"The current economic crisis is the most serious economic crisis since the Great Depression. The most vulnerable have been affected very seriously. I want to avoid further job losses in the EU", László Andor said in his opening remarks.
Among his priorities, the commissioner-designate placed an emphasis on the EU2020 strategy (Post-Lisbon Agenda), the ageing population, EU legislation such as the revision of the working-time directive and the modernisation of the structural funds with the aim of simplifying their management.
Csaba Öry (EPP, HU) asked the commissioner-designate for his vision of how the EU2020 strategy would contribute to growth and employment as well as on how he intended to establish cooperation with the European Parliament. "When reviewing the Lisbon Agenda we must consider it against the backdrop of the current crisis and I hope that the EP will play an active role. We must put an emphasis on the cross-cutting nature of the employment dimension in all the policies of the EU", László Andor replied.
The commissioner-designate also recognised the importance of green jobs when replying to a question from Jean Lambert (Greens/EFA, UK) who called for a more whole-hearted involvement of the Commission's employment DG in this field.
"We need a clear employment strategy? What do you understand by flexisecurity?", asked Sari Essaya (EPP, FI). "Flexisecurity is a combination of flexibility and security and we need a balanced approach between these two concepts so as to achieve both employment and social protection", Mr Andor replied.
With regard to questions on employment, Roger Helmer (EDR, UK) referred to the commissioner-designate´s past and his "opposition to the Maastricht Treaty and NATO". Mr Andor replied that Mr. Helmer´s comments contained "considerable exaggerations" and that it was not possible to cover all those issues in such little time.
EU legislation - posting of workers, working-time
Alejandro Cercas (S&D, ES) asked the commissioner-designate about the interpretation of the directive on the posting of workers by the Court of Justice of the EU and its implications for workers. "The objective of the directive is to facilitate the free movement of workers and to provide them with security. There are problems with the interpretation of the directive. An impact assessment as well as a social partner dialogue are necessary. What is needed is a new approach", Mr Andor replied.
A number of MEPs asked Mr Andor questions related to the working-time directive. "Is overtime a right for workers?" asked Elisabeth Lynne (ALDE, UK). "Opting out is never the better solution however it is necessary to consider what the hurdles are for implementing a piece of legislation in a specific country. Regarding overtime on a voluntary basis, I cannot guarantee that it will be possible to reach a general conclusion. Overtime however must not jeopardise the health and safety of the workers", Mr Andor replied.
To the questions by Pascale Gruny (EPP, FR) and Stephen Hughes (S&D, UK) on occupational illnesses, such as muscular and skeletal disease, the Commissioner-designate promised to propose new legislation in this area.
Thomas Mann (EPP, DE) asked the Commissioner-designate about his plans for the period after 1 May 2011 when restrictions on the free movement of workers within the EU will end, which, he added, could lead to a brain drain from the new Member States. Mr Andor said that "the mobility of workers from the new Member States had proved to be overestimated, and he would study the situation before coming up with new proposals."
Ageing of the population and Pensions
"In Spring the European Commission will present a Green Paper on pensions", Mr Andor announced. "The issue of persons helping an old member of their family will be looked into when preparing this document", the commissioner-designate added when answering questions on family assistance put to him by Marian Harkin (ALDE, IE) and Mara Bizotto (EFD, IT).
Jutta Steinruck (S&D, DE) brought up the question of the portability of supplementary pension rights, a directive which the Council has blocked. "The Green Paper on pensions will be the starting point to return to this issue", Mr Andor replied.
Roma and Fight against poverty
In reply to questions from Gabriele Zimmer (GUE/NGL, DE) and Frédéric Daerdenne (S&D, BE) on the fight against poverty, particularly that affecting children and Roma, Mr Andor declared that "child poverty is a serious problem", adding that he would tackle child poverty in close coordination with the Belgian presidency which has made this issue one of its priorities.
"The Roma problem is a transnational one which requires a strategic approach. In some EU countries the Roma and poverty are two very closely linked themes", he added.
Modernisation of the European Social Fund
Danuta Jazlowiecka (EPP, PL) asked the commissioner-designate about how he intended to modernise the European Social Fund (ESF), insisting on the need for a clear vision. "The ESF is a pillar of social cohesion. It is necessary to ensure that it functions more autonomously without separating it from the other cohesion funds", Mr Andor replied.
"I'm very supportive of the idea", said Mr Andor to the question of Edite Estrela (S&D, PT) on the possible introduction of the paternity leave. He stressed, however that "such leave should not be mandatory, and that Member States´ best practices should be examined."
"It is unacceptable that it is the vulnerable groups which are worst hit by the economic crisis and the EU can take action to combat discrimination", the commissioner-designate told Ádám Kósa (EPP, HU) regarding the situation of disabled persons in the EU.