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The European Social Fund: Investing in people: ESF Congress, Birmingham, 26 to 28 May 1998
European Social Fund
Employment policy


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Proceedings Report
The European Social Fund: investing in

ESP irmingham, 26-28 May 1998
Employment & social affairs
* * * * *
European Commission Key
© Round Table
Θ Workshop
© Speakers
O Moderator
O Rapporteur
® Project presenters
© European Communities, 1999. Proceedings Report
The European Social Fund: investing in
ESF Congress, Birmingham, 26-28 May 1998
European Commission A great deal of information on the European Union is available on the Internet. It can be accessed through the Europa server
Cataloguing data can be found at the end of this publication.
Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, 1999.
© European Communities, 1999.
ISBN: 92-828-6824-9
Reproduction is authorized, provided the source is acknowledged.
The contents of this publication do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of the European Commission, Directorate-General for
Employment, Industrial Relations and Social Affairs.
Printed in Belgium. ESF Congress proceedings report
The ESF Congress was the first-ever event which aimed to bring together all the key players from the ESF from across Europe,
for them to share their experience of the ESF in action at a critical point in its development.
I myself, and my staff in DG V, found the Congress a great opportunity to learn more about what the ESF is doing on the ground,
and what delegates felt ought to be the priorities for the way it is to work in the future. We shall keep
these ideas firmly in mind when planning with our partners the next programming period, and the way the ESF is to work
with the European Employment Strategy in future years.
If there was one clear message which came out of the Congress, it was the view of the overwhelming majority of
delegates that they needed to know more about what the ESF is doing in other Member States - what have been
the successful approaches, where have problems arisen. In this way, by learning from each other, you and we can go a long way
towards pooling our resources, and making the most of ESF funding.
This publication takes a step towards doing that. It is a record of the speeches, and a summary of the workshop debates
during those three days in Birmingham in May 1998. It forms part of a much wider range of publications and other
information which aims to get the ESF better-known, and provide examples of what it is doing.
If you attended the Congress, thank you for taking part, and sharing your views; we hope that you came away with
a clearer idea of what the Fund is doing now, and what its potential is for the future. If you were not able to attend,
we hope that you will find this publication a useful guide to the way the ESF invests in people. CONTENTS
Introduction 5
5 The context
5 The objectives
26 May Opening plenary session 7
Pádraig Flynn, European Commission 7
Andrew Smith, United Kingdom I I
Javier Arenas, Spain 15
Nicole Péry, France 18
Christos Protopapas, Greece 22
Round tables 25
The speakers 25
Round Table I 27
Round table 2 39
NGO session 51
27 May Workshops I & 7 Long-term unemployment 61 s 2 & 8 Young people : the ESF in action 89
Workshops 3 & 9 Exclusion from the labour market 103 s 4 & 10 : Equal opportunities 127
Workshops 5 & I I: Adaptation to industrial change 149 s 6 & 12: The ESF in objective I regions 163
28 May Congress conclusions 185
Closing Session 199
Exhibition 205 In 1997, the decision was taken to stage the first-ever European- should work and be shaped. Agenda 2000 had set as
level conference devoted to the European Social Fund. While objectives for reform the principles of concentration,
there had been numerous conferences in the forty years since the simplification and clarification of responsibilities.
ESF was set up under the Treaty of Rome in 1957, these The Jobs Summit had set as a key task for the Structural
had either focused on the ESF's contribution to specific areas of Funds the need to "underpin the reform of labour
action, or had looked at the ESF from a particular Member State's market policies and practices, in line with the Employment
or region's point of view. Strategy and the annual employment guidelines for
Member States."
