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Procedure : 2011/0147(COD)
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A7-0308/2011

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PV 29/09/2011 - 3
CRE 29/09/2011 - 3

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PV 29/09/2011 - 10.1
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P7_TA(2011)0428

Debates
Thursday, 29 September 2011 - Strasbourg OJ edition

3. Future of the European Globalisation Fund - Amendment of Regulation (EC) No 1927/2006 establishing the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (debate)
Video of the speeches
PV
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  President. – The next item is the joint debate on

– the Commission statement on the future of the European Globalisation Fund, and

– the report by Pervenche Berès, on behalf of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EC) No 1927/2006 establishing the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (COM(2011)0336 – C7-0161/2011 – 2011/0147(COD)) (A7-0308/2011).

 
  
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  Pervenche Berès, rapporteur. (FR) Mr President, the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund was reviewed in June 2009 in order to extend its scope to cover crisis situations. At that time, cofinancing of the fund was increased from 50% to 65% and the number of redundancies was cut from 1 000 to 500 to facilitate the use of that instrument. These provisions and this extension, in a way, will end on 31 December of this year, when it is clear that, as the Commission President told us in no uncertain terms yesterday, and as everyone pointed out in the debate that followed on the State of the Union, the crisis situations are not over – anything but.

That being the case, we believe it is absolutely vital to extend this arrangement as it stands, in other words, to allow the fund to be used if 500 employees are made redundant, either in a labour market area or in a company, and to permit cofinancing. This is the main message that this House wants to send out, particularly to the Council, to which we are making urgent calls to resolve this situation – and I find it somewhat regrettable that it is not present to hear our message.

It would be rather paradoxical if, in the case of Greece, one of the proposed tools, namely, mobilisation of the Structural Funds to deal with the crisis situations that exist – where we have already adapted the arrangement to that end – were not extended.

In our resolution, we offer some guidance on the future reform that the Commission will be proposing to us, and this is the subject of the debate that we are due to have this morning.

As part of this future reform, Parliament is proposing, for example, that restructuring situations and situations involving multinationals, which may be able to take advantage of this arrangement to compensate for their relocation strategies, should be examined. However, we also offer guidance and, as Chair of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, as you know, I can tell you that we examine each mobilisation of the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund on a case-by-case basis.

We are aware of just how valuable this tool is in terms of bringing to life a concept that lies at the heart of the EU strategy, of the EU 2020 strategy; of bringing social innovation to life so that, when a situation associated with the effects of globalisation and of the crisis comes to be examined, a social dialogue is launched, and so that everyone’s situation is examined according to his or her ability to enter a phase of transition or training, in order to be able to start a new job or find work again in the future. From the point of view of European legislation, it is a truly exemplary tool. Of course there are things that will probably have to be re-examined, refined and corrected, but now is not the time for that. We will have that debate when we discuss the financial perspective and the new proposals to be tabled by the Commission.

The priority today is not to stop this arrangement on 31 December this year but to allow it to be extended.

I hope that this House will see fit to support us. Then we will have the debate both on the conditions under which this fund may be applied to multinationals as well as on the conditions for making it permanent in budgetary terms, to verify exactly where these resources should be entered to enable this action to be financed.

 
  
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  Algirdas Šemeta, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, I would first like to thank Mrs Berès, the rapporteur, and the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs for taking over without amendments the Commission proposal to extend from 31 December 2011 to 31 December 2013 the crisis-related derogations set out in the regulation on the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund.

Given the current worsening of prospects for the economy, I think the only acceptable message that you can send people and, in particular, the workers, is that the EU will continue showing solidarity and offering support to workers who lose their jobs as a consequence of the economic and financial crisis. In these times of alarming budget deficits and public debt, keeping the cofinancing rate for actions supported by the fund at 65%, rather than reverting to the pre-crisis rate of 50%, will also bring some relief to Member States’ budgets.

Since it was set up in 2007, the fund has helped nearly 76 000 redundant workers in 19 Member States to find new jobs. It has provided cofinancing amounting to EUR 358 million for active labour market measures to cover such actions as job-search assistance, training and entrepreneurship promotion. Over the last two years, two-thirds of that amount was granted, or has been applied for, following redundancies that stemmed directly from the economic crisis. I can therefore say that the fund has been, and still is, a key component of the EU response to the employment impact of the crisis. I sincerely hope that the Polish Presidency will succeed in winning the Council’s approval for our proposal to extend the crisis derogation to the end of 2013.

Evidence from the national authorities and the workers who have benefited shows that the Member States have provided assistance of a better quality to a large number of workers and for a longer duration than they would have done without the fund’s help.

Lastly, let me briefly touch on the fund’s place in the future. It is a flexible fund that falls outside the financial framework. The amounts that are needed vary from year to year. That is why the Commission is proposing in the multiannual financial framework a package to keep the Globalisation Adjustment Fund outside the financial framework with a maximum of EUR 3 billion over the next programming period.

Through the Globalisation Adjustment Fund, the EU will continue to assist the Member States in providing tailor-made support for workers made redundant as a consequence of increasing globalisation. The Commission is also proposing that its scope be extended to providing transitory support to farmers in order to facilitate their adaptation to a new market situation resulting from the indirect effect of globalisation. The Commission is also contemplating support for start-ups and entrepreneurship promotion in the form of investments in capital. We are considering possibilities to use this tool up to a maximum of EUR 35 000.

Today’s debate is timely as we are in the final phase of the preparation of our proposal. I look forward to the discussion and to hearing your views.

 
  
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  Frank Engel, on behalf of the PPE Group.(FR) Mr President, Commissioner, Ms Berès, ladies and gentlemen, there is no question in my mind that the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund is an important instrument of proven merit. Parliament has always played a vital role in mobilising this instrument to help those in the European Union who are victims of the phenomenon of globalisation.

On a personal note, while we are discussing this matter, I should like to applaud the truly outstanding role played by my colleague, Barbara Matera, in the individual mobilisations of the fund.

We are glad that it is being maintained, just as we are glad that it is functioning better and becoming more effective. Ideally, we will be able to mobilise it more quickly, but the problems associated with rapid mobilisation are, incidentally, often problems inherent in the Member States rather than problems in the design of EU legislation.

