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Greece assumes EU presidency amid lingering crisis

Greece has assumed the Presidency of the Council of the EU at a time when Europe is going through a crucial phase. The EU’s biggest challenge is to foster growth and to ensure stability and prosperity for all. In order to respond to these challenges, the Greek Presidency has committed in their programme to focus their social and employment policies in the following key actions:

European Semester: According to their programme, the Hellenic Presidency’s main objective is to deepen the political dialogue on the Social Dimension of the EMU. The Hellenic Presidency assures that they will encourage stronger coordination between economic policies and employment and social policies, as well as the reinforcement of the role of social partners.

Promoting Employment: The Hellenic Presidency declared that priority will be given to speeding up the implementation of the Initiative for Youth Employment, as well as monitoring the implementation of the Youth Guarantee. In order to facilitate work experience, a Recommendation setting a Quality Framework for Traineeships will hopefully be adopted. Another commitment is to encourage geographic mobility by reaching an agreement on a General Approach on the Regulation re-establishing the EURES programme and to place emphasis on the promotion of the Program for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI).

Social Protection: On the enhancement of the social dimension of EMU, the Greek Presidency announced that the promotion of policies on active inclusion, with particular emphasis on social investment, social innovation, children and young people, will be included. Their main goal is to create adequate and sustainable social protection systems and ensure minimum safety nets in order to address population aging, unemployment and poverty.

Social Dialogue: For the Hellenic Presidency, the current social and labour situation requires close cooperation with the social partners. Their commitment in this field is to work towards the adoption of a Proposal for a Decision of the Council with a view to strengthening the Social Summit and to ensure that the adoption of the Council Decision on the Framework Agreement of the European Social Partners on working time in inland waterways be implemented.

As a whole, EASPD welcomes the Greek Presidency’s commitments regarding their social and employment policies program, in particular the emphasis on social innovation, EURES and EaSI. Yet, we regret that disability and social services do not appear to be key priorities for the EU to tackle during the Greek Presidency. The emphasis on youth is obviously important, yet it is also key for the EU to not forget other sectors of society who have also suffered from the austerity measures over the past few years; in our case people with disabilities as well as social service providers. EASPD also welcomes the Presidency’s willingness to involve social partners, but regrets that civil society continues to be perceived as of secondary importance when attempting to find solutions to the social and unemployment challenges. Nevertheless, EASPD wishes the Hellenic Presidency good luck for its presidency and its aim to create a more cohesive European society.