On July 1, 2012, Cyprus took up the 6-month rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union, succeeding Denmark. It intends to devote its Presidency to working “towards a better Europe,” adopting a position “imbued with social sensitivity.”
In an especially difficult period for Europe, and for the island nation in particular – must we be reminded that Cyprus requested financial assistance from the European Union one week before assuming the Presidency – Cyprus maintains that austerity measures, although necessary, must go together with “active measures in order to promote inclusive growth and job creation.”
For Cyprus, “Towards a better Europe” means “a European Union more relevant to its citizens and to the world; a more effective Europe, contributing to sustainable growth, social cohesion and job creation through efficient and integrated policies; a European Union working on the basis of the underlying principle of solidarity, committing itself to a better future. All efforts will be directed to bequeath a better Europe to the younger generations.”
The priorities of the Cyprus Presidency are thus:
- Europe, more efficient and sustainable
- Europe, with a better performing and growth-based economy
- Europe, more relevant to its citizens, with solidarity and social cohesion
- Europe in the world, closer to its neighbors
Cyprus’ social program
In terms of social and employment policies, the Cyprus Presidency announced its intention to concentrate on the following points:
- Strengthen social cohesion, focusing on children’s well-being, active participation of seniors in all aspects of society and intergenerational solidarity, in the context of the European Year of Active Aging and Solidarity between Generations.
- Invest in more and better jobs with new and improved skills, emphasizing the fight against youth unemployment in response to the rising unemployment rates in the EU.
- Strengthen participatory processes and involvement of social partners, local authorities and civil society in the implementation of the Europe 2020 Strategy, particularly concerning goals to be achieved in terms of employment, poverty and social exclusion. This initiative relies on sharing best practices at the national and European levels.
- Continue work on the United Nations’ Beijing Platform for Action, particularly regarding indicators of violence against women, an important obstacle on the road to gender equality. The main focus is on victim support services. The Cyprus Presidency will also encourage discussions on the challenge of the gender wage gap by facilitating exchange of best practices among Member States.
2014-2020 Financial Framework and EU 2020 Strategy
Among the key issues on the agenda, Cyprus’ priority will undoubtedly be finalizing negotiations on the Multiannual Financial Framework for the period 2014-2020 (European Social Fund, European Globalization Adjustment Fund and Program for Social Change and Innovation) and formulating a “balanced and effective budget that will contribute to growth…and create more jobs.”
Cyprus also wants to work on the posting of workers, with the aim of improving employee mobility while maintaining decent working conditions, as well as revising the Directive on improving health and safety requirements regarding the exposure of workers to electromagnetic fields.
In general, the Cyprus Presidency undertakes to pay particular attention to implementation of the EU 2020 Strategy.
In this context, it is worth recalling that among its five major goals, the EU 2020 Strategy looks to ensure that by 2020, 75% of the population of the European Union aged 20 to 64 has a job, and to do away with the risk of poverty and social exclusion weighing over 20 million people.
Alas, the current state of progress as regards implementation of the EU 2020 Strategy leaves little hope that these goals can be achieved1. Cyprus thus has its work cut out for it to try to make progress towards these established goals.
1 According to the Progress Report of the Europe 2020 Strategy, the employment rate of the EU population aged 20-64 is likely to be under 70% in 2020, and only some 12 million people are expected to escape from the threat of poverty. (downloadable report: http://ec.europa.eu/europe2020/pdf/ags2012_annex1_en.pdf)