Ahead of the adoption of his opinion on the 'Integration of the long-term unemployed' by the CoR February plenary session, we spoke to CoR rapporteur Enrico Rossi, President of the Tuscany Region (PES/Italy), to hear his views about the European Commission's proposal for a Council Reccomendation and the role that he sees for cities and regions.
Your draft opinion rightly points out that reducing long-term unemployment is a key strategic objective for the EU as a whole. Do you believe that the instruments proposed in the recommendation go far enough?
The Commission's analysis of the long-term unemployment issue, which let us not forget concerns 12 million people in Europe, is certainly correct in the way it defines the problem and its characteristics.
I don't think that it is quite so successful, however, when it comes to proposing initiatives and tools that can have a real impact, as they basically boil down to coordinating the Member States' activities.
What is really needed to tackle this issue is a set of policies and instruments driven by Europe, rather than just the individual countries.
It is true that Member States should boost and reorganise their employment services to deal with the problem. Nevertheless, if left to their own devices, those countries worst hit by the crisis will end up having to bear the brunt of the problem. They will be more likely to fail, which will further exacerbate their negative economic situation.
So I think it would make sense to include some measures, however limited, that would have more of an impact than mere coordination at European level, namely: bringing national employment services into line with European standards; introducing a European mechanism to tackle unemployment during short-term economic crises; making provision for these instruments to be assessed during the upcoming review of the Multiannual Financial Framework.
How can local and regional authorities be equipped to cope with the challenge?
Regional authorities, particularly those already managing ESF projects, could develop European models for intervention, promoting innovative measures that have been designed and implemented jointly, albeit on a local scale.
This would be a tangible sign of a shared desire to build trust and the sense of belonging to a Europe that also has a social dimension and is keen to resolve the problems of its most vulnerable citizens.
In Tuscany, I will be working to ensure that these measures are increasingly perceived as being European in outlook.