Parliament discusses EURES

On February 24, the European Parliament Plenary discussed the first reading agreement reached with the Council on the updated EURES Regulation.

By Linnea Richardson

26 Feb 2016

Many MEPs welcomed the agreement found in trilogues and the impact an updated portal would have on European unemployment. Specifically, many welcomed the inclusion of private employment services, apprenticeships and traineeships, and the involvement of social partners.

On February 25, the Plenary adopted the compromise agreement with 576 votes in favour, 56 against and 21 abstentions. The agreement now has to be formally approved by the Council before it can be entered into the Official Journal and become law, after which Member States will have two years to transpose the Regulation.

Please find a summary of the debate below, and a detailed voting list attached (File 1).

Heinz K. Becker (EPP, AT), Rapporteur, said that the agreement found on the Regulation was the result of eleven rounds of trilogue negotiations which had been characterised by a constructive spirit from both the Parliament and the Luxembourg Presidency. The new and updated EURES will have a good impact on the EU labour market and address the fact that some areas in Europe have high levels of unemployment, whereas others suffer a lack of skilled labour. The expansion of EURES will make more jobs available and facilitate further free movement, which at the moment remains low, at 3 %. He explained that aspects the Parliament had added to the Commission’s initial proposal included a more efficient and innovate platform.

He mentioned that soft values are also important, and that without compromise, the EURES proposal could not have become such a strong instrument. Negotiations focused on the corner stones of the Regulation, such as public, but also private, employment services. Hundreds of thousands of jobs will be available in all Member States, and he said that the platform has never before been as user-friendly or accessible, especially for young people. Now, it will also become easier for job seekers to match their CVs to listed vacancies, and support will also be provided by 850 well-trained EURES advisors in the Member States. Another improvement to the Regulation championed by the Parliament is the active inclusion of social partners. Another success involves the support for cross-border partnerships and their access to the EaSI programme.

Vice-President and Commissioner for the Euro and Social Dialogue, Valdis Dombrovskis, began by saying that the new Regulation is part of the Commission’s broader policy to get more people into jobs and facilitate freedom of movement. EURES is more than a mobility portal, he said, it is an essential network that supports job seekers and employers across the EU and addressed skills mismatches. When discussing labour mobility, it is important to ensure it does not become a one-way street and lead to brain drain in new Member States, he noted. He emphasised the importance of reducing the skills mismatches, as currently there are two million unfilled vacancies in Europe.

He highlighted the main improvements of the new Regulation:

  • More jobs will be advertised
  • There will be a more effective, automated online matching between job seekers and vacancies
  • The network will be broader and open to more members and partners
  • There will be a minimum package of services to job seekers and employers in all Member States

He welcomed that the EURES network will be open to more partners, including both private and public employment services, but he stressed that those who join the network must be serious and reliable labour market actors. EURES must also become more well-known, as many are not aware of its potential. He further stressed that the network is more than a job search tool, as it also provides guidance and information regarding social security and labour law questions that mobile workers are confronted with. Moreover, he welcomed the minimum package of services to address the discrepancies between Member States.

In closing, he said that the Council is expected to formally adopt the agreement on March 15, and added that preparation in the EURES network has already begun. In two years’ time, the Commission will report on the state of play of the implementation of the Regulation to the Parliament, the Council, the EESC and the Committee of the Regions.

Viorica Dăncilă (S&D, RO), on behalf of the REGI Committee, said that EURES provides a unique opportunity for EU citizens living on borders between Member States, and therefore expressed her support for the agreement. She highlighted the importance of national and cross-border structures receiving sufficient resources, and for the relevant staff to receive training. This reform to the EURES network will make it easier for public employment services to cooperate with education and training services, and make smart use of IT and communication methods.

David Casa (EPP, MT) said that EURES creates new opportunities as well as help fill current vacancies. The EU is still facing mass unemployment, which means that labour mobility must be improved. It is not only a question of reinforcing free movement, but of removing obstacles to intra-EU mobility, which is where EURES will help. Enhancing the EURES in the manner proposed will present more opportunities to fill vacancies across EU borders, he said.

