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C 241/104 EN Official Journal of the European Communities 7.10.

2002

Opinion of the Economic and Social Committee on the ‘Communication from the Commission
to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee
of the Regions on the scoreboard on implementing the social policy agenda’

(COM(2002) 89 final)

(2002/C 241/20)

On 19 February 2002, the Commission decided to consult the Economic and Social Committee, under
Article 262 of the Treaty establishing the European Community, on the above-mentioned communication.

The Section for Employment, Social Affairs and Citizenship, which was responsible for preparing the
Committee’s work on the subject, adopted its opinion on 20 June 2002. The rapporteur was Mr Bloch-
Laine and the co-rapporteur Mr Koryfidis.

At its 392nd Plenary Session of 17 and 18 July 2002 (meeting of 17 July), the Economic and Social
Committee adopted the following opinion by 127 votes to two, with one abstention.

1. Introduction 2. Assessments

1.1. At the time of the adoption of the European Social


Agenda, both the Parliament and the Council underlined the
2.1. Any interim assessment is an arduous exercise, such is
importance of drawing up annual ‘scoreboards’ to keep track
the difficulty of properly distinguishing long-term trends from
of developments and verify the commitment and contributions
data relating to the immediate economic context (which is
of the different actors. An initial ‘scoreboard’ was adopted in
currently pointing to a downturn). In this respect, it must not
March 2001. A second, drawn up by the Commission in
be forgotten that there is always a time lag between a return
February 2002, was adopted at the Barcelona Summit on 14
to higher growth rates and the impact of this on employment.
and 15 March 2002. The Committee welcomes the fact that a
Given this delay, the temptation to call into question the
process of regular assessment has begun, as regular follow-up
effectiveness of active employment policies under the Agenda
is essential in an area such as this.
must be resisted. On the contrary, its guidelines and scope
must be strengthened.

1.2. The European ESC has already issued an opinion on


the Agenda and certainly intends to be involved in the
assessment scheduled for 2003.
2.2. The Committee would have liked the document in
question to prioritise its comments more effectively and, as
well as listing existing or planned measures and decisions, to
1.3. In the present instance the Committee has sought to provide more and better information about the practical reality
avoid two pitfalls: one would be not to make any comment on and about visible and tangible changes. In this respect, the
the second stage of this ongoing process for which it has assessment exercise to be conducted in 2003 will need to have
pressed so hard; the second would be to make premature and more comprehensive and enlightening information at its
repetitive comments. The implementation of the Agenda is disposal if it is to assess the actual repercussions of the Social
still at an early stage. It would therefore have been pointless to Agenda on the social and economic structure of the EU
reiterate, in almost identical and unchanged terms, views that Member States.
had been expressed during previous consultations.

1.4. The Committee will therefore draw up a more detailed 2.3. This said, the Commission document has the unargu-
and in-depth opinion mid-term in this process. In the mean- able merit of being clear in that it highlights the contrasting
time, it has drafted a brief and targeted document, which aims results of the period, e.g.:
to:

— make a few assessments (II), and then


a) There has been a considerable increase in the number of
new jobs created but, even if it is of course too early to
— formulate a few recommendations (III). say whether the intermediate targets of Stockholm and
7.10.2002 EN Official Journal of the European Communities C 241/105

Lisbon will be achieved, there has been hardly any posal for a Council Recommendation concerning the
progress on issues such as older workers. application of legislation governing health and safety at
work to self-employed workers),

b) The number of new full-time jobs is rising, the unemploy-


ment rate is falling, and the number of jobs offered to — pensions and retirement (Opinion on the Communication
low or medium-skilled workers has increased. However, from the Commission to the Council, the European
structural weaknesses remain, such as gender gaps in Parliament and the Economic and Social Committee:
terms of pay, a still very high rate of unemployment Supporting national strategies for safe and sustainable
(especially among young people, where it is almost twice pensions through an integrated approach, OJ C 48,
the general average), and considerable regional differences 21.2.2002. Opinion on Economic Growth, Taxation and
in employment and unemployment. Sustainability of Pension Rights in the EU, OJ C 48,
21.2.2002.Opinion on the Elimination of tax obstacles
to the cross-border provision of occupational pensions,
c) Poverty and social exclusion continue to be widespread, OJ C 36, 8.2.2002),
but the extent of the problem varies significantly between
Member States.
— governance (European Governance),