We also need to concentrate more closely on the contribution the fund makes to innovation and to the achievement of the Europe 2020 strategy objectives. Above all, Commissioner, in future, we need to prevent, as far as possible, the abuses we are seeing in certain individual instances of mobilisation, where it really does seem as though some multinational companies are not victims of globalisation at all. Companies that do very well out of globalisation are using these additional funds to be able to relocate throughout the world, and are receiving EU support to lay off their employees to boot.

To conclude, Commissioner, I fully share the view – as does my group – that the fund must remain a flexible instrument that is kept separate from the financial perspective and the official EU budget. Flexibility is one of the main assets of this fund, and it must be maintained.

 
  
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  Frédéric Daerden, on behalf of the S&D Group.(FR) Mr President, Commissioner, on this subject of a fund to help workers who have been made redundant, we obviously cannot welcome the fact that it is needed or the fact that it is a growing success. However, these are facts that we must acknowledge and which require an effective and permanent response mechanism.

I am pleased, therefore, with the Commission’s proposal to make the fund a permanent fixture in the future EU financial perspective, as we requested in the report by the Special Committee on Policy Challenges and Budgetary Resources for a Sustainable European Union after 2013, and to extend the criterion for awarding funds on account of the crisis until 2013, as we requested in the Committee on Budgets’ report on the future of the fund.

However, we must not stop there because, since the adoption of these reports during the mobilisation procedures, we have observed the need for other changes that are mentioned in the motion for a resolution and which should be included in a forthcoming review of the fund’s operation.

I must highlight three in particular. In order to prevent the mobilisation procedures from being too lengthy, as at present, the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) must have enough appropriations so that unused funds do not have to be transferred from other programmes. We need to involve both sides of industry and the authorities, and finally, the EGF must form a coherent part of a comprehensive European policy on restructuring.

 
  
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  Marian Harkin, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, I fully support the derogation to 2013 whereby the numbers would decrease from 1 000 to 500. It is very clear, if you look at the applications coming in from Member States, that more and more Member States are using this basis, Article 2b. If we look even at the applications in 2009 and 2010, we can see that this is the situation and I, like Madam Berès, will call on the Council to support this. I believe Parliament will fully support this today and the Council should be here today to listen to the strong views of the Parliament on this.

In 2010, 10% of all redundant workers accessed funding under the EGF. As far as I am concerned, that is a direct connection between redundant workers and the EU institutions, and workers understand that the EU institutions are responding and putting in place a personalised package of services for them. If you read the Commission reports, you will see that workers benefit from accessing the funds in many different ways. Central to that, of course, are measures that improve their employability opportunities but there are other benefits, too, and I agree with you, Commissioner; it is an expression of solidarity, but the good thing is that that solidarity is very closely linked to the EU 2020 objectives. So we have a win-win situation where we have a connection to citizens that helps to ensure the EU 2020 objectives are achieved. I believe that we do need to continue with this derogation, where 500 workers can access the fund, because, if we do not, then we are saying to citizens: we are not responding to your in times of austerity. I believe the Council needs to listen to what Parliament is saying on this matter.

 
  
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  Milan Cabrnoch, on behalf of the ECR Group. (CS) Mr President, the European Conservatives and Reformists Group will not support the proposal regarding the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF). The EGF is a redistribution tool, the essence of which is that we take money from the successful, spend some of it, and allocate the rest to failures, in accordance with our rules. Success and failure are natural in the market and, as politicians, we are understandably tempted to give money to people. However, we often forget that we take this money from others. Therefore, instead of the successful ones developing their businesses, they are handing over some of their money to failures. This is not about solidarity between the strong and the weak or disadvantaged; experience shows that the beneficiaries are mostly very powerful market players. From the very beginning of the fund, there have been doubts as to where these resources are being directed. Instead of globalisation, the fund often addresses transfers between Member States, and supports planned restructuring instead of the consequences of the crisis.

 
  
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  Elisabeth Schroedter, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group.(DE) Mr President, my fellow Members are right: the redundant workers are bearing the brunt of the crisis. That is why we in the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance have so far voted in favour of all the applications from the Member States. The EU funds measures that are intended to prevent long-term unemployment. In our opinion, however, applications in which these measures do not form part of a social dialogue should not be approved in future.

We in the Verts/ALE Group are also critical of the fact that this financial instrument is being used to support workers so that they accept employment contracts that are below their previous pay level. This especially applies to older workers. Although they may feel that a bird in the hand is worth more than two in the bush, as far as I am concerned, that is not in the spirit of a social Europe – because at the end of the day, they are worse off and receive lower wages.

Moreover, there are repeated cases in which companies’ redundancy programmes are practically adopted by the EU, particularly in the traditional automotive industry. It is this industry that is profiting most from this indirect EU assistance. In our view, this instrument should be organised differently. It should not be used to plug financial gaps, but should instead be used strategically to work towards sustainability. It should invest in green jobs and in the transition to a green economy if it is to be a genuinely long-term investment.

We also do not believe that this fire-fighting intervention by the European Union is really of any benefit for investing EU funds for the long term. In our view, it is a fire-fighting measure for competition losers, including in terms of the transformation into a green economy. That is why we need much greater intervention by the European Social Fund towards future-oriented further education and training, so that redundancies do not take place in the first place and our economy can be reshaped along ecological lines, making us global competition winners as a result.

 
  
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  Miguel Portas, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group.(PT) Mr President, there are two discussions taking place here that are completely unrelated. The first is whether or not this fund, in the context of the ongoing economic and financial crisis and the likelihood of a new global recession, should be extended to the end of 2013.

My answer is: yes, it should be. It should be extended because, although it does not actually avert the evils of global capitalism or of the economic and financial crisis, it at least has the virtue of supporting those who are the worst affected – the victims of mass redundancies. Moreover, this is not an insignificant matter in a Europe that focuses much more on capital than it does on work.

