Hannes Swoboda: 2012 was a lost year for European people – we must take social action for people and invest in growth in 2013

At the end of the year S&D Group President Hannes Swoboda comments on 2012 and gives his perspective on the year ahead. „2012 was driven by harsh austerity policies by the majority of conservative leaders in Europe. Its impact on Europe’s people was dramatic. For them it was a lost year in many respects.

„We have witnessed a rise in unemployment from 10.1% in 2011 to 11.3% in 2012. This means that we have almost 26 million unemployed in 2012, which equates to over 2 million more people without a job compared to a year ago.
„Youth unemployment is particularly serious. At EU-level, 1 in 5 young people are unemployed. In some countries the youth unemployment rate is even worse at over 50%, with half of our young people without a job or any hope.
„Many countries have reduced their payments for education as well as for research and development: two areas which are crucial for economic recovery.
„We have seen only limited success with regard to member states’ debt reduction.
„Even measures which were agreed upon, such as the growth pact, have showed little impact in terms of implementation.
„The outlook for 2013 indicates that we could see another lost year if we do not change our policy dramatically and invest more in growth“.
Hannes Swoboda criticises the minimal action taken on social issues:
„There is a significant amount of social legislation promised by EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso which still needs to be implemented. This relates particularly to the abuse of workers through subcontracting chains; loss of rights for posted workers, atypical contracts; long working hours; and discrimination. Legislation which promotes social dialogue and collective negotiation, as well as on basic redistributive policies such as minimum income and social services, must be taken forward.
„With regard to the social pact, which our Group has called for the last year, the Council has asked Herman Van Rompuy to make proposals for the social dimension of the EU. While a positive development, we must now ensure that it is properly implemented and followed up with specific measures in 2013.
„The European Youth Guarantee, which the S&D Group has been urgently calling for, has also been taken up by the European Commission. However, we would like to see a stronger guarantee at European level. Member states now have a clear mandate to take this further and it is up to the EU Commission to ensure that significant action will follow at national level.
„In this regard, it is deplorable that we are faced with a reduction of funds for the European Social Fund, which would be the tool to implement this guarantee.’
Commenting on the EU budget negotiations, Hannes Swoboda stressed:
„The European Parliament has shown that it can participate in the EU budget policy-making process. Despite a lack of financing for expenses already agreed upon, we have been able to agree to a compromise.
„However, I do not see how we could agree to the compromise from the EU Council, which fall far short of the requirements for an efficient budget policy.“