Appropriately the ‘scoreboard’ concludes by calling for the — employment at local level (Opinion on the Communi-
commitment of all actors to take up their responsibility. cation from the Commission to the Council, the European
Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the
Committee of the Regions: Acting Locally for Employ-
ment A Local Dimension for the European Employment
Strategy, OJ C 14, 16.1.2001); (Opinion on the Com-
munication from the Commission to the Council, the
European Parliament, the Economic and Social Com-
3. Recommendations mittee and the Committee of the Regions - Strengthening
the local dimension of the European Employment Strat-
egy, OJ C 149, 21.6.2002),

3.1. In drafting this opinion, the European ESC did not


want to raise scoreboard-related issues on which the debate — not-for-profit social services of general interest (Opinion
has already been closed or not yet opened. on Private not-for-profit social services in the context
of services of general interest in Europe, OJ C 311,
7.11.2001),

However, it wishes to point out that it has taken a very clear


standpoint on issues such as: — older workers (Opinion on Older Workers, OJ C 14,
16.1.2001), and

— guidelines for employment (Opinion on the Proposal for


a Council Decision on Guidelines for Member States’ — youth (Opinion on the European Commission White
employment policies for the year 2002, OJ C 36, Paper: A New Impetus for European Youth, OJ C 149,
8.2.2002); (Opinion on the Proposal for a Council 21.6.2002).
Decision on guidelines for Member States’ employment
policies for the year 2001, OJ C 14, 16.1.2001),

3.2. At this stage, the Committee wishes to stress the


— quality of work (Opinion on Improving the quality following concerns:
dimension of social and employment policy, OJ C 311,
7.11.2001),
3.2.1. Combating poverty and social exclusion is now an
essential component of European social policy. The image of
— social indicators (Opinion on Social Indicators), poverty portrayed in the national action plans for inclusion,
which the Member States submitted to the Commission in
June 2001, takes account not only of financial poverty, but
— health and safety at work (Opinion on the Communi- also of the spiral of difficulties, hardships and insecurity in
cation from the Commission – Adapting to change in areas such as employment, housing, health, education, culture
work and society: a new Community strategy on health and access to services. Such recognition of the multi-dimen-
and safety at work 2002-2006.); (Opinion on the Pro- sional nature of poverty is an important step forward. The
C 241/106 EN Official Journal of the European Communities 7.10.2002

Committee still believes, however, that further progress is second place; this would lead to a serious lack of solidarity
needed in this direction. It is not enough for Member States in the long-term in the European Union. We believe that
simply to draw up a list of existing policies, as they did in the the Union should be more attentive and imaginative vis-
plans submitted in 2001; a more comprehensive and forward- à-vis the right to asylum and immigration, and be more
looking approach must be adopted, in accordance with the concerned — while there is still time — about the social
targets set in Lisbon in March 2000. impact of ‘enlargement’.