It is precisely because this is a redistribution fund that it is so important. It is because it provides an opportunity for those who have far fewer opportunities. However, our Conservative colleague, by contrast, believes that we are supporting those who have not been successful. Well, it is precisely the fact that we are supporting those who have not been successful and giving them a new opportunity that justifies this fund’s existence.

Nonetheless, it is true that it needs to be changed. It needs to be reformed. In view of this, I should like to support the resolution adopted in the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs because it reaffirms each of the points that were adopted by Parliament a year ago and raises another extremely important point: the financing for this fund needs to be aligned with the cofinancing rate for the Structural Funds. This has not been achieved, however. This fund cannot offer more support for those from rich countries who are made redundant than for those from countries that are suffering more under policies of recession and austerity.

 
  
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  Derek Roland Clark, on behalf of the EFD Group. – Mr President, the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund was invented to persuade Member States to adopt Lisbon without national referendums, but this expensive project has insufficient checks. In Antwerp, General Motors claimed EUR 9.5 million from the EGAF. Their redundant workers received EUR 150 000 each and then some found work with Volvo nearby. Of the five countries with negative growth, three have put in no claims, while stronger economies have, with Denmark, the Netherlands and Austria leading the way, and several more this week.

Many firms are closing due to trade moving to the Far East. Glasfiber in Denmark closed because their manufacturer of wind turbines moved to China. This does not happen just because Chinese workers are on low pay; indeed, on Tuesday in this House, the Commissioner discounted that. More to the point, what he said was that China’s central bank sets its own interest rates, while the exchange rates make Chinese products more attractive on world markets. EU manufacturers will struggle on world markets if euro membership makes their products too expensive – ask Greece!

 
  
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  Andrew Henry William Brons (NI). – Mr President, there are two problems with the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund: firstly, that it provides the European Union with a responsibility that Member States could much more appropriately fulfil themselves; and secondly, that it recognises that globalisation wreaks havoc with peoples’ livelihoods, but the EU does nothing to address the cause of the problem – which is globalisation itself.

Globalisation moves manufacturing from high labour-cost countries to low labour-cost countries, and floods the West with goods from those countries, destroying our manufacturing bases and taking the jobs of our workers. It would be very difficult to compete with low-wage economies without reducing our wage rates to the levels in those countries.

We might hope to use technology in an attempt to compete, but our technology is often exported to countries that compete with us, or is bought and copied – infringing the western manufacturers’ patent rights. The countries of Europe must individually or collectively – I would prefer individually – protect their industries and peoples from ruin and impoverishment.

 
  
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  Barbara Matera (PPE).(IT) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, some 23 million people in Europe are unemployed today, and more than 113 million people are living under the threat of poverty and exclusion.

Having worked as the permanent rapporteur on the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) for Parliament’s Committee on Budgets for over two years now, I have been closely involved in the operation of one of the EU’s newest and most effective instruments for supporting the labour market. Since its creation in 2006, the EGF has assisted more than 75 million redundant workers in Europe and has alone retrained over 10% of those unemployed in the period 2009-2010.

Its success is exemplified by the constant increase in the number of applications for assistance, by the desire to extend the derogation on account of the economic crisis, and by the confirmation that the EGF will feature in the next financial framework. As it is very new, however, the fund has room for improvement, especially where simplifying procedures and speeding up the allocation of funds are concerned.

I therefore hope that Parliament and the Commission will work closely together to define as best they can the new sectors, such as the agricultural sector, the public sector and the casual labour sector, that could be eligible for assistance from the fund.

My group, the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats), therefore welcomes the resolution by Ms Berès, whom I congratulate, and I hope, especially at the end of the vote, that the vote will be a united and unified one, because the people of Europe need this united and unified Parliament.

 
  
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  Evelyn Regner (S&D).(DE) Mr President, Commissioner, the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund provides money from Europe for the people affected. This support makes the European Union a visible presence in the Member States. People see funds being used to provide financial support to the victims of globalisation and of the economic and financial crisis. In this regard, all the Commission’s proposals for speeding up the procedure deserve our unqualified support. After all, a procedure that takes up to 18 months is a particularly long time for a campaign that is all about fire-fighting – far too long.

I would like to mention one aspect that is a particular concern of mine, and it concerns the future development of the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund. The Commission, in considering opening up the fund in future to farmers, is missing the point. In so doing, it would be directly taking away money from workers affected by restructurings and by the crisis – that much is crystal clear. It would be a redeployment of funds. I wanted to mention this at this point because the next financial framework will be upon us very soon.

 
  
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  Alexander Alvaro (ALDE).(DE) Mr President, the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund was created to counter the consequences of globalisation and its negative impacts. Perhaps we should point out once more, however, that globalisation is here to stay and it is irreversible. That being the case, it is much smarter to bring about structural changes in the labour market.

At the same time, the fund has also since been used to balance out business relocations within Europe, and now it has been expanded – as a basic exception – to include the crisis situation in which we find ourselves. The proposals contained in the resolution tabled, which we broadly support – and I am looking at it mainly from a budgetary point of view, not from the point of view of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs – move us in a sensible direction.

In all seriousness, however, when I see an amendment that is aimed at lowering the Member States’ cofinancing rate to 5%, I have to ask myself whether there will remain any incentive whatsoever for the Member States to bring about adjustments in their own labour markets if they can benefit from this. The same applies to the call for companies to create jobs. I do not believe in all seriousness that anyone assumes that companies are merrily making workers redundant so that they can then get money from the fund to employ them again. We are not Europe’s employment agency where this is concerned.

There is one last point that I feel I must address once again. The multiannual financial framework sets out that in future, funding from the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund can and should also be used for the agricultural sector. This leads me to ask: if the agricultural sector can be one of the largest budget lines in Chapter 1, is there anything that could not be there? Moreover, this should not form part of the regular budget. I believe we need further discussions on this as part of the negotiations.

 
  
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  Julie Girling (ECR). – Mr President, crisis is an opportunity for evaluation and effective change, not an excuse to plough forward perpetuating more of the same. I do not support this resolution. I do not think the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund is effective. Why? It does not go to those Member States most in need. We have already heard that Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands accounted for over 30% of applications, and they have good growth. In 2010, many countries with no growth made no applications – including Greece. Why?

