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 Full text 
Tuesday, 15 January 2019 - Strasbourg Revised edition

European Social Fund Plus (ESF+) (debate)

  Marianne Thyssen, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, I warmly welcome the political commitment shown and the hard work done by the European Parliament, the lead and the associated committees and, in particular, the rapporteur, Ms Lope Fontagné, in the swift preparation of Parliament’s report. You have really done your utmost to advance this legislative proposal within the term of this Parliament.

I am very pleased that Parliament largely shares the Commission’s ambitions and objectives for the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+), an integrated fund with a substantial budget to implement the principle of the European Pillar of Social Rights, and linked to the European Semester. It is also a fund with simpler and more flexible management, and this will create more added value for its end-users, i.e. our citizen: for example, in modernising and improving the labour markets, ensuring good healthcare, targeting the assistance to those who need it most, and contributing to an overall stronger social dimension of the European Union. In short, the ESF+ will contribute to a more social Europe.

Parliament has proposed various amendments. I welcome a number of them as they clarify our text or usefully add or change elements of it. There are some others on which we have hesitation. The thematic concentration requirements – in plain words, the earmarking of parts of the budget – are the focus of most of Parliament’s proposed amendments. Let me underline here that, in our view, pre-allocating ESF+ national envelopes even further than in our proposal would significantly reduce the flexibility of the fund. This would prevent Member States reacting to evolving social needs, something we know happens in reality. It would also limit the possibility of responding to particular issues which Member States are facing and which are identified in the European Semester process.

Turning to the specific amendment proposals related to the employment and social innovation (ESI) strand of the ESF+, our proposal seeks to bring this strand closer to the ESF. I note with satisfaction that Parliament supports the proposed merger of the funds. But let me again highlight the need for flexibility as we proposed it for the ESI strand. Re-introducing fixed percentages for sub-strands would reduce this flexibility and hence make it more difficult to react to new challenges.

Last, but not least, Parliament, in particular the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI), proposes significant amendments to the health strand for the ESF+. I note that many of these proposals seem to reflect a desire to keep the health programme as a separate instrument, as it is today. While respecting Parliament’s view, the Commission is convinced that greater synergies and coherence between programmes, and closer coordination and consistency, will maximise the impact of EU health measures and will benefit citizens, health professionals and policymakers.

The new architecture of the ESF+ will not only preserve a specific health strand, which will continue to support public health policies to fulfil the objective of ensuring a high level of health protection, but will also ensure that, wherever they are relevant, health aspects are addressed in all social spending.

As always, honourable Members, I am now eager to listen to the debate.

Last updated: 15 May 2019Legal notice