Dear José Maria,
We have the pleasure of enclosing a joint UK–Danish statement – “a strategy for more and better jobs” – in advance of this weekend’s European Council at Barcelona.
We are copying this letter to our colleagues on the European Council.
TONY BLAIR and ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN
His Excellency Señor Don José María Aznar
A strategy for more and better jobs in Europe: Danish-UK statement on the Barcelona European Council
At Lisbon two years ago the European Union took a bold and innovative step in order to make the European societies able to meet the challenges of the future. The overall strategy covers a wide range of initiatives in order to further economic reform, improve innovation, investment in education and modernising social welfare.
It is a challenging task. It means creating the conditions for sustained growth, and being open to new ideas, and learning from each other and those around us. It will require that we are capable of making the necessary decisions to live up to our own goals and timetables. Above all, we need to create jobs to reach our Lisbon target of 70% employment by 2010.
Creating new jobs and raising employment rates is a key to a cohesive and prosperous Europe. Reducing unemployment by offering every citizen the possibility of access to the labour market and the chance to remain employable during the whole of their working life are the most important objectives for Europe.
Real structural reform in labour markets and other markets are required if all Member States are to achieve the 70% Lisbon target as well as national employment ambitions. In particular, measures are needed to reduce long-term unemployment and boost labour market participation among women, older workers and those groups who are at the margin of the labour market. The current economic circumstances make reform more, not less, urgent. Europe has created 5 million jobs since Lisbon – but we need at least 15 million more.
So at Barcelona we need to make progress on the reforms identified by Jose Maria Aznar: opening energy markets; improving Europe’s infrastructure; creating a genuine single market in financial services; stimulating innovation and improving levels of education. We must also reduce administrative burdens for European business. Together with other initiatives such reforms will help to boost employment.
We should commit to real progress on reforming labour markets, which the Presidency has also rightly identified as a top priority. The current European Employment Strategy is up for renewal. Denmark and the United Kingdom call for the Barcelona European Council to give a clear commitment to:
- promoting employability, skills and mobility in the labour market, addressing the barriers to employment such as inadequate training and vacancy information and lack of mutual recognition of qualifications;
- active labour market policies and incentives that encourage and reward work. The best protection against social exclusion is a job. We need to encourage benefit systems to shift from passive support for people out of work to the provision of incentives to retain and re-enter the labour market. The interaction between job search requirements and active labour market policies must be strengthened. Taxation of labour should be reduced, where it acts as a disincentive to employment, taking into account the need to ensure sound public finances.
- effective, proportionate labour market regulation, that removes disincentives to hiring workers, particularly the young, long-term unemployed and others at the margin of the labour market.
- broadening participation in the labour force, especially for women and older workers throughout Europe. Special initiatives should be made in order to secure equal opportunities irrespective of gender, age or ethnic background. Policies aimed at reconciling work and family life should be strengthened. And long-term employability should be enhanced by reducing work disincentives for older workers, making retirement more flexible and boosting inclusive measures and positive attitudes towards older workers staying on at work.
- underpinning the Lisbon process with a reinvigorated and reformed European Employment Strategy. This should incorporate streamlined Employment Guidelines, co-ordinated with the Broad Economic Policy Guidelines, with progress against both being assessed each spring. That way, we can truly measure whether we are achieving what we set out to do. Furthermore, greater focus should be placed on Member States’ implementation of recommendations. In this context an assessment of the interplay between the different policy processes, including the Employment Guidelines, and the Broad Economic Policy Guidelines should be made before the end of 2002.
At Barcelona and beyond, the success of the reform agenda will stand or fall by our commitment to raise employment in Europe. The UK and Denmark look forward to contributing to the debate at Barcelona, and to working together on this important agenda in the years ahead.