EU Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs
The most important task in achieving the modernisation of the European economy and labour market, is to manage and plan the development of our human resources.
The particular subject which the Labour Relations Commission and the Irish Productivity Centre have chosen could not be more important, or more timely.
This conference connects together the two elements of the European Employment strategy.
- macro-economic stability, in order to optimise the conditions for employment; and
structural reform, in order to realise the productive potential of the whole workforce.
- I might add that, in national terms, no Member State has connected better these two strands of securing prosperity and well-being than Ireland. The latest manifestation of that fact is, of course, the Partnership 2000 programme.
My task, here, however, is not to comment on Ireland. It is to sketch for you the European context, the European agenda for employment.
I want to concentrate on:
- the Amsterdam Treaty, and the progress it represents in developing the Union?s employment strategy; and
- the impending special Jobs Summit, and the opportunity it offers us to translate the Amsterdam Treaty advances into concrete action on employment.
But I want to begin with the economic context.
As we approach the Luxembourg Jobs Summit we are all aware that the EU economy has under-performed for much of the past two decades in terms of growth and job creation.
It is important that we are clear about the reasons for this, so that we are tackling the right problems. It is important that we base our responses on facts, not on media perceptions.
The facts show that our underperformance is not due to some fundamental competitive weakness. Europe is competitive.
We pay our way in the world with a substantial trade surplus. We have low, stable, inflation. We have a steady, 2% a year improvement in productivity. And we have declining unit labour costs.
Our problem is not that our economies are weak, or even that our budgets are fundamentally unbalanced through excessive spending.
Our problem is that our competitive success ? as reflected in trade and productivity ? has not been matched by effective economic policy management in Europe.
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