6 October 2015, New York – Statement delivered by H.E. Mr. Ioannis Vrailas, Deputy Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the United Nations, at the 70th General Assembly Third Committee Item 28: Social Development
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I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.
The Candidate Countries Turkey, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia* and Albania*, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, Armenia, and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.
Since this is the first time the European Union takes the floor in this year’s Third Committee, I would like to congratulate you on your election as the Chair of the Third Committee and assure you, as well as the other members of the Bureau, of our full support in your challenging work. We are confident that this session will be successful under your competent leadership.
The year 2015 marks the twentieth anniversary of the World Summit for Social Development, held in March 1995 in Copenhagen. At that Summit, Governments pledged to put people at the centre of development. They committed to make the conquest of poverty, the goal of full employment and the fostering of social integration overriding objectives of development.
And, as we are all aware, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, “Transforming Our World,” was formally adopted last month, as a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity, placing the social aspects of development at the core of the efforts to achieve truly sustainable development.
So it is fitting at this time to take stock of the situation within the European Union. Our founding treaty notes the determination of the Member States to “promote economic and social progress for their peoples, taking into account the principle of sustainable development.” We have made considerable progress. But the challenges faced in continuing our work, and in implementing the 2030 Agenda, should not be underestimated, and are reflected in the challenges faced in many other areas of the world.
Despite an improving economic situation across Europe, serious challenges remain, in particular in the areas of employment and social policy. Risks and challenges are particularly acute regarding long-term unemployment, poverty, inequality, social cohesion and social inclusion. The EU has the ambition that economic progress goes hand-in-hand with improving people’s lives.
This is the core of the European Social Model and an important component of our social market economy. Our integrated growth strategy (Europe2020 strategy and European Semester) aims to ensure fair and balanced growth that leads to the creation of quality jobs and protection for all throughout people’s lives. It also means that we foster upward social convergence within the EU to reduce inequalities within Member States and among Member States.
To achieve this, investment and structural reforms are of key importance.
With its Investment Plan of 300 billion Euro, the EU will stimulate the real economy, where jobs are created. At the same time, we intensify the fight against a segmentation of the labour market and undeclared work, we shift the tax burden away from the labour force, we modernise social protection systems, including pension systems, in order to make them adequate and efficient, and we invest in skills to improve the employability of young people and the long-term unemployed.
Youth employment indeed remains top political priority in most EU Member States. In total, 7.1 million people in the 15-24 age group are neither in employment nor in education or training (NEETs) in Europe. The EU Youth Guarantee involves ensuring that, within four months of becoming unemployed or leaving formal education, all young people receive a quality offer of a job, a traineeship or an apprenticeship, or the chance to continue their education. The past two years have seen a lot of progress with bold structural reforms. European countries have improved the capacity of their public employment services, introduced incentives to stimulate job creation, and, taken steps to improve vocational education and training systems and increase the number of quality apprenticeships and traineeships.
Long-term unemployment is another major impediment to Europe`s growth. Therefore, we are making great efforts to better help the long-term unemployed return to work. The Investment Plan for Europe has the potential to create millions of new jobs. But even when new jobs are created it is often very difficult for the long-term unemployed to successfully re-enter the job market. Therefore, an EU solution is in the pipeline, which foresees that all jobseekers who have been jobless for more than 12 months receive an individual assessment and that they receive a job integration agreement, offering them a concrete and personalised plan back to work before reaching 18 months of unemployment.
Ensuring the rights and well-being of older people continues to be a fundamental part of the agenda of the European Union and its Member States. EU proposals and activities take due account of the impact of ageing. The European Union sees a need for governments to take active steps to address, among other things, age discrimination, decent work availability for elderly, social protection including access to adequate pensions and health and long-term care and the risk of elder abuse. We are committed to continue exploring how the human rights of older women and men can best be strengthened in our ageing societies, which is also exemplified by our active role and input to this year’s Open Ended Working Group on ageing.
Persons with disabilities in the EU continue to be over represented among those without employment and underrepresented in tertiary education. The European Union as a Party to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities continues to mainstream disability issues in the actions to combat unemployment and works towards their full participation in society on an equal basis with others. The EU welcomes the concluding observations of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, issued in September this year, which are the result of the first ever dialogue with the UN on the EU implementation of an international Human Rights Treaty. The analysis of the recommendations, done together with representative organisations of persons with disabilities, will lead to their practical implementation reflecting the commitment of the EU to improve the situation of persons with disabilities.
The European Union continues promoting gender equality in all its policies and activities, internal and external. All women should be able to exercise their rights to participate in society and decision making. The European Union pursues the engagement and actions to increase the female rate of employment, to address the gender pay gap, to better reconcile work and family life, to fight against labour segregation, to make affordable and quality childcare available. We welcome the pledges made by countries and regional organisations at the Global Leaders’ Meeting on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, in order to accelerate implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the Sustainable Development Goals and Targets of the 2030 Agenda relating to gender equality and women’s empowerment. The European Union fully supports the fight against violence and discrimination against women as stated by the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women.
The EU considers of great importance family-related issues and develops a number of important actions addressing issues such as parental leave, reconciling family and work life and improving the living conditions of vulnerable families. In order to promote child and family policy evaluation and the exchange of good practices, we have created the European Platform for Investing in Children. In 2013, the European Commission adopted a recommendation under the title “Investing in Children – breaking the cycle of disadvantage”, which urges Member States to make particular efforts to tackle child poverty and social exclusion and to promote children’s well-being.
Within the context of strengthening the coordination of economic policies of the EU Member States, in 2015 the EU issued country specific recommendations to the Member States in the area of child poverty, well-being and work-life balance.
In Europe, we believe that investment and structural reforms should be underpinned by the principles of sustainable development, including its social pillar. In particular, we believe that the best protection against poverty and social exclusion is having a decent job. Work has more than an economic dimension. Decent work is also about human dignity, and a fundamental value.
This is also why we welcome the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which puts decent work and social protection among its key priorities. We consider investment in social protection systems to be strategically important in order to effectively activate and enable those who can participate in the labour market, protect those excluded from the labour markets, and prepare individuals for potential risks. The yearly European cycle of economic policy coordination, called the European Semester, and its tools for monitoring could provide inspiration for the implementation of the new 2030 Agenda.
The EU will do its utmost to have the new Agenda effectively implemented. We look forward to working with partner countries and organisations around the world towards a fairer and better society.
* The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.
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