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Procedure : 2010/2072(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A7-0236/2010

Texts tabled :

A7-0236/2010

Debates :

PV 06/09/2010 - 20
CRE 06/09/2010 - 20

Votes :

PV 07/09/2010 - 6.13
Explanations of votes
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P7_TA(2010)0303

Debates
Monday, 6 September 2010 - Strasbourg OJ edition

20. Funding and functioning of the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (short presentation)
Video of the speeches
PV
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  President. – The next item is the report by Mr Portas, on behalf of the Committee on Budgets, on the funding and functioning of the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (2010/2072(INI)) (A7-0236/2010).

 
  
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  Miguel Portas, rapporteur. (PT) Madam President, the report that I am presenting is the result of a compromise between groups with very different viewpoints on employment policy and unemployment protection. I would therefore like to thank the shadow rapporteurs, as well as the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs and the Committee on Budgets, for the cooperativeness they have shown towards reaching an agreement that can be useful to the victims of collective redundancies in the European Union.

This agreement is based on two premises: the first is that the social effects of the crisis will continue to be felt, even in the event of an economic recovery, which is far from guaranteed. Collective redundancies are therefore not a thing of the past and, unfortunately, they will continue to have an impact on the social lives of our countries. For this reason, the first choice is simple: do we or do we not wish to extend until 2020 the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund, which is the only instrument that Europe devotes to people affected by collective redundancy? This report’s answer is clear: yes, we want to send a strong message to the unemployed; yes, we think that they must be supported through programmes for reskilling and reintegration into employment; and yes, we think they deserve another chance and that we, the politicians in charge, owe them that.

The second premise is that there were many failings in the way that this fund functioned when it started out, but the changes introduced to its regulation have significantly increased the number of applications to make use of it. It is still too early to go ahead with an evaluation, but we can indicate and identify the main problem. From the time of the collective redundancy, it takes between 12 and 17 months for the money to arrive in the countries, and in some cases much more. We have a fund to respond to urgent social needs and it moves at a snail’s pace. It is the social consequences that concern me: because of this slowness, many workers end up not benefiting from the fund; moreover, it discourages the preparation of applications in the regions and countries with the greatest need.

Governments then do not implement the applications until they have been approved in Brussels, because that would force them to take the initiative with the national component of the financing at a time of budgetary austerity. That is why the report proposes a series of short-term measures to cut the delay by 50% and why it is being proposed to make the fund permanent from 2013.

Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, some of the Member States that have been benefiting most from the fund are resisting its simplification: they fear that speeding it up will end up requiring more and more money. Let us be frank: this risk exists, whether the fund is slow or fast. The risk of a long period of mediocre growth exists because it depends on what impact austerity policies will have on the recovery of our economies.

However, we are talking about something else today: Europe’s attitude towards collective redundancies and whether we are sacrificing their victims at the altar of budgetary restrictions or are at least able to give these people at least as much attention as we gave to the financial system, which our taxes saved.

This report’s decision is born from ethics, from how we see our fellow human beings and from how we see Europe. I want a Europe that is unequivocally social.

 
  
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  Elena Băsescu (PPE).(RO) I would like to state a few facts about the funding and operation of the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund.

Nine Member States, including Romania, which is in a more vulnerable position with regard to the effects of globalisation, have not accessed this fund so far. One of the reasons for this is the restrictive nature of the eligibility criteria, even after they were reviewed in 2009.

The EGF is a useful instrument as long as it is flexible. However, I wish to draw attention to the fact that the responsible Romanian authorities have still not adopted the legislative framework required to access the EGF. All this is happening at a time when, during the last two years, Romania has seen a steady rise in the number of unemployed, while it announced this summer the highest number of restructuring activities throughout the EU.

I believe that access to the EGF along with better absorption of the structural and pre-accession funds could have softened the impact of the economic crisis in Romania.

 
  
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  Catherine Stihler (S&D). – Thank you, Madam President, for giving me the opportunity to briefly make a contribution. The European Globalisation Adjustment Fund is vitally important and should be supported and protected. The needs of working people who find themselves thrown out of work through no fault of their own require support.

I was recently contacted by a constituent who was interested in this particular fund, and it is a reflection on the new government in the United Kingdom that the Conservative-Liberal coalition is calling for an end to the fund. This reckless approach to a fund which actually helps working people is something that I hope they will go back and take another look at. The need for us to support and protect, and also to make adjustments where necessary, is vitally important.

I support this fund. I want to see it protected and supported, and I would also like to make sure that it is used in the most appropriate manner.

 
  
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  Seán Kelly (PPE). – Madam President, first, I should like to thank Mr Portas for his work. Being involved in my constituency in two areas where the European Globalisation Fund has been applied, I must say that by and large, this is a very positive development. The Commission very kindly came over and explained it to the workers at Waterford Crystal. One of them described it as a gift from the European Union, and that is the way it was intended to be.

However, the application of the Fund has somewhat let people down in terms of their expectations. This is partly due to the state agencies, one of which – FÁS – is well known to the Commission, as in the past, it has appeared before the Commission for the misapplication of funds. This has undermined their position with the workers.

