A greater focus on social investment is needed across the EU to counter the effects of the economic crisis, the Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton TD, has said.
Speaking today (3 May 2013) when concluding a two-day conference on the Social Investment Package hosted by the Irish Presidency in Leuven, Belgium, Minister Burton stressed the importance of social investment, saying a purely economic response to the crisis would not be enough.
"I've spoken already of my personal belief that the EU needs to shift towards an economic policy based on sustainable growth, investment, full employment and social inclusion. It's not enough to simply navigate our way out of the economic storm if we leave millions of people behind fending for themselves. That is where social protection, and social investment, comes in," Minister Burton said.
"And that is why the Social Investment Package is so important. We need to act swiftly and decisively on its implementation. It would go hand in hand with an economic approach based on jobs, investment and growth."
The Social Investment Package, proposed by the European Commission, seeks to ensure:
• More effective and efficient spending to ensure adequate and sustainable social protection;
• Investment in people’s skills and capacities to improve their opportunities in the labour market and their participation in society;
• Investment in children and young people to increase their opportunities in life; and
• That social protection systems respond to people’s needs throughout their lives and achieve lasting positive social outcomes.
The purpose of the conference, held at the Leuven Institute for Ireland in Europe, was to discuss the implementation of the Package.
The European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, László Andor, led the Commission delegation at the conference, which featured a number of speakers and contributors from the various member states, the European Parliament and other international institutions.
The conference was held as part of Ireland's Presidency of the Council of the EU, in association with the European Commission.
As joint-chair of the Council of Ministers of Employment and Social Affairs (EPSCO), Minister Burton has the lead role in putting forward the political response by EPSCO to the Package.
It is the Minister's intention that EPSCO will adopt Council Conclusions on the Package at the formal EPSCO meeting on June 20 in Luxembourg.
Minister Burton said: "We need to shift the debate towards investing in our most valuable resource – our people. I am delighted that the Commission has introduced this Package during our Presidency, and I hope for swift and decisive implementation.
“The Package offers opportunities to provide sustainable social protection systems and support the active inclusion of people throughout their lives.
"Presenting such a Package makes an important statement that social policy is an equally important and integral part of the EU as we move forward from the crisis."