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Meet the forthcoming EU Presidencies: The Czech Republic


22 Dec 2008


Social Europe & Jobs
EU Priorities 2020

Brussels, 19 December 2008. - The three e's - the economy, energy and external relations - are announced to be the incoming Czech EU Presidency's main priorities. In the framework of its traditional advocacy work towards the successively forthcoming holders of the EU Presidency, Caritas Europa met representatives of the future Czech representatives for an informal dialogue on relevant policy issues. This was an opportunity to underline the need for a stronger emphasis on the social and humanitarian dimension of the EU agenda.

When dealing with poverty, Caritas Europa sees access to employment under dignified conditions including decent wages as the preferred option. However, in line with the overarching value of dignity and full participation that still applies in cases where standard employment is not an option, people without a job should be offered an individually adapted solution: professional guidance, intermediate work, other forms of supported/protected employment etc. As social inclusion goes not quasi automatically hand in hand with economic progress, solidarity is essential in order to maintain and strengthen the cohesion of European societies

According to its plans for a "Europe without borders", the Czech EU Presidency intends to put special emphasis on mobility of workers including temporary relocations and the implementation of the European Job Mobility Action Plan 2007-2010. They will also work on the implementation of flexicurity principles in Member States. In this framework it is necessary to address the situation in transition periods when people may be unemployed or transfer from job to job. Therefore, Caritas Europa and the Czech representatives agreed on the importance of social protection and appropriate integration paths such as vocational training and life long learning. In terms of "active inclusion" special emphasis will be put during the Czech EU Presidency on Social Services of General Interest.

Asked about their priorities for social policy, the Czech representatives pointed at family policies. Families should be put in a condition to choose whether the mother should go out to work or stay at home to care for the children, without harming the family's economic prospects. The Czech EU presidency also wishes to address reconciliation between professional and family life and conditions related to adequate child care. Finally the two delegations referred to the financial crisis and its impact on the poor and excluded. Caritas Europa will deal with this aspect within its network and is open to make contributions to relevant conferences organised by the Czech EU Presidency on the subject.

Caritas Europa and its partner organisations have recently provided a response to the Commission's proposals on instruments regulating labour migration to the European Union ("Framework directive", "Blue Card Initiative" and the Communication on circular migration). Among others, the organisations expressed concerns for the exclusion of seasonal workers, asylum seekers and people under subsidiary protection from the scope of the "Framework directive" and asked to extend the "Blue Card Initiative" to refugees, beneficiaries of subsidiary protection and asylum seekers who should also be granted access to the labour market. In the context of the Communication on circular migration, they underlined that integration measures should be offered to those who come to the EU, even on a temporary basis.

The Czech delegation confirmed that the future EU Presidency will be dealing with labour migration. However, a political agreement is expected to be reached during their mandate only on the "Framework directive". With regard to integration, the Czech EU Presidency will support the publication of the third EU handbook on integration and plans to organise in February 2009 a conference on strengthening migrants' integration on and through the labour market. Asked about the next multiannual programme (2009-2013) for Justice, Freedom and Security, the Czech representatives replied that the Czech EU Presidency intends to discuss the issue only at ministerial level and that no public document will be prepared.

In the area of asylum, the Czech EU Presidency will open debate on the amendments to the Reception conditions directive, the Dublin regulation and Eurodac. While Caritas Europa considers that some improvements have been made in the Commission's proposal on reception conditions, the future Czech EU Presidency is rather sceptical about the potential for progresses in the Council, in particular with regard to detention and access to the labour market. It is noted that the Czech EU Presidency will put efforts into reaching an agreement on the European Asylum Support Office for which the Commission is expected to propose a regulation in February 2009.

During its mandate, the Czech EU Presidency will be in a favourable position to consolidate the EU policies on aid effectiveness and financing for development. Caritas calls on the Czech EU Presidency to actively support and facilitate the adoption of ambitious implementation plans following the commitments made or reiterated by the EU and its Member States in Accra and Doha. These are related to ODA targets and the establishment of timetables showing how Member States will deliver on their targets; but also to democratic ownership by partner countries, accountability for the impact of aid and policy coherence for development.

Following up to the Doha Conference on Financing for Development and ahead of the G20 meeting in London, the Czech Presidency will guide the preparation of a statement about the impact of the financial crisis on developing countries which could consist of a political chapeau to the traditional "April package" of Commission's reports. According to the presentation of the Czech delegation a promising element will be the attention to be given by the future EU Presidency to democratic governance with a focus on human rights, national accountability and the roles of Parliaments and civil society.

However, aid effectiveness and financing for development will not be the only focus of the Czech EU Presidency in this area. In combination with broader EU debates on energy security and recent increases in global energy prices, the Czech Presidency hopes to bring forward what could be an interesting reflexion on Southern access to local and sustainable energy sources. A debate on linking Eastern partnership and development cooperation and on the development impact of the EU's financial instruments targeted towards South and Eastern Europe should be on the agenda of the January informal ministerial meeting.