But we also tend to be too inflexible, particularly when people are trying to start their own business, and also on the matter of the time we give the fund. The start date is the date of application, when it should be the date on which funding is granted. Things like that need to be addressed. I hope the situation can be made more flexible.

 
  
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  Frédéric Daerden (S&D).(FR) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, the debates within the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs and the Committee on Budgets have paved the way for a well-conceived draft report.

I welcome the contribution it makes to the discussion of the future of the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund. It addresses, for example, the necessary participation of the social partners in the compiling of dossiers and the attention that must be paid to the integration of SMEs acting as subcontractors at large sites in which redundancies are made.

Furthermore, I think that the option of an independent fund with its own payment and commitment appropriations should be seriously considered for the future. It is simply a matter of providing social Europe, which we so very much want, with adequate resources.

Some people will not hear of this, and so a split vote has been requested in order to delete this passage. It would be very detrimental to the debate if the report failed to mention all the possibilities for improving the financing of these funds. Ladies and gentlemen, I therefore appeal to your desire to continue to improve this tool without rejecting any possibility out of hand, by voting in favour of the whole of paragraph 16 on this issue.

 
  
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  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL).(PT) Madam President, there are three further issues that I would stress here. The first refers to the prevention measures that must be taken to prevent multinationals from relocating, fight unemployment and increase levels of employment with rights. The second refers to the application of this fund, which must not, at any time, serve as a pretext or somehow provide cover for or facilitate redundancies motivated by company restructuring or the relocation of multinationals. The third refers to the need to increase EU cofinancing from 65% to at least 80% in order to make the fund available to the Member States with the greatest financial difficulties, so that the unemployed in the greatest need are rapidly and effectively supported, which has not been happening and is not happening now.

 
  
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  Dacian Cioloş, Member of the Commission. (FR) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, firstly, on behalf of the Commission, I should like to congratulate the rapporteur, Mr Portas, on the excellent work he has done in drafting this very comprehensive report and on his cooperation with the rapporteurs from the other committees tasked with issuing opinions.

This report is very timely, since it can easily be integrated into the work that the Commission is currently undertaking in order to meet two deadlines. Firstly, the so-called crisis derogation by which the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) can provide support to workers made redundant as a result of the global financial and economic crisis and can grant cofinancing at the rate of 65% expires at the end of 2011. We must examine whether it is necessary to extend that derogation or to revert to a 50% cofinancing rate for trade-related redundancies.

The second deadline is the end of 2013, the date when the EGF Regulation will have to be reviewed. In this respect, one of the key issues will be to decide whether or not this fund should be integrated into the next multiannual financial framework.

We are pleased to note that Mr Portas’s report supports the reasons behind the creation of this fund and that it stresses the need to keep this instrument. This report proposes, in fact, that a permanent instrument should be one of the options envisaged for the future and calls on the Commission to present a proposal along those lines.

Mr Portas proposes that the mid-term evaluation scheduled for 2011 should be brought forward and completed by 30 June 2011. This presents a problem with regard to the amended EGF Regulation, since the reports on the first cases approved after the adoption of the amended regulation will be available only in early November 2011. Of course, we do have a previous final report that we can use to review those criteria in the regulation that have not been amended, such as the success rate of the actions falling within the scope of the fund, a comparative analysis of these measures, the procedures for consulting the social partners, and an analysis of the impact of the fund on its beneficiaries.

The report notes that, to date, implementation has been rather modest. A financial contribution has been approved for only 27 cases, and very few sectors are represented. Nine Member States have failed to submit an application. Only EUR 80 million of the EUR 1.5 billion available have been used. In the case of the first 11 applications, the Commission has requested the reimbursement of nearly 40% of the amounts granted.

I should like to highlight, in line with the report, that these figures concern only those applications approved under the initial regulation and that, as the report rightly notes, the amendment of the regulation has led to a considerable increase in the number of applications for aid from this fund, in terms of targeted workers and budget.

The report rightly calls for improvements concerning, in particular, a reduction in the length of time between redundancies and the date when contributions from the fund are paid. The Commission is determined to speed up and simplify these procedures, but some of these improvements will require a greater degree of organisation on the part of all those involved: the Commission, the Member States and the budgetary authority.

Close coordination between the Commission and the European Parliament, in particular, with regard to timetabling issues, should enable us to reduce some of these delays. The Member States should be encouraged to submit applications as soon as redundancies are announced. The Commission, for its part, should provide more information and advice to the Member States and should set itself a three- to four-month deadline for its own evaluation.

We note the request for a proposal to be drafted to extend the crisis derogation until the end of the multiannual financial framework. I agree that, for the period after 2013, the EGF issue should be examined within the overall context of the negotiations on the next multiannual financial framework and that the creation of a permanent fund should be among the options to be considered.