Secondly, it targets the wrong people. Those newly redundant are not those most in need; they are usually skilled and experienced and they are advantaged in the job market. We should be helping the young. This is where resources should go. This fund is entirely badly focused. Rather than act now, we should wait for a full evaluation of the fund. I hope we change our emphasis to the long-term unemployed and youth. We must also include this fund in the next financial perspective; it must not be allowed to continue as a de facto off-balance-sheet item.

 
  
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  President. – Ms Girling, you have been challenged with a blue-card question from Ms Sinclaire. Do you accept the question?

 
  
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  Julie Girling (ECR). – No, Mr President, I will not accept Ms Sinclaire’s request for a blue-card question. I did not come here to give her oxygen.

 
  
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  Nicole Sinclaire (NI). – Mr President, on a point of order, I observe these proceedings quite a lot and I observed you yesterday. Not once did you mention the name of the person who was offering the blue card. This is the first time you have done that. Can I ask why?

 
  
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  President. – Ms Sinclaire, I am not aware that I did not do so and I am sorry if you do not like to be named, but I felt it would be courteous to Ms Girling who could not see who was raising the card behind her. As a matter of fact, I do normally try and say who is raising the blue card, but I am also trying to spend less time talking from the chair. Unfortunately, you are making me do that now, which is cutting into other people’s speaking time.

 
  
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  Patrick Le Hyaric (GUE/NGL) . – (FR) Mr President, I support Ms Berès’s proposal to extend the duration of the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund and to lower the threshold so that it may be utilised by 500 workers. In truth, I should even like the workers of small and medium-sized enterprises, who are perhaps the main victims of capitalist globalisation, to be able to access it, in ways to be decided.

More fundamentally, however, I should like Europe not simply to put money into dealing with the social effects of globalisation but to establish mechanisms to prevent redundancies and relocations, with the introduction of financial penalties for large multinational companies that lay people off purely to increase their profits, as true agents of capitalist globalisation as we know it.

On the other hand, I also believe that the fund should be used more for the reintegration into employment and ongoing training of workers.

 
  
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  Morten Messerschmidt (EFD).(DA) Mr President, we are always talking about the EU being in an economic crisis, and if we look around the world, it is difficult to disagree with that. As each day goes by, the EU is losing its competitiveness in relation to China, India, South America and a whole host of other regions, which are receiving better and better training, spending more and more money on research, reducing taxes and keeping wages steady. The EU is falling behind on the global economic stage. We are hearing today what the EU’s response to this problem is: it is redistribution. It is State aid. Ladies and gentlemen, I need to draw attention to the fact that it was State aid and redistribution that led the EU out into the mire and to the collapse that it is experiencing today. Nevertheless, the only answer that the bureaucrats in Brussels and in Strasbourg and also the vast majority in the European Parliament, who enjoy spending other people’s money, can give is more of the same. More of what led the EU on the wrong path. This will not resolve the problem; it will make the problem worse.

 
  
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  Angelika Werthmann (NI).(DE) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, in its basic structure, the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund is a sensible and effective instrument. It directly supports workers who have lost their jobs as a result of globalisation. Solidarity? Yes, of course. In its current form, however, the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund has obvious shortcomings. It absolves companies of their social obligations and responsibilities. In the everyday implementation of the fund, it has emerged that companies are including it in their calculations as a social add-on, because the funding is paid for solely by European taxpayers. We need to make the fund more socially balanced and fairer to European taxpayers. The companies therefore must be made to contribute to the payments made by the fund.

Finally, I should like to add one thing. If we were now also to make payments in the agricultural sector, then the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund would really be living up to its aim and its purpose.

 
  
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  Csaba Őry (PPE).(HU) Mr President, I agree with those who, above all, emphasise the symbolic significance of this fund. It is indeed a good system for the European Union to show its citizens that it understands people, and the problems of people, who are faced with unexpectedly great difficulties with a shock-like suddenness.

Let us recall that we originally created this fund – which we also called a delocalisation fund during the debates when the current scheme was being elaborated – with the aim of showing, in the event of sudden, massive, simultaneous instances of unemployment resulting from decisions taken due to commercial globalisation, that the EU is ready to lend assistance if necessary when rapid response is beyond the capabilities of a national service. However, I would warn everyone against seeing this fund as a correction for globalisation and the crisis. These resources are insufficient for that and, besides, this would neither be appropriate nor justified. Employment and social policies generally fall within national competence, so the fund is much more of a supplementary nature, but as such, it is extremely useful.

As for ourselves, we, too, support the idea that the fund be extended, but we do not support that the scheme change as a separate line of the budget. We do not consider it appropriate to give the impression that the EU is taking over the competences of individual Member States. As for the need to make modifications within the Structural Funds and to better coordinate the Structural Funds and the Globalisation Fund, it is an interesting idea and should be given thought. We suggest that the Commission consider this, prepare some form of analysis, and then we can come back to it if and when appropriate.

 
  
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  Ole Christensen (S&D).(DA) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, it is good that the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund is being extended until 2014. I am absolutely certain that all of those who have lost their jobs on account of the global crisis have been glad of the contribution that this fund has made. It is never nice to lose your job, and if it does happen, it is important to get started with some targeted training or retraining as quickly as possible so as to increase your chances of finding a new job. In this regard, the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund has helped a lot of people, and that is good. Unfortunately, the handling time is far too long, and work ought to be done to reduce it. The average handling time is almost 300 days, and then it is another couple of months before the money is paid out. This means that it actually takes almost a year. It also means that the time in which the money can be spent is actually reduced to a year. This needs to be looked at more closely. Improvements can be made here.

 
  
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  Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy (ALDE). (NL) Mr President, for a politician, it is very difficult to be against a fund such as this globalisation fund because, let us be honest, it helps people who need it, who are in a difficult position. That does not, however, release us from our duty to examine critically whether this is the right way to spend public money. I have my doubts about that. I do not think that it is up to Europe to apply sticking plasters throughout the European Union. It is up to Europe to do much more to strengthen the European economy structurally. This is why I do not support this fund.

