SPEECH by the President of the European Parliament Mrs Nicole FONTAINE

to the European Council meeting on employment, economic reform and social cohesion - towards an innovation and knowledge-based Europe -

European Parliament


The European Community began as an economic one. Now that we have the euro, it has become a monetary community. The Kosovo tragedy has seen the emergence of a political community, and very recently, Europeans have become keenly aware of the intangible moral values on which their community is founded.

They are now looking to this European Council meeting to give shape to a social Europe.

Their expectations are extremely high, for three reasons:

  • unemployment wrecks lives and societies for entire generations and, even though it is starting to fall, unemployment remains the main concern of Europe’s citizens,
  • the across-the-board return to economic growth means that we can do things today which were impossible yesterday,
  • they are scandalised by untrammelled capitalism, whose relocations, social dumping, ruthless exploitation of the disparities between the social and fiscal legislation of the Member States and remorseless pursuit of profit at the expense of working men and women have a direct and traumatic impact on their lives, both as communities and as individuals.

For these three reasons their expectations of this Council meeting are extremely high. You must not let them down.

Among the Portuguese Presidency’s general guidelines for a dynamic employment policy based on growth, which the European Parliament cannot but endorse, I wish to highlight the following:

  • the importance attached to ongoing training, which is a prerequisite for ensuring that workers adapt to the constantly changing world of work,
  • the qualitative modernisation of relations between employees and their employers, based on dignity, due acknowledgement of skills and promotion of initiative,
  • the elimination of all forms of discrimination, bearing in mind that it is often indirect, which 50 years of European integration have not yet succeeded in eradicating,
  • a fairer distribution of income between capital, which enables, and work, which produces,
  • promotion of worker mobility, in particular through information, throughout the European Community,
  • development of participation at all levels of economic and social life,
  • a proactive approach by Europe to involvement in new economic activities relating to information technologies while ensuring that these do not create further forms of exclusion and social division.