The context The Commission tabled its proposals for the new ESF
The timing - as President Santer commented in his clos­ and other Structural Funds on 18 March.
ing speech at the Congress - could not have been better. The Congress of the European Social Fund took place
1997 proved a key year not only for European integration on 26 - 28 May.This was a key time in three senses
as a whole, but also for the EU's joint coordinated
approach to the issue of jobs, which became firmly estab­ • the proposal for the new ESF had been issued by
lished at the centre stage of European policy. the Commission two months before;
A new Employment title for the EU Treaty was agreed • the first discussion by Heads of State and Government
at the Amsterdam summit in June 1997; this political will on the first round of national action plans for
... — was translated into^ctumwith the agreement to-set - employments under the process started at
these provisions in motion without waiting for the Treaty Luxembourg - would take place in Cardiff in mid-June;
itself to be ratified.This momentum led to the extraordi­ • early May would see the announcement of the first wave
nary European Council, or'Jobs Summit' which brought of countries which were to form the single currency
European Heads of State and Government to
Luxembourg in November, to agree on the guidelines The objectives
which should shape Member States' employment policies. As the first-ever event dedicated to the European Social
Agenda 2000, the Commission's new vision for the shape Fund - what it is, what is does - the Congress aimed to
and financing of the EU for the first years of the next enhance the visibility of the ESF, and to bring together
century was unveiled in July 1997. Within this key docu­ key ESF players from around the EU to discuss the Fund,
ment were the Commission's views on how to reform its objectives and achievements primarily during the cur­
existing policies, to start the enlargement process to rent programming period, and to look to its future in the
the applicant countries of Central and Eastern Europe, next period - a future which will be marked by its close
and to set the financial framework for the years 2000 - association with the European Employment Strategy.
2006. Reform of the Structural Funds, and proposals for The event - and the exhibition - would enable ESF
their operation after the end of the current programming players to view, compare and discuss policy and program­
period in 1999, were important elements within ming approaches undertaken in all IS Member States,
this package. with a view to sharing experience and expertise, and also
It was in this context - a new impetus for employment to raise common difficulties which might be solved by
introducing approaches tested elsewhere. policy, and preparations for a new period - that
Discussion during the Congress programme, and, more the Commission prepared its proposals for the new
informally, on the sidelines, provided an opportunity Structural Funds, including the European Social Fund,
for the Commission and Member States to assess during late 1997 and early 1998. Besides building
the range of views on the reform of the Fund, and its on experience of previous programming periods,
the Commission had clear signals for how the new funds links with the European Employment Strategy. Opening plenary session
Pádraig Flynn
Mr Flynn reminded delegates that the ESF was all about people, and
for people.The Congress was taking place at an important moment, ω
as the last year of the current period approached, and the new pro­
posals for the Structural Funds from 2000­2006 had been tabled. He
underlined the important link between the ESF and the European
Employment Strategy, and stressed the compatibility between the
four pillars of the EES and the priorities for the new ESF. He encour­
aged delegates to reflect on the way the ESF should be steered to
Pádraig Flynn
tackle discrimination, to anticipate better economic change and to European Commissioner for Employment,
equip individuals better with the skills they require. Industrial relations and Social Affairs
Ministers, ladies and gentlemen, I should first of ail like to
which is of course all about people, and for people. welcome you all here to this international conference
centre in Birmingham for our very important Congress. Less than four weeks ago the European Union heads
I would like straight away to introduce to you the other of State and Government gathered in Brussels to
members of the stage party. I would like to introduce you provide the final impetus to ensure that economic and
monetary union will be launched on schedule on to Mr Javier Arenas, the Spanish Minister for Labour and
the I" of January next year. Social Affairs, Mr Andrew Smith, the United Kingdom
Minister for Employment, Welfare to Work and Equal
Opportunities. I think he is a face well known to you all, In just three weeks time, meanwhile, the same heads
Madame Nicole Péry, the French Secretary of State of State and Government will meet in Cardiff to try
for Vocational Training, and Mr Christos Protopappas, the and make progress on an altogether different, but no less
Greek State Secretary for Labour and Social Security. I important and not unrelated matter, the scourge of
would ask you to give a big welcome to all of our guest unemployment.They will look at the national action plans
speakers today. for employment, known as the NAPs and all of the
commitments that were made by the Member States to
implement the 1998 employment guidelines. Ministers, ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the European
In Vienna at the end of this year they will look and see Commission, it is my very great pleasure indeed to wel­
how much of those good intentions have actually been come you all here to Birmingham today, to this, the inau­
gural Congress of the European Social Fund. Indeed, it is translated into practice. So the timing of this Congress,
a very important occasion. It is also an auspicious occasion between the Brussels and the Cardiff Councils gives us
an opportunity to communicate a strong and forceful because this is the first time in more than 40 years of
message that the European Union cares as much about the European Social Fund that we have gathered together
practical, everyday issues such as getting useful training in such great numbers at such a high level, and at such a
to keep a job and to get a job, as it does about economic crucial juncture in the development of the European Union.