What I do support – and this is the course we really should follow – is making the European budget much more flexible within the new multiannual financial framework. That is what is ultimately at issue. Then we, as Europe, will be able to react to crises in the world and not continuously set up one fund after another which we then find difficult to abolish.

 
  
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  Oldřich Vlasák (ECR). (CS) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I do not support the European Commission’s proposal. It appears that the Member States worst affected by the crisis have not drawn on the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF). Whilst the Member States with unemployment rates well above the EU average during the crisis have basically failed to submit any applications, countries that had no significant problems in their labour markets have benefited greatly from this fund. We should also bear in mind that interest in drawing on this fund has decreased significantly. Whilst 23 applications were discussed last year, this year, only seven had been received by the summer break. This suggests that the financial crisis has subsided, and that the current economic difficulties are no longer a consequence of the initial crisis of 2008 and 2009, but are instead a consequence of the debt crisis, which the EGF is not focused on solving. We should also concede that the EGF is associated with a high degree of bureaucracy. If we really want to carry on tackling problems of this type through European resources, which I am personally not in favour of, we should make use of the European Social Fund.

 
  
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  Thomas Mann (PPE).(DE) Mr President, how often have the people of Europe been promised that they will be led out of difficult social situations, out of poverty and exclusion. Since 2006, there has been concrete assistance – the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund, which supports people made redundant in their search for a new job. Originally, it intervened if at least 1 000 employees of a company and its supply chain were made redundant, for a maximum period of 12 months. Due to enduring economic problems, the criteria were expanded in 2009. The fund now steps in if 500 workers are affected, the term of European Globalisation Adjustment Fund projects has been extended to 24 months – rightly so – and the maximum rate of cofinancing has been increased from 50% to 65%, all effective until the end of this year. Since the labour markets in many Member States have not yet recovered, we want to extend the period until the end of 2013 – not for fire-fighting purposes, but for the sake of sustainability.

The European Globalisation Adjustment Fund only provides support for the workers, not for the companies – as is a common misinterpretation. Workers are assisted with reintegration into the labour market, through retraining, through further education – I would describe it as a European added value. One thing, however, is not acceptable: the fact that money for the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund is constantly being taken from the European Social Fund. The European Social Fund is indispensable for securing the livelihood of local job creation companies, for the fight against early school leaving and for the achievement of qualifications. Let us ensure that the European Social Fund and the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund are not played off against one another.

 
  
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  Sergio Gaetano Cofferati (S&D).(IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, in the few years that it has been around, the fund has proven to be a useful and effective instrument. The last few months in particular have confirmed this beyond any shadow of a doubt, if you compare the number of applications that were made between 2007 and 2009 with those that were made between 2009 and 2010.

Today, it is clear that the nature of the fund has changed somewhat. It was set up to help the workers of companies that were being restructured as a result of globalisation, whereas today, it mainly assists companies that have been hit by the crisis. The crisis is also affecting the workers of small and medium-sized enterprises. We should think about them, too, but this requirement in no way detracts from the value and usefulness of the fund. What we need to do quickly is to review some of the fund’s rules so that its funding is more consistent and, above all, so that it can be accessed much more quickly than is the case today. That is what we must do.

 
  
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  Ivo Strejček (ECR). – Mr President, the ongoing, alarming and daunting economic situation, both in the eurozone and outside, makes a serious case for decisive repudiation of the existence of the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund. It has actually been functioning at the expense of those taxpayers who, despite the economic and financial crisis, survived within fierce global competition.

Having said that, I am obliged to say that pernicious consequences of the existence of this fund increase the level of redistribution, create market distortions and punish the successful. That is why I disagree with its existence.

 
  
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  Joanna Katarzyna Skrzydlewska (PPE).(PL) Mr President, the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund has proved itself as an instrument for supporting workers, the victims of mass redundancies, who need help in retraining and finding alternative employment. This is confirmed by data showing an increase in the number of applications from people to whom that help has been directly given and the size of the funds committed.

The enlargement of the scope of applying this fund to include those people who have lost work as a result of the economic crisis has been a step in the right direction. This has meant that alongside measures taken at national level to combat the crisis, the fund has become an effective instrument which supplements the efforts of Member States intended to counteract the deteriorating situation in the labour market.

It is these two arguments, that is, the rising interest in obtaining support from this fund evidenced by the growing number of applications and the perception of the fund as an effective tool in combating the effects of the crisis, which are the strongest arguments for extending the crisis-related derogations until December 2013.

However, amongst the criticisms made by those who receive support from this fund is that the European Commission takes too long to review applications. This results in delays to the usefulness of measures which are taken, and sometimes reduces their effectiveness. Therefore, consideration should be given to introducing changes in this area.

 
  
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  Proinsias De Rossa (S&D). – Mr President, the Globalisation Adjustment Fund is one of the social policy success stories for Europe which leverages individualised retraining for unemployed men and women of all ages and all skill sets. At this time of crisis, when the Commission and the Council are taking what I consider to be lopsided steps to address the debt crisis, giving rise to growing EU criticism, this successful fund needs to be continued.

The first fund allocation for Ireland, for instance, for the Dell workers in Limerick, has not only retrained the workers but has also succeeded in creating 240 new jobs. However, some of the money has remained unspent because of the inflexibility in the expenditure deadlines and because the clock starts ticking from the date of application, rather than the date of approval. I believe this should change.

To conclude, I would make the point that this is not intended to be a total response to the crisis, nor is it intended to be a total response to unemployment. Of course we need to address youth unemployment specifically, but one does not cancel out the other.

 
  
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  Rareş-Lucian Niculescu (PPE).(RO) Mr President, if we were to ask ourselves the question ‘is the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund useful?’, the only reply can be ‘yes’. However, what if we take this notion one step further and ask ‘is it useful enough, is it used enough, is it adapted enough to the current needs of the economy?’ …

According to the statistics, with assistance being provided to 40% of those made redundant, more than one-third of workers given assistance between 2009 and 2010 successfully found employment. This means that four in every hundred workers made redundant successfully found employment. This is not enough, especially if we consider that the current crisis is far from being over.