To this end, we must go further than the first generation of


plans in taking account of more than just labour market policy. 3.2.3. For the Committee, this scoreboard does not always
While employment is a major factor of social integration, it emphasise — or emphasise sufficiently - the role played in
is not the only one. The European strategy to combat exclusion ‘organised civil society’ by ‘not-for-profit private social services’
must not be reduced to an employment strategy, however that work for the general interest in Europe. In one of its
important employment may be. The ultimate target, however opinions, the European ESC pointed out in particular that the
far away it may be, must be access to all fundamental rights. Community authorities had not fully grasped the wide range
of actions undertaken by these services, or the ever-greater
responsibilities and difficulties that they have for a long time
faced in the health and social field in a number of EU countries.
There is a lack of indicators in our scoreboards to clarify the
The European ESC welcomes the adoption at the end of situation. There is no doubt that the concept of the ‘non-
2001 of a programme of Community action to encourage market sector’ or ‘third sector’ is still relatively vague. However,
cooperation between Member States with regard to exclusion. this is no reason for not seeing more clearly right now the
This programme was adopted for the period 2002-2006 and tangible realities covered by this concept, in particular in the
was allocated funding of EUR 75 million over five years. Is this form of associations, foundations, cooperatives and mutuals.
sufficient in the light of the resources of the European Social Not to address NGOs, or merely to pay them lip service, would
Fund, a financial instrument essentially dedicated to the be to maintain a gap, another ‘vagueness’, in the European
employment strategy, which has overriding importance? social project, i.e. to skimp, waste time and delay optimising a
Would it not have been better to widen the scope of the ESF precious potential that is strong yet vulnerable. More recog-
to support actions to combat poverty and exclusion? nition must be given to the space between the ‘100 % public’
and the ‘100 % profit-making’.

3.2.2. The document in question could suggest that the


‘social partners’ do not participate as effectively as they should
in implementing the Social Agenda. The European ESC has
Such an approach needs to be adopted in the current EU set-
two comments to make in response to this ( 1): up, but will be even more useful, with the prospect of
enlargement.

a) Even if we can encourage the social partners to be still


more active, they are carrying out their difficult task with
continuity and determination.

3.2.4. When it comes to implementing the Social Agenda,


everyone agrees on the need to consult and involve ‘organised
b) We also recommend that in the ‘social dialogue’, the civil society’. But who does this term refer to? The ‘social
defence of standpoints and acquired rights, whatever the partners’ for sure, as well as the organisations mentioned in
justifications on either side, should not result in the the previous paragraph. However, consideration must also be
suffering and concerns of the most vulnerable and given to non-institutional groups set up and run by the so-
underprivileged people in society being relegated to called ‘excluded’, and minority social groups; such key groups
are better placed than anyone to warn, inform and mobilise
people about the issues that affect them.

( 1) See also the Opinion on the Proposal for a Council Directive


establishing a general framework for informing and consulting
employees in the European Community, OJ C 258, 10.9.1999, 3.2.5. With regard to regional discrepancies in terms of
and the Opinion on the Proposal for a Council Decision on unemployment and exclusion within the Union, the European
Guidelines for Member States’ employment policies for the year ESC stresses the need to improve synergies between employ-
2002, OJ C 36, 8.2.2002. ment policies and regional policies.
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3.2.6. The European ESC reiterates the need to continue to assert its identity. Beyond words and slogans, it is a difficult
with the difficult task of putting into place Quality indicators. path. However, the only alternative option was to disappoint
and fail.
3.2.7. The European ESC recommends working without
respite on the Adaptability pillar in relation to employment 4.2. The use of ‘scoreboards’ is crucial. However, it may be
and social inclusion, and stresses the need to make a major better to use the term ‘road maps’, as some people already do,
and coordinated effort to develop an integrated and effective as this expression better reflects the idea of a path and
European domain of lifelong learning (1). progression.

4.3. All paths are periodically revised, if necessary, in order


4. Conclusion to be confirmed, adjusted or corrected in response to reality. It
is still too early to talk about the mid-term assessment of the
4.1. By committing itself to coordinating as far as possible Agenda in 2003. All we wish to say here and now is that the
economic and social policies, the European Union has sought European ESC intends to participate actively in this exercise,
which is not so far away. Its sole aim in issuing this opinion is
( 1) Opinion on the Memorandum on Lifelong Learning, OJ C 311, to set out its stall, to fix a timetable, and to show its willingness
7.11.2001. to make the best contribution it can.

Brussels, 17 July 2002.

The President
of the Economic and Social Committee
Göke FRERICHS