The report is full of ideas and suggestions, and it will make a useful contribution to the drafting of the new regulation. The Commission has also scheduled a series of consultation meetings with the Member States and other stakeholders. I am sure that the rapporteur, and the other MEPs too, will contribute to these consultations, since the aim is to improve the fund and to make it even more effective in the future as an instrument that testifies to European solidarity towards workers who have been made redundant.

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on Tuesday, 7 September 2010 at 12:30.

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  Luís Paulo Alves (S&D), in writing.(PT) I support this report on the funding and functioning of the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) because I totally agree with the idea advocated by the rapporteur of quicker mobilisation of this fund. The EGF was created as a means of countering the adverse impact of globalisation on workers affected by collective redundancies, helping them to find new jobs by supporting personalised programmes to reintegrate redundant workers into the labour market. The EGF has a maximum annual amount of EUR 500 million, which has never been fully taken up by the Member States. Currently, 12 to 17 months still elapse between the time when a collective redundancy takes place and the time when EGF funding is provided to the requesting Member State. With the rapporteur’s proposals to make the procedure simpler and more flexible, we could reduce the time required to mobilise the EGF by half. In order to respond to the increase in unemployment resulting from the economic and financial crisis, it is essential for the EGF to become a permanent support instrument that is truly flexible and specific. That is the only way that the EGF can serve to promote new skills for new, sustainable, high quality jobs, thus helping to improve the competitiveness of the EU in the context of globalisation.

 
  
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  Giovanni Collino (PPE), in writing.(IT) Globalisation represents a major opportunity for us and our children, but at the same time, it frightens us by creating forms of wealth distribution that are more difficult to control and manage fairly.

Going beyond our borders and risking our identities means that we need to build more solid cultures in which mutual respect and sincere understanding can continue to flourish. Among the first things that deserve our understanding must be the interests of those families who suddenly find themselves with no income as a result of the increasingly difficult economic situation.

The European Globalisation Adjustment Fund must be a solution for these families, as well as being an efficient instrument for the future economic development of the Union. In the middle of an economic crisis, we cannot allow our implementing measures to be too inflexible, as that would inevitably hurt our citizens rather than our policies.

The very fact that today, we still have a large number of dead projects that have been put forward but never implemented should lead us to think about the extent to which our programmes and permanent funds can be enough by themselves, and therefore seriously consider the value of placing the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund alongside the European Social Fund as a stable instrument for European intervention in the employment field.

 
  
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  Louis Grech (S&D), in writing. The EGAF is a necessary tool to counter the trend of EU citizens losing their jobs due to globalisation and the financial crisis. I further support the view that the fund in its current form has still room for improvement. Although progress has been made since its inception to speed up and simplify the application procedure, I think that the severity of the financial crisis demands that we do more to optimise its functioning in order to achieve the goals for which it was created. Those who are truly in need of these funds should be able to get them in a timely manner to minimise the many negative effects of long-term unemployment. Thus, I urge the Commission to look into the possibility of allowing the application procedure to start as soon as plans for redundancies are announced, as opposed to when they are in effect, as it is currently. I would like however, to know more details about the implementation of the programme and especially its long-term effects. A priori the programme demonstrates the fund’s benefits versus costs; therefore, I support the proposal to make the EGAF an independent fund with its own payment and commitment appropriations under the new MFF.

 
  
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  Georgios Stavrakakis (S&D) , in writing.(EL) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, may I start by congratulating the rapporteur, Miguel Portas, on his report and Pervenche Berès on her important input on behalf of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs. The continuing economic crisis and its very unfortunate consequences have thrown the added value of the EGF as an EU social policy tool into even greater relief. The targeted financial support which it provides under re-training and re-integration programmes for workers hit by mass redundancies are especially important. That is why, as the report says, the provisional changes extending the scope of the EGF, which were introduced in 2009 and expire in 2011, need to be maintained until 2013. Let us not forget that these changes allowed a real expression of solidarity with workers made redundant as a result of the global financial and economic crisis. However, an extensive evaluation of the European Globalisation Fund is also needed; this will provide a basis for the submission and examination of specific proposals to simplify it, so that it functions more quickly and more effectively.

 
  
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  Angelika Werthmann (NI), in writing.(DE) The procedure still takes between 12 and 17 months before European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) funding is provided. This time could be reduced if the Member States acted as soon as there was an indication of collective redundancies. The Member States are called on to find and also to exploit all possible synergies in order to enable faster and more effective intervention at European level through the EGF in the event of collective redundancies. The Commission is called on to improve the information about, and the visibility of, the EGF among the Member States and the potential beneficiaries of the fund. In the interim report that the Commission presents to Parliament, the Commission is called on to include, among other things, the rate of success in reintegration, assessment of the upgrading of the skills of the beneficiaries and an analysis of coordination between the various European-financed programmes. The draft budget for 2011 includes payment appropriations for the EGF for the first time. EFG applications should not be financed exclusively through transfers from European Structural Fund lines; different budget lines are to be identified for this purpose. I would like to expressly emphasise that the EGF must not, under any circumstances, be seen as a back-up for the multinational companies, but should be used exclusively to support workers affected by collective redundancies.

 
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