This is why we need the measures which have been proposed: extending the exemption allowing the fund to be used to support redundant workers until the end of 2013 and extending the fund’s activity even after the current multiannual financial framework has expired, not to mention introducing quicker intervention procedures, identifying the reasons why some Member States have never used the fund (which is a worrying aspect), and then resolving the problems identified.

The solutions we need are greater efficiency, less red tape, easier access to information, the exchange of good practices between Member States and including more people in the activities supported by the fund.

 
  
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  Sylvana Rapti (S&D).(EL) Mr President, the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund is about to celebrate its fifth birthday and every child’s character is apparent by five years old. The fund’s basic character is also apparent. However, we can still intervene and make improvements. One improvement which I think should be made is to encourage our ‘baby’ Globalisation Fund to walk faster and to serve the purpose for which it was established more quickly. That is extremely important.

I also maintain that the operation of the fund, which was originally planned to end on 31 December 2011, should be extended to 2013. I believe that the fund is a very important mechanism, especially in times of crisis. As I have heard my colleagues expressing an interest in Greece, I have here an article – one of many – which says that the Commission intends to propose that Greece be granted aid of EUR 2.9 million to support persons made redundant by the company Aldi.

Finally, I wish to ask a question to which, I fear, an answer cannot be given in this Chamber. Where is the Council? Does it not consider this debate important? Does it perhaps consider that the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund does not merit its attention, or perhaps the Council is simply not interested in the crisis?

 
  
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  Regina Bastos (PPE).(PT) Mr President, the crisis that the European Union is experiencing has had serious consequences in each of the Member States, and thousands of workers have been affected by redundancies caused by globalisation and the crisis itself.

We must show our solidarity with these workers who have lost their jobs, and emphasise that Europe needs to help the Member States to maintain a high employment rate and to combat unemployment. The rapid reintegration of workers into the labour market is a priority.

My country, Portugal, is an example of a country which has benefited from this fund; it has applied to it four times for assistance. We are aware, however, that access to the fund could be improved, especially in the countries worst affected by the crisis.

Thanks to the existence of the Globalisation Adjustment Fund, it has been possible to help thousands of workers by means of professional training methods, support for business start-ups and incentives for recruitment. This proposal is positive because it will enable the Member States to call for the fund to be activated to support workers who have been made redundant as a direct result of the economic and financial crisis.

We support the extension of the period and we believe that the Member States that are most affected by the crisis should have greater and easier access to this fund, which offers support in the face of globalisation and the crisis.

 
  
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  Vilija Blinkevičiūtė (S&D). (LT) Mr President, having evaluated the current economic situation in the labour market, who would even question the need to extend the application of exceptional provisions until 2013. The answer is unambiguous – it is essential. However, we really should also assess the fund’s current operational procedures, which are too bureaucratic. The length of time involved – a year, sometimes even more – is unsatisfactory, and therefore, as stated in our resolution, it really should not take longer than six months for a country to receive the necessary assistance. Secondly, we really should examine thoroughly and assess whether Member States applying for such assistance should have the opportunity to receive an early payment, i.e. an advance, within a slightly shorter period, so that they can help those made redundant tangibly and swiftly. Indeed, I agree with and will stand alongside those colleagues who have said that it is also necessary to involve social partners in this work. Commissioner, perhaps you could explain why those countries in which there is a high rate of unemployment are not applying for assistance from the EGF? Perhaps this might help them?

 
  
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  Theodor Dumitru Stolojan (PPE) . – (RO) Mr President, I am going to support the Commission’s proposals on both the extension of this fund’s applicability and the increase in the level of cofinancing. This fund provides an effective, concrete solution to the problems associated with labour mobility from one industry to another or within the same industry, caused by globalisation, an economic trend which is here to stay with us.

However, I do believe that we need to speed up the procedures for making the funds available to support the labour force facing problems in areas where it has been affected by the impact of globalisation. Indeed, the second proposal is for this fund to return to the initial purpose for which it was conceived, which is to help eliminate the impact of globalisation on the labour force.

 
  
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  Elena Băsescu (PPE).(RO) Mr President, in 2010, 12 Member States accessed the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund, which did not include my country, unfortunately. This is not the first time that I have spoken on this subject. In the meantime, Romania has also adopted a government decision for regulating its legal and institutional framework.

However, the Commission should consider maintaining a high rate of cofinancing so that Member States with budget austerity programmes, like Romania, can also have access. With an unemployment rate of more than 7%, but below the European Union average, Romania must adopt an effective professional retraining strategy. At the same time, the fund’s scope of application must also be extended to other sectors such as agriculture. I do not believe that merging this fund with the Structural Funds, as is being proposed, is a welcome idea.

 
  
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  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (S&D).(RO) Mr President, if companies are affected by the economic and financial crisis, they can use both the European Social Fund and the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund to support those who have been made redundant. However, in the case of the public sector, the European Union does not have sufficient instruments to support people made redundant by public institutions as a consequence of the reduction in national budgets due to the economic and financial crisis.

The international commitments made by some Member States with the International Monetary Fund or the European Commission to enable them to exit the economic crisis entail huge reductions in staff numbers in public institutions. These people must be eligible for support from the European Union under the same conditions as a private sector employee who is made redundant due to the economic crisis.

Commissioner, I would like to ask you whether the Commission intends to adapt the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund to also support workers dismissed in public institutions, due to the way in which the economic and financial crisis is affecting national budgets.

 
  
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  Jan Kozłowski (PPE).(PL) Mr President, I would like to extend my thanks to the Commission for presenting their position and, at the same time, I would like to congratulate Ms Berès and Ms Harkin for drafting a very comprehensive resolution on the future of the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF).

A few weeks ago, in Gdańsk, we discussed the instruments for supporting employment within the new multiannual financial framework with Commissioner Andor, representatives of our Parliament, the Council, the European Investment Bank, Eurofound and other institutions. The conclusions from this debate indicate that the future of the EGF should be discussed in the context of being closely related to the future shape of the European Social Fund and microfinance instruments, so that in future, we can avoid any overlap in their operation and increase their effectiveness, flexibility and the speed of their realisation. I think the experience gained from implementing the EGF is extremely valuable – the negative as well as the positive aspects of that experience, because both either were or still are in evidence. I am convinced that this experience should be put to good use during the process of drafting regulations for future instruments for employment.

