The Latvian EU council presidency is based on three priority axes - promotion of competitiveness and development of the European Union, realising Europe’s digital potential and strengthening the EU’s role on a global scale. Priorities in the field of employment and social policy are included in the first priority axis.
The objective of inclusive growth means providing an opportunity to get a job, education and training for each and every one, and to ensure equal opportunities to benefit from social security. They guarantee stability and sustainability.
Our EU council presidency will emphasise inclusive and sustainable participation in the labour market, by paying closer attention to the quality of jobs, the issue of long-term unemployment and the condition of disabled persons. EU competitiveness is the key to addressing these issues.
In the framework of the employment and social policy (EPSCO) council, we intend to highlight the importance of social dialogue in strengthening the social dimension of the economic and monetary union, within the context of the Europe 2020 strategy for growth and jobs. I believe that the involvement of social partners plays an important role in the successful and even implementation of reforms.
"The employment and social policy council will underline differences in pensions for women and men and the underlying causes of this issue, such as the choice of education and profession, differences in salaries, family and work life balance"
During our term, we will place great emphasis on the mid-term review of Europe 2020 strategy. We will pay particular attention to the implementation of structural reforms as regards the specific recommendations of the member states in order to achieve our employment and social objectives. The EPSCO council will play a critical role in the European semester by supporting wise, sustainable and inclusive growth and underlining the importance of social dialogue.
A leading priority of the presidency is inclusive and sustainable participation in the labour market. We will address this issue throughout our six months helming the EU, in order to promote employment within various social groups which are at risk of joblessness, and to fight against poverty in the EU.
During these debates, we want to emphasise the quality of jobs and the support measures for various risk groups in order to facilitate their access to the labour market.
Many in the EU are currently worried about youth unemployment. With help from the youth guarantee initiative, much has been achieved during the last two years. However, we also want to address other risk groups whose situation is equally worrying. This pertains to long-term unemployment and especially that of disabled persons.
In the field of gender equality, the employment and social policy council will underline differences in pensions for women and men and the underlying causes of this issue, such as the choice of education and profession, differences in salaries, family and work life balance. Gender equality issues are also integrated into other sectors’ priorities, such as in development cooperation policy and the health sector.
"We also need to address issues such as employment opportunities and the rights of disabled children, especially regarding inclusive education, which could put them on the road to independence"
Furthermore, we will apply a similar integrated approach to address disability policy. For example, in the area of interior affairs, the national firefighting and rescue service will organise a seminar for EU member state experts on disability-related issues in the cycle of catastrophe risk management. Our parliament, too, will discuss the issue of employment of persons with disability with other EU parliaments.
Next year, there will also be a high level meeting on disability issues in Riga, organised with the support of the European commission. Disability policy must receive a great share of our attention. We wish to breathe life into efforts to strengthen the EU’s commitment to tackling issues of equal opportunities for disabled persons.
We also need to address issues such as employment opportunities and the rights of disabled children, especially regarding inclusive education, which could put them on the road to independence.
On top of this high level event, we will organise an expert conference about de-institutionalisation and social care policy in Europe to discuss, among others, solutions for an independent life for disabled persons. We will also pay attention to the problems of institutional child care.
Regarding the external dimension, we will ensure the EU’s presence and position in the 59th session of the UN commission on the status of women, which takes place in March 2015. We will also coordinate the position of member states in the international labour conference.