency will continue the work already done by the previous Greek Council Presidency and he expressed his hope that, despite several points of friction still to be resolved, there will be rapid agreement on the file in the Council. He concluded by assuring to pursue a constructive dialogue with the European Parliament once the latter has appointed a rapporteur for the file.
  • On the so-called Seafarers’ directive proposal, Mr Poletti noted that there was already an examination agreed in the Council and that it is important to look at the possible negative impacts that might exist in the field of the proposal in terms of competitiveness at the national and global level. He expressed his hope that the European Parliament will further pursue this file as soon as possible, and he assured that the Italian Presidency will try hard to find an agreement on the file in the Council by the end of the year.

Heinz K. Becker (EPP, AT) who spoke on behalf of David Casa, welcomed the selection of priorities by the Italian Presidency and assured the support of the EPP group especially in matters of the social market economy and social inclusion, green growth, and youth employment.

However, he also highlighted that training and education need to be further stressed, with the installation of the EURES proposal and dual education/training systems being a priority for him for the future.

Mr Becker concluded by calling for better involvement of the social partners in EU social and employment policy.

Jutta Steinruck (S&D, DE) also welcomed the priorities of the Italian Presidency, highlighting especially the work towards macroeconomic stabilisation factors (“Europe needs an instrument for solidarity in times of crisis”), youth unemployment (“we need to implement what has been started and called for in the recent European Parliament resolution on youth employment”), labour mobility, and undeclared work and the social dimension of the EMU (“we need to avoid social dumping and set binding objectives there”).

Anthea McIntyre (ECR, UK) stressed that youth unemployment can only be brought down if jobs are created – and that the latter can chiefly be achieved by prospering SMEs. In this context, she said that the EU must work towards the creation of an environment in which businesses can create jobs and asked the Italian minister how he intends to achieve this.

Ms McIntyre also wanted to know how the Italian Council Presidency wants to tackle the so-called skills mismatch in Europe.

She then called for a better and enhanced exchange of best practices between Member States in employment policy.

Ms McIntyre concluded by asking the Italian Minister how the re-shoring of jobs back to the EU can be better supported by the EU.

Marian Harkin (ALDE, IE) gave her general consent to the priorities of the Italian Council Presidency in the field of employment and social affairs.

She then asked the Italian Minister how the Parliament can help to get more ownership into the Europe 2020 programme.

Ms Harkin also asked Mr Poletti to elaborate in a more concrete manner on priorities in the field of youth unemployment and macroeconomic policies.

With regards to the Youth Guarantee, she asked whether the so far deficient implementation of the scheme in some parts of the EU relates to a shortage of resources there.

She also asked if the Italian minister can report more on any progress to be made on the social dimension of the EMU and the related automatic stabilisers.

Ms Harkin concluded by asking whether Mr Poletti can name any specific initiatives related to the boosting of the social economy.

Jean Lambert (Greens/EFA, UK) praised the Italian Council Presidency priorities especially in the field of the social economy and the social dimension in the European semester. However, in this context she also wanted to know if and how the Italian Council Presidency will work towards an enhanced presence of civil society in the European semester process.

She also asked for more detail about the Italian Presidency’s objectives in matters of anti-discrimination legislation.

She concluded by calling for investments to be made in the green economy


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