and financial projects such as the single market and the
single currency. For all of us here today the European Let me say straight away that this Congress is all about
project is also about investing in people for their futures. investing in people, about the human and the social face
The funding available for this purpose is substantial. of the European Union and the European Social Fund, The Social Fund will disburse about 50 billion ECUs about the Fund's contribution to all of this.This Congress
in the current economic period. I expect that there will provides us with an opportunity to pause, a opportunity
be between 60 and 70 billion in the next programming to reflect, too, on the role of the fund and it relevance
period.This is money which can and should make a great for the future. I find that one of the best ways of going
difference. It underlines the importance of our discussions about this is to visit a project, to visit a real project and
see what the Social Fund is actually doing in practice. that are taking place in Birmingham this week.
The important point is what are the key aims of this On my way here this morning, ladies and gentlemen,
Congress. We can compare the overall objectives of this I visited such a project, a European Social Fund project in
Congress with the mythological figure of Janus, looking Birmingham. It is called the Target project. It concerns
young people with learning difficulties and helping them backwards and forwards at the very same time, first to
to progress in learning skills, supporting them as they go provide a forum for you, the broad grouping of social
out looking for jobs, being by their side in the first early and economic actors that makes up what we like to call
the ESF family, to review the past achievements of days and weeks while they make the transition from
the Fund, to evaluate its results to date, and to share the protected atmosphere of the workshop into
ideas and to forge new approaches, secondly to examine the tumult of the workplace.And I discovered something.
and discuss the future policy framework of the European I discovered a very good rate of job placement for
Social Fund. the trainees there. Indeed, there are some of the former
trainees working in the Hyatt hotel here in Birmingham
where many of you are staying.These are young people A basic fundamental must be a new legal and political
who needed a hand, and I am proud to say that perspective.The political and legal context in which we
the Social Fund was there and able to give it. It gave do this has developed rapidly, of course, over the last
them the chance, the chance of a start in life, a start year. First, we have the overall political vision of
in working life.
the Commission's Agenda 2000 proposals for the future
development of the Union as we approach the 21" centu­
ry. Secondly, we look forward within that vision to the This is but a very small example, of course, of what is
entry into force of the new Treaty which strengthens happening right across the Member States with
the Union's commitment to principles which have guided the financial support of the European Social Fund.
the European Social Fund for decades, commitments But collectively, these activities demonstrate our shared
regarding skills, employability, equality and social exclusion. commitment to easing access to the labour market for
Thirdly, we have the new European Employment Strategy those with difficulties, and our joint determination to
as endorsed at last year's Amsterdam and Luxembourg promote solidarity and cohesion at community level.
Summits, in particular the national action plans for employ­
ment which each Member State has now submitted to Looking forward now to the reform of the Fund, we
the Commission as part of a co-ordinated strategy to must turn our eyes towards how the fund should evolve
promote unemployment and to tackle unemployment. in the next period, drawing on the experience and on
the achievements of past and current programmes.
There are a number of principles guiding the reforms I want to say how much we all appreciate the commit­
already proposed by the Commission, first, the political ments of the Member States in preparing, adopting
priority of economic and social cohesion.The Treaty on and submitting the action plans within the limited time
European Union made cohesion one of the three pillars available, and the very high quality of these plans.
of European integration, alongside EMU and the single We have to ask questions.We have to ask questions