 
  
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  Karin Kadenbach (S&D).(DE) Mr President, sincere thanks also to Ms Berès for this excellent proposal. I am not a member of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, but I feel moved to speak in view of today’s comments by members of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group.

I believe that this is absolutely the wrong time to be starting a debate based on envy. This redistribution policy should be seen as a very important task of European policy. It is of great importance that we establish once and for all that redistributed money is not money that has been lost or given away, but that instead redistributed money contributes to people who have lost their jobs as a result of globalisation – I am talking, for example, about people in the haulage sector, delivery people; more than 3 000 have been made redundant in Austria – now hopefully being able to draw on the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund.

This money creates value. This money creates purchasing power. This money allows those enterprises that have paid the money into this fund as taxpayers to have customers again. In other words, I would really urge that the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund be seen as an economic motor and not simply as something that is distributed in Europe as a kind of giving of alms. Moreover, if we render help quickly, our assistance will be worth twice as much.

 
  
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  Pat the Cope Gallagher (ALDE).(GA) Mr President, thank you for giving me an opportunity to speak. Of course, the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund is a very important fund for the Member States of the European Union.

I strongly believe, Mr President, that every effort must be undertaken by national authorities to replace a company after a decision is taken to relocate outside the Union. This fund – the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund – must be the last option available to governments after all efforts are exhausted to replace relocated companies.

I would like to commend the Industrial Development Authority in Ireland and also Údarás na Gaeltachta, who, over successive decades, have successfully attracted inward investment into Ireland, including our constituency in the North West.

In June 2010, the government submitted an application under the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund for up to EUR 40 million for the retraining of construction industry workers, and I want to commend the officials for their efforts. This was done after meetings involving both myself and my colleagues, Marian Harkin and Jim Higgins, and I would like to ask the Commissioner for the current position in relation to this application.

 
  
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  Nicole Sinclaire (NI). – Mr President, I was disappointed that my Conservative colleague refused to take my question earlier. I wanted to ask her if she shared my dismay that the UK Government has not once made an application for risk funds.

In my own region, we lost a lot of jobs – over 2 000 in Peugeot Ryton – when they were relocated to Slovakia, and we got no help with retraining.

This is a EUR 357 million budget so far since 2007 and, as the second largest contributor, we should have surely got some of that back. I am wondering why our current government and our current Prime Minister, who talks about retraining and skills, have not applied for this. As one former Conservative Prime Minister said: it is only asking for our own money back.

 
  
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  Hubert Pirker (PPE).(DE) Mr President, there is a problem in this House with the catch-the-eye procedure. All of us who sit right at the back have the problem that we do not know whether we have been noticed at the front when we indicate that we would like to speak. At the beginning of this debate, for example, I indicated that I would like to take the floor and I noted that the charming lady at the front nodded, but now I find I am not on the list of speakers. In other words, those of us who are unfortunate enough to sit a long way back because of the alphabetical seating arrangements are not noticed in the catch-the-eye procedure. This is not the first time it has happened; it happens repeatedly. I am trying to find another way of doing this so that those who have to sit at the back because of the alphabetical order will also be noticed. Unfortunately, the system is not working perfectly.

 
  
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  President. – Mr Pirker, your concerns are noted. You were on the list but you are one of those unfortunately to whom I cannot give time. I am already under pressure because I have given time to too many colleagues from the floor.

 
  
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  Ilda Figueiredo (GUE/NGL).(PT) Mr President, in this debate, there are three issues that need to be clarified concerning the existence of this fund. First, the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) has emerged as a merely palliative measure in a time of worsening employment, as a result of EU structural policies that jeopardise Europe’s industry and make life easier for multinationals, which do not accept any social responsibility.

Secondly, the EGF uses funding criteria that are deeply unfair and lead to situations like the ones we have already experienced in this week’s plenary session, in which, for a similar number of workers, we have approved about EUR 4.4 million in EGF aid to Germany, almost EUR 3.8 million to Denmark and only EUR 1.4 million to Portugal, despite the fact that Portugal is in the worst state.

The last issue is the high cofinancing rate required of the Member States, which is 35% of the total amount provided. In order to mitigate this situation, we hope our proposal for reducing the cofinancing rate required of Member States to only 5% is approved, especially for countries that are in a fragile state financially, like Portugal.

 
  
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  Seán Kelly (PPE). – Mr President, I would just like to say, in relation to catch-the-eye, that I was first in here this morning and was first to apply for the catch-the-eye. I was not called. I was here yesterday afternoon for the discussion on the Rio+20 Earth Summit; I was here for the entire discussion and was one of the first to put up my hand. I was not called. I was here yesterday morning for the entire three hours with Mr Barroso. I was first in and was first to put up my hand. Forty-six of the 56 who put up their hand were called. I was not called. I saw people coming in, during catch-the-eye, putting up their hands, being called and leaving again.

Is there a policy of discouraging people to turn up, and discriminating against them because they appear too often in the Chamber?

 
  
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  President. – Thank you, Mr Kelly. ‘No’ is the answer to that question. I have already overrun the time for catch-the-eye. We are supposed to keep it to five minutes and I have given the floor to seven colleagues. As it happens, you would have been the next one and I apologise that I am not able to call you, but there is no other reason than that. I am sorry about that, but keep trying.

 
  
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  Algirdas Šemeta, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, first of all, I would like to thank Members for their contributions to this debate. We can clearly conclude that a strong majority in Parliament supports the Commission proposal to extend the crisis part of the fund until 2013.

I would like to start by answering the specific question raised by Mr Gallagher. The Commission is finalising its work on this specific case and it is scheduled to be discussed in the College of Commissioners on 5 October.

