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EU: Employment and Social Policy Ministers' Meeting

Volume 699: debated on Tuesday 19 February 2008

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (James Plaskitt) has made the following Statement.

The Employment and Social Policy Informal Meeting was held on 31 January to 2 February in Brdo, Slovenia. I represented the UK.

The theme of the informal was “How best to respond to the common principles of Flexicurity”, following their adoption at last year’s December Council. There was broad consensus around the concept of flexicurity and the discussion was positive and forward-looking, but there was no agreement on how to make the flexicurity principles a reality.

Ministers agreed that there was no one model to copy, but that we could usefully learn from each other’s experiences. All member states raised the importance of better training and lifelong learning, and the need to anticipate the economy’s future requirements. There was also a strong focus on the need to facilitate job transitions, modernising social protection systems to ensure their long-term fiscal sustainability and ensuring that flexicurity worked for all workers, with a particular focus on young and older workers.

I spoke on the importance of maintaining flexibility at a time of economic uncertainty, the need to promote new approaches to skills and lifelong learning, and support for the idea of a European skills review.

The French also launched their idea of a “flexicurity mission”. Its objective would be to explain flexicurity and what it meant in terms of reforms to European citizens. The mission would visit a few member states before reporting back to the council during the French presidency.