Exchange of views on European Social Fund Plus (JURI)
Europes’ success in the decades to come will be determined by its ability to remain competitive in the global economy and ensure high levels of employment, education and training, health, social cohesion, inclusion and active participation in society. Making Europe competitive, cohesive and resilient in the future means investing in its people and especially in their health, education and creativity. Despite some improvements, long-term and youth unemployment is still high in the EU. The proportion of people at risk of poverty and social exclusion remains high. In addition demographic trends, such as an ageing population or new migration flows, are affecting European society.
Under these circumstances, the European Social Fund Plus provides the main EU financial instrument for improving workers' mobility and employment opportunities, as well as strengthening social cohesion, improving social fairness, increasing competitiveness across Europe and reducing unjust and avoidable health inequalities experienced within and between EU MS. With a provisional budget of €101.2 billion over a 7 years period, the ESF+ should merge the existing European Social Fund (ESF), the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI), the Fund for European Aid to the most Deprived (FEAD), the Employment and Social Innovation Programme (EaSI) and the EU Health Programme.
The proposal to merge several funds into one tool promises to amplify the impact of ‘investing in people and social cohesion’, with support for implementation of the Social Pillar and the European Semester. It is encouraging to see the ESF+ prioritising equal opportunities for all, tackling discrimination and addressing inequalities, including employment, education and health care.
Other main changes regarding the ESF+ proposal are: stronger alignment with the recommendations and country analysis provided under the European Semester and with the principles of the European Pillar of Social Rights; broader scope, with the inclusion of specific references to basic material assistance and migrants, and social integration measures; stronger social inclusion dimension, by integrating in the ESF+ the Fund for European Aid to the most Deprived (FEAD); simplification of Member States' obligations on monitoring and reporting and a reduced number of indicators. This should facilitate the combination of provisions of food/material assistance with support for social inclusion and active measures. It will also contribute to more flexibility on thematic concentration requirements to adjust these to Member States' needs.
In this context the Commissions’ proposal for a regulation on the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+) is welcomed. Despite these positive trends more needs to be done in particular for promoting in particular social inclusion, combating poverty and any discrimination, as well as promoting sustainable and quality employment. The policy prioritisation of actions should be more clear, in particular in relation to the European Pillar of Social Rights, Above all the relevant budget for such initiatives shall be decisively increased, if EU wants to effectively support social cohesion, diminish poverty and improve employment and educational conditions. More resources must be allocated to Member States which currently are the more vulnerable links in the chain of the EU countries (such as Greece, Italy, Portugal, Bulgaria, Romania etc). This is a precondition to build a more cohesive Social Europe and on this basis I will draft the relevant opinion taking into account as far as possible, your recommendations.
Thank you for your attention