There is a genuine belief that the Globalisation Adjustment Fund has a role to play in the future as a rapid crisis intervention instrument for showing solidarity with the most vulnerable workers in society. To add value, the fund’s support should encourage measures to correct skill mismatches in difficult labour market situations. Special attention will need to be paid to the social responsibility of large companies, particularly as regards collective dismissals. Many of you raised this issue during the debate, and the Commission will, of course, take your contributions into account.

Some of you raised some doubts about the inclusion of farmers in the future Globalisation Adjustment Fund. The Commission considers that farmers are also exposed to the risks of globalisation, particularly where forthcoming trade agreements are concerned. We consider that there is a strong necessity to include farmers in the scope of the Globalisation Adjustment Fund. In the proposal on the multiannual financial framework, you can see that we proposed a limit of up to EUR 2.5 billion to be used for farmers, also trying to ensure that at least part of the Globalisation Adjustment Fund goes to workers in other sectors.

Both the Member States and the European institutions involved in the decision-making process should do their utmost to speed up delivery of support from the fund. On this point, we also have some ideas on which we are currently finalising our work. For example, we are considering the introduction of electronic application forms and the standardisation of questions in order to reduce the time needed to apply for funding. We are also looking at other initiatives which could streamline the process. We fully agree that we have to streamline the process and to make the procedures much faster.

I would like to thank Ms Berès for her report once again. It will provide a valuable contribution to the Commission’s work on the future of the Globalisation Adjustment Fund.

 
  
  

IN THE CHAIR: ANNI PODIMATA
Vice-President

 
  
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  Pervenche Berès, rapporteur. (FR) Madam President, I should like to thank all of my fellow Members who have spoken during this debate, because I believe they have helped to shed light on the discussion. The Council is not here, but I hope that it will hear the powerful message that this European Parliament is about to send. We are calling for a decision to be reached quickly in the Council and for the arrangement permitting the use of the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund in connection with the crisis to be extended.

Commissioner, we have listened to you and we recognise that you are sensitive to the deep concerns that have been expressed throughout this debate on the subject of the strategies of multinationals, which should feature in the Commission’s work programme and on which we hope to receive some proposals.

Moving on, a number of groups have been mentioned. Should we focus on young people in particular? My colleague, Proinsias De Rossa, said that we should not neglect the situation of workers just because we are focusing on young people. Similarly, you mention the situation of farmers, who may be eligible to use the fund in the future. Fair enough but, once again, let us not create a situation in which we have the poor showing solidarity with the poor, or the victims of the crisis showing solidarity with the victims of trade agreements. If we go down that road, everyone will have to shoulder his or her responsibilities, and the resources allocated to the fund will have to be adapted accordingly.

Lastly, I want to reiterate the fact that we in Parliament believe that the ability to use this fund based on the administrative arrangements that exist in each of the Member States and based on the quality of social dialogue is absolutely crucial. Many of my fellow Members have wondered why there have been no applications to mobilise the fund in such and such a country. Well, I believe that if Europe wants to be a vehicle for improving the Member States’ administrative capacity, then mobilisation of the fund is a very good test; once again, it is a good tool and one that Europe needs.

If, tomorrow, the Council were to decide against extending this fund, and against allowing it to be mobilised in connection with the crisis, then it would bear a heavy responsibility, because it would be sending the message that, just when the crisis is having an even greater impact than before, Europe is cutting the means of support that it provides to its workers. That would be to pave the way for Euroscepticism. We call on the Council to listen to this Parliament’s message.

 
  
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  President. – I have received one motion for a resolution(1)tabled in accordance with Rule 110(2) of the Rules of Procedure.

The debate is closed.

The vote will take place at 12.00 today.

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  Liam Aylward (ALDE), in writing. (GA) The closure of Waterford Crystal in Waterford, Ireland was a hard blow for hundreds of workers and households. It is estimated that personal spend has reduced by EUR 40 million annually in Waterford City and in the surrounding area as a result. The EU’s decision to allocate money from the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund to the region some years ago was welcomed after the hard blow of the closing of Waterford Crystal. I am still receiving questions and complaints from former employees in relation to the problems they have accessing basic information about the fund, information in relation to access to training and education, and in relation to receiving funding from the fund to pay for those training courses. Even though the administration of the fund comes under the authority of the Member States, I think that a review should take place into the management of the fund at national level. Has the Commission done a review into the effectiveness of the fund in terms of the employees? I praise the aims and the objectives of the fund, but to achieve those good objectives, the fund must be implemented effectively and transparently and there must be direct relations with the former employees. Without that, there would only be another cause of distress to them.

 
  
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  David Martin (S&D), in writing. – The EGF was designed as a tool for rapid intervention in the event of mass redundancies, with a view to preventing long-term unemployment in difficult labour market conditions; whereas the original aim of the EGF as an instrument was to alleviate, within a short timeframe, acute and unforeseen labour market problems caused by the dismissal of a large number of workers either from big companies or from SMEs operating in a particular sector and in a particular region. The long-term Europe 2020 objectives aimed at increasing employment and employability rates are supported by the European Social Fund. Notwithstanding the limited funds available to it and the scale of the economic crisis Europe faces, the Globalisation Adjustment Fund has played an important role in helping groups of workers adjust to new employment situations.

 
  
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  Bogusław Sonik (PPE), in writing.(PL) The adoption of a resolution on the commissioning of a special budgetary line for the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) for combating the effects of the economic crisis is a very good step taken by the European Parliament, not only for Poland, which has already used its funds on three occasions, but also for the remaining EU Member States which would like to make recourse to it. Thanks to the EGF, support was given to 10% of the workers who were made redundant in the EU during 2009-2010, of which 40% have successfully found other jobs. Extending the operation of the fund until December 2013 will be an effective instrument which will make it easier for workers who have been made redundant to go through the often long and difficult process of requalifying and vocational training in situations of unpredictable sector and enterprise restructuring, particularly as a result of the crisis or the effects of globalisation. I also hope that the European Commission will administer the procedure of approving applications efficiently, since the speed at which procedures are completed is a factor which makes citizens feel that these measures are successful. This is especially important, as the number of people who need this help is very high, as is confirmed by data showing an increasing number of applicants who have received help from the EGF and the size of the funds involved.

 
  

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