Remarks by Commissioner Schmit following the informal video-conference with employment and social ministers

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC) i, gepubliceerd op dinsdag 5 mei 2020.

Good afternoon. I would like to thank the Croatian Presidency for organising this exceptional Council in very exceptional circumstances. The exchanges with Member States and social partners underline very well the challenges we face with the COVID19 pandemic and the need for coordination in our response and in our recovery, particularly when it comes to the employment and social fields.

We can only overcome this crisis by working together. Member States' input and contributions are crucial for the further work of the Commission.

I also welcome in particular the participation of social partners in this meeting because social partners and social dialogue are key, especially in overcoming the crisis.

The post coronavirus recovery will need to put people front and centre. We will need to fight soaring unemployment - the figures we have now show that unemployment is surging very fast - and prevent inequalities from widening even further.

I would like specifically to mention youth unemployment. Because there is a huge risk that the young people will again be the victims of this crisis. Therefore, the Commission will come up with proposals on fighting youth unemployment and especially adapting the Youth Guarantee in the forthcoming weeks.

Most Member States have already introduced or expanded short-time work schemes. This prevents an even sharper increase in unemployment. We save jobs, and especially we save the income of workers. This is the positive side.

Here, the EU will add value with the SURE instrument which can fund up to €100bn for short term work schemes. It looks as if 1 June, as indicated by the European Council, can be respected for starting this instrument as soon as possible.

The Commission has also mobilised new investments. We made the use of EU funding more flexible for the fight against the coronavirus, including measures to help the most deprived.

Post COVID19 workplaces will require new procedures to ensure the protection citizen's health and safety at work. We have provided guidance for the health and safety of workers as they go back to work. We will also prepare a new Occupational Safety and Health Strategy.

I insist very much on the free circulation of workers. We really have to work on that as we have to work on safeguarding the internal market. We have issued guidance on workers' mobility, an EU fundamental principle. 1.5 million people live in one EU country and work in another. We have to make sure that this system - the openness of borders - works properly.

The Heads of State and Government have kick-started the work on a recovery initiative. The next Multiannual Financial Framework has to respond to the new reality. If we want a strong social Europe and a socially fair recovery, a more resilient European economy and socioeconomic system, we should defend also a strong role for the European Social Fund.