Marianne Thyssen, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility (left) and Biser Petkov, Bulgarian Minister for Labour and Social Policy (right). Photo: European Union
At the initiative of the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU, European employment and social affairs ministers held a major policy debate today on the future of social Europe after 2020. The debate took place during the first formal meeting of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO) under the Bulgarian Presidency, in Brussels.
In a thorough exchange of views ministers discussed how to make the next generation of employment and social policies work for all European citizens. Fostering employment and social convergence was frequently cited as an important objective. Ministers agreed that EU social investments should be more visible, more efficient and more tangible, in response to the challenges that digitalisation poses to today's labour market.
Commenting on the outcome of the discussions, Biser Petkov, Bulgarian Minister for Labour and Social Policy and current President of the Council, said:
"Ministers reiterated their commitment to a Union which creates more opportunities for upward social development and economic growth, and where employment and social standards converge. Adequate investments are needed to help create more jobs, enhance social cohesion, and encourage mobility, education and training for everyone."
Today's debate took place amid the preparatory work on the EU's next multiannual budget, which the Commission is expected to propose later this spring. A Presidency letter summarising the discussions and suggestions will be sent to the Commission to feed into its preparatory work on the proposal. The summary will also be shared with the President of the General Affairs Council, the Council configuration in charge of the next multiannual budget.
During the Council meeting a second policy debate was conducted on how to close the gender pay gap in the EU. This is a major priority for the Bulgarian Presidency and key to implementing the European Pillar of Social Rights. With Petkov as chair, ministers focused on the actual steps that could serve to expand the range of opportunities open to girls and women and encourage their fuller labour market participation, so as to bring more talent and skills to the labour market. Ministers agreed on the need for effective solutions to create positive interaction between measures taken by key stakeholders at European, national and corporate level.
Minister Petkov gave a readout of the discussions at a press conference at the end of the meeting, in which Valdis Dombrovskis, European Commission Vice-President for the Euro and Social Dialogue, and Marianne Thyssen, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, also took part.
More details about the outcome of the discussions are available here.
Pictures and videos can be found here.