11th March 2003

Jean speaks on the European Employment Strategy

Lambert (Verts/ALE). - Mr President, I too would like to thank the rapporteur. The report that eventually came out of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs was indeed a reasonable report. However, my group had one major problem with it over the support for the rigidity of the growth and stability pact. Consequently we are going to be supporting the amendment on that which will be coming from another group this afternoon.

Because we felt that what came out overall had a sense of balance to it, we are not going to be supporting many of the other amendments, seeking to reinstate certain parts of the original text e.g. Amendment 17 concerning GATS. We don't agree that the General Agreement on Trade in Services will be a job engine, either here or in the developing world. That was the subject of the extensive debate that Parliament had on Monday.

What concerns us as well is that the present text again lacks that mechanism for sustainability, which is an environmental dimension that really has to be incorporated into all that we are doing. Too often we see that the poorest people in the worst quality jobs also live in the worst environment. If we are really going to do something to upgrade the employment or social environment, we need to take account of the physical environment.

We also agree with a lot that the Commissioner said about the ownership of this employment strategy. It would be very useful if national parliaments debated the national action plans that were put forward by governments. In our delegation visits from this committee, we have found all too often that national parliaments do not have a clue that these plans even exist and they certainly have not participated in them. That would be a welcome step forward.

Also to pick up on the issue of small and medium enterprises: yes, they are important but only if, as Mr Schmidt said, they are of high quality. You can have a small sweatshop as well as an ethical business and regulation is there to support the latter, not the former.