Siôn Simon (S&D, UK) appreciated the negotiation process for this file and drew positive parallels to the functioning of the EU as a whole. The process was collaborative, sensible, and with no controversy between political partners. He welcomed the inclusion of social partnership and the fact that there is no opportunity for cherry picking from the private sector. While negotiations had been dry and technical, they were important. An instrument that did not work in the past has now been fundamentally revised to improve access to work for millions of EU citizens, he said.

Jana Žitňanská (ECR, SK) felt the agreement had resulted in an extremely balanced report which will provide Member States with many opportunities. She would like to see workers first and foremost being able to find employment in their own countries and not have to travel abroad, though she felt the proposal would be of great use to those living in border regions who wish to gain experiences and skills abroad. She also welcomed the fact that the proposal will not discriminate against people with disabilities and that practical assistance will be provided to everyone. She hoped the updated EURES network will be available as soon as possible.

Martina Dlabajová (ALDE, CZ) said that an updated EURES network can become an efficient tool to support mobility, and welcomed that the portal has been extended to include apprenticeships and traineeships, as well as private employment services. Free movement of workers is one of the greatest achievements of the EU, yet labour mobility remains low. She therefore hoped that the new portal will be an impetus to trigger a new approach to jobs abroad. EURES is the right way to eliminate barriers, she said.

Paloma López Bermejo (GUE/NGL, ES) said that the Commission’s original proposal wanted a network of private employment services and to promote the forced migration of unemployed Europeans. Thankfully, the current agreement is something very different, with voluntary mobility and the involvement of social partners and public employment services. She said that mobility will not be improved through the use of neoliberal policies and denying people their social rights. Further, she criticised the Commission for saying it wants to defend mobility, while also supporting the UK’s attacks on free movement of workers.

Tamás Meszerics (Greens/EFA, HU) highlighted two aspects the Greens group had been instrumental in including. Firstly, the group had stressed the important role played by EURES advisors on providing personalised support to job seekers. Secondly, the text had been improved to ensure that all users have equal access to the platform and that data protection provisions are preserved.

Mike Hookem (EFDD, UK) did not understand why the UK government supports a website that advertises UK jobs to foreign workers, especially considering the unemployment rate in the UK. This piece of legislation has not been written for the benefit of workers, he said, adding that immigration has driven down UK wages. He hoped UK voters would reflect on this in the context of the vote on the EU referendum.

Joëlle Mélin (ENF, FR) said that there were some negative ideas behind the motivation of the proposal, and added that the matching between job seekers and vacancies will, in areas where there are too many unskilled workers, lead to economic competition between the stronger and weaker regions in Europe. These types of exchanges should be done by Member States on a level playing field.

Zoltán Balczó (NI, HU) said that there are eight million workers not in their home countries, and for such people the platform does offer assistance. The key question, however, is what does a European single market look like with today’s large wage disparity between Member States?

Vice-President Dombrovskis stated that a strengthened and better-known EURES, with a broader scope and range of services, along with a modern IT platform for automatic matching, will be a powerful instrument. It will make it easier for job seekers to expand their search and for employers to access skilled applicants. The platform will improve free movement of workers on the ground. In closing, he commented that the strength of the network depends on its members and in this case the Commission committed to continue its support and make sure the best use can be made of the new tools. He welcomed the support of the Parliament in this matter.

Heinz K. Becker (EPP, AT) commented on some of the points raised during the debate. Firstly, he underscored that the EURES Regulation has confirmed and fostered the idea of free movement of workers. Additionally, any form of discrimination is expressly excluded, he said, mentioning the importance of also assisting people with disabilities.

Addressing the Council, he requested that Member States not wait until the last moment to implement the new proposal. Speaking to the Commission, he urged it to make sure that Member States develop their communication regarding EURES as it has not been very familiar to people in the past.

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