sexta-feira, junho 01, 2007

The Social Realities of the European Regions

Retis General Secretariat - Building "Le Peuple", Brussels

Cher amis, Madames, Monsieurs

1. Je vous remercie beaucoup pour votre invitation. Dear friends

2. Being a Retis Conference, I think that we need to say something about social inclusion. We cannot accept any form of social exclusion, if we are in favour of social solidarity and social cohesion and if we support, in any of its versions, the European Social Model.

3. A very important instrument against the social exclusion is the minimum revenue. The minimum revenue is really a way to fight exclusion, but also a way to reintroduce to a normal life the people who could feel themselves excluded, and to also reintroduce these people in the new labour market. For that, they need support during a shorter or longer period and help to get better qualifications, if their qualifications are not enough to get a job that suits them.

I must underline that the minimum revenue is a very important instrument for putting back the people in the labour market, but also to prepare them for a new job. It is very important that the people who need the minimum revenue understand it is not a final objective, but a provisional support to a better life in the future. Then it will be needed often, a social support from social workers and other professionals with experience in dealing with difficult and very difficult social situations.

4. Then, of course, there are links between the minimum revenue and the social inclusion. Concerning this link, I think that the minimum revenue should be considered not like a solution but more as a way to move to a better job and, in general, to a better situation. If the people consider the minimum revenue as a solution, we are encouraging to have more unemployed paid by the Social system, even with a lower pay. And what we really want is that these people get a new job, a new life, and feel included in the society.

Of course, the need for using the social services, mainly those that are concerned with health care is very important. I mean we should understand also the social services of general interest as an important way to reinforce the social inclusion. That's also why it could be very dangerous to let them be only submitted to the market rules.

5. I mean, there are other problems concerning the social inclusion. The people need help for their problems and for difficult situations in the social and health fields. Let's talk then about SSGI.

6. Dear Friends, I would like to point out one of the most important outcome in Social Services of General Interest. As the Report I have presented in the European Parliament was approved, the Parliament has decided to convoke a Forum to discuss the matters concerning those Social Services of General Interest, all over Europe.

7. Dear Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen, Chairperson. Following the vote in Employment and Social Affairs Committee, and the ratification vote in the Strasbourg Plenary, the Portuguese European Presidency is now organising the First Forum on Social Services of General Interest. The Social European Platform, the Mutualities, the Caritas Organisations, the Social Housing Platform, the European Center of Enterprises with Public Participation and Social Interest are of course expected to participate in this Forum, as well of most social organisations working in any of the Member States of the Union.

8. We would like that most people working in Social Services all over Europe, in quite a number of member States, could come to Lisbon, on September 17th, to discuss the future of the SSGI, taking into account the present situation and the broad situation linked to the future of the General Interest Services.

9. The European Commission also is supporting this relevant initiative. The Commissioner Vladimir Spidla will participate in the Forum and I hope that before the September 16th, when the Forum opens, we could have the complete diagnosis and conclusions about the global situation of the Social Services of General Interest in the European Union.

10. The Minister Vieira da Silva, who is responsible for Labour, Solidarity and Social Affairs in the Portuguese government, will also deliver a speech at the opening session. I think that some Member States are thinking about discussing this crucial issue in the European Council, probably after the September Forum in Lisbon.

11. In the opening of the Forum, Jan Andersson, the Swedish chair of the Employment and Social Affairs Committee of the European Parliament, will develop our interest in participating in the follow-up of this process

12. The deeper work must be done in separate sections. Then, we will try to have some conclusions in the Plenary. All this work has been prepared by a report elaborated with the contributions of many social organisations across Europe. In my report, approved for 34-1 (and 5 abstentions) in the Committee of European and Social Affairs and a very clear majority in the Plenary. I tried to focus in some of the more important issues, some of these points were:
The European Parliament "Recommends the convocation of a forum, under the auspices of the European Parliament, which would bring together European social organisations and representatives of the Council and the Commission to guide the way this process is handled;"

But also the Parliament decided to call " on the Commission and the Member States to involve the social partners to a greater extent in developing approaches of this kind in accordance with the customs of each Member State;"

13. Here and now, I can underline, if I have time, other points of my Report, in its definitive version: Concerning the principles, I wrote and it was approved.

"Whereas social services of general interest (SSGIs) form one of the pillars of the European social model, play an essential part in securing civic peace and the European Union’s economic, social and territorial cohesion, and are one of the means whereby the Lisbon Strategy objectives can be achieved,"

14. In the resolution it was approved, also the European Parliament calls "on the Commission and the Member States to respect the diversity of the methods of organising and managing SSGIs, of their resources and of the methods of funding these services".

We are now really choosing the special points among the more important we approved, to discuss them, in our Forum. And, if I have time, I also refer that the European Parliament decided to call

15. "on the Commission and the Member States to protect and promote the patterns of employment frequently found in the SSGI sector, including female employment, flexible working hours, part-time working and use of the voluntary sector, while taking care not to encourage fraud and job insecurity and without causing any deterioration in the employment conditions of workers in the sector or recourse to unqualified or poorly qualified staff."

and the European Parliament

"considers also that, in view of the changing nature of requirements for SSGIs, public authorities must ensure that workers in SSGIs have a high level of vocational training;"

and also the European Parliament

"Considers that the Member States’ various competent public authorities are free to decide whether SSGIs should be provided by mutual associations, other forms of social organisation or private businesses, in cases where the provision of services by the private sector is compatible with the principle of upholding the general interest, but considers that public authorities should be able to check at any time that the service providers are abiding by the principles and values associated with SSGIs and whether services are being provided in accordance with the requirements specified in advance by the public authorities;"

16. I would not like to conclude without referring a recommendation concerning local and regional powers and the financing of SSGI. Quoting: the European Parliament

" Notes that in some Member States the decentralisation of power to regional or local authorities for the purpose of providing SSGIs has not been accompanied by the allocation of sufficient budget resources to enable them to deliver services of the highest standard in terms of quantity and quality; consequently, calls on the Member States to ensure that any transfer of powers to regional and local authorities for the purpose of delivering SSGI is accompanied by adequate budgetary resources;"

Ches amis, Madames e monsieurs

J´ai essayé de souligner les points les plus importants ou plus actuels de mon rapport. J'espère que le Forum des SSIG va donner une bonne contribution, pas seulement pour l'analyse mais surtout pour la discussion sur le Future des SSIG.

Aussi le Traité, bien que réduit, peut ouvrir le chemin à des nouvelles outils juridiques. Effectivement, la clarification des rapports entre les services sociaux et les pouvoirs politiques aux différent niveaux, local, régional, national et communautaire, l'inclusion ou la relation intime et profonde entre services sociales et santé, l'évaluation de la qualité et les rapports avec les usagers on besoin d'être discutés. Bien important aussi est l'appui aux handicapés, aux pauvres et à toutes les personnes socialement exclus.

Si les SSIG ne sont pas seulement pour les plus dé munis, ils sont beaucoup plus importants pour eux. Des SSIG bien organisés et de qualité peuvent aussi jouer un rôle très important dans l'inclusion sociale.

Merci pour votre attention.

Thank you very much!