The numbers are in, and 2015 was a good year. As in previous years, Hungary improved in all convergence criteria. The GDP grew by 2.9 percent. The budget deficit dipped to 2 percent of GDP, and the debt-to-GDP ratio shrank to 75.5 percent. When announcing the data on Monday at the opening of Parliament’s spring session, Prime Minister Orbán called on MPs to support an even stricter fiscal goal: a zero-deficit budget to continue to reduce the country’s debt. [Blog post by András Gyürk]
Before the Orbán Government took over in 2010, the debt-to-GDP ratio reached well above 80 percent, the annual budget deficit exceeded 3 percent, and GDP had shrunk year-on-year.
Around the same time the latest economic data were announced, Morgan Stanley London released its latest Vulnerability Scoring Indicator. During the period from the financial crisis in 2008 to 2015, Hungary’s economic vulnerability decreased more than any other country in the CEEMEA region. In 2008, according to the index, Hungary was the most vulnerable country in the region, “but its impressive external turnaround means it screens as much safer now.”
Numerous factors are fueling the Hungarian economic recovery. With more people back in the active labor force, and paying taxes, the unemployment rate has dropped from 11 percent in the spring of 2010 to 6.2 percent in the most recent figures. That’s the lowest percentage ever recorded (since 1992 when official employment data were first collected). Part of the improvement in employment is related to the government’s new “workfare” approach, offering public work instead of financial subsidies and successfully countering multigenerational unemployment, but the “real economy” plays a significant role also. “If there are jobs, we have everything,” said Prime Minister Orbán in his address to Parliament, but “if there are no jobs, we have nothing.”
2015 was a record-breaking year for Hungary in both trade surplus and foreign direct investment. FDI created 13,000 jobs in 2015 alone, putting Hungary in second place in FDI per capita in the region, following the Czech Republic. The Hungarian Investment Promotion Agency has another 169 investment projects in the pipeline, investments that would create an additional 27 thousand work places. “In Hungary we had communism for 40 years,” the prime minister said. “Therefore, we didn’t have accumulation of capital, therefore we don’t have [domestic] capital, so we need foreign investors.”
Along with foreign investment, the trade surplus has also grown. It reached 8.1 billion EUR in 2015, which is the best data ever recorded for Hungary. That’s a 28.6 percent growth over the previous year’s 6.3 billion EUR surplus.
Morgan Stanley was not alone in its positive assessment. The IMF, in its recent report, underlines Hungary’s solid economic growth, rising employment and declining vulnerabilities in general. The OECD released an even more upbeat report about Hungary late last year.
Coface, a French credit insurance company recently upgraded Hungary’s credit rating to A4 from B, returning it to investment grade. Market analysts believe that the three big credit rating agencies – which are generally cautious – are also going to upgrade the country’s credit rating this year. That would be beating the average. According to one of the three, Fitch Ratings, for a country to be put back in the “recommended for investment category” after falling out due to poor performance takes an average of six years. On that timeline, Hungary would have to wait until 2018, but we’re optimistic the upgrade is coming this year.
Looking at the 2015 economic data, Hungary has improved on nearly all the indicators. From a near Greece-like crisis in 2008, Hungary’s economy has turned around. More work to be done, but the numbers so far are impressive.
The Sixth Cohesion Report is a major regional policy document in European policy-making. During the plenary debate, EPP Group MEP Tamás Deutsch, Rapporteur of the Resolution, underlined that cohesion policy is the EU's most important investment policy with a budget of over €350 billion for the 2014-2020 period, a policy which has proven its usefulness and importance by helping cushioning the effects of the crisis and providing a major part of public investment in some Member States.
Deutsch recalled the EPP Group’s priorities: rapid elimination of liquidity problems, emphasising that the €24.8 billion backlog, which had accumulated in cohesion policy by the end of 2014, undermines the policy's credibility and efficiency and has a very detrimental impact on Member States and beneficiaries. "The reduction of administrative burdens on final beneficiaries would be an enormous step towards increasing efficiency and this is especially important for SMEs which play a significant role in creating new jobs."
The Report devotes considerable attention to unemployment, with special regard to youth unemployment. As Tamás Deutsch explained, a multi-fund approach which uses the European Social Fund and the European Regional Development Fund in a coordinated manner is indispensable to job creation.
The EPP Group MEP’s Resolution calls for the preservation of the cohesion policy budget. "Only an adequately financed cohesion policy is able to ensure EU solidarity, the catching-up of least-developed regions, the creation of new jobs and economic development. The adoption of my Report by a huge majority shows that the European Parliament fully supports maintaining the current role and financing of cohesion policy", concluded Deutsch.
Therefore, we need to add a specific pillar on Single Market governance to the yearly cycle of economic policy coordination in the EU – the so-called European Semester.
"The Single Market's governance must be improved if it is to promote and facilitate growth, but it must also serve as a benchmark for commitment to structural reform in the Member States", said the EPP Group Rapporteur, Ildikó Gáll-Pelcz MEP, following today's adoption of her Report on Single Market Governance in the Committee for Internal Market and Consumer Protection.
This means reinstating political oversight at the highest level, avoiding any artificial distinctions between EU and Member State competencies, while developing more efficient tools to ensure that the Single Market delivers for citizens and businesses as well.
Too many problems encountered by businesses and citizens in the Single Market remain unresolved, or are resolved only at the expense of excessive time and cost.
It is estimated that a further deepening of this 'classic' Single Market could still yield very significant additional gains: "For the Single Market to work more efficiently, businesses and citizens need to know their rights and opportunities in order to make effective use of them", Gáll-Pelcz stressed.
The priority should be the completion of the European Single Market which can be reached through the adoption and implementation of measures boosting sustainable and inclusive growth.
To better enforce Single Market rules, there is a need to further develop and strengthen existing mechanisms and achieve better synergies between them.
Steps should be taken to ensure effective resolution of problems at national level and, where possible, via informal means. This would create more opportunities for consumers, establish quality standards and stimulate more competitive prices.
"Fostering competitiveness and creating new opportunities in the Digital Single Market are key areas for the revitalisation of the common economic area", Gáll-Pelcz concluded.
Achieving the Digital Single Market could create more than 223,000 jobs in the EU by 2020.
Speakers of the meeting included László Andor, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion; Olivér Várhelyi, Ambassador responsible for social affaires at the Permanent Representation of Hungary to the EU; Tamar Manuelyan Atinc, WB Vice President for Human Development and Martin Krayer von Krauss, Project Manager at the WHO European Centre for Environment and Health. Several NGOs have also been represented; Lars Bosselmann from the Christian Blind Mission and Javier Güemes, Acting Director of the European Disability Forum both took the floor.
In his opening speech, MEP Kósa pointed out: "The new classification system of the WHO, published in 2001, established a shift of approach in the attitude towards people with disabilities. According to this principle, persons with disabilities are not patients in need of medical treatment, rather people whose situation can be measured and improved by taking their environmental and personal features into account." "For this reason, it is no coincidence that my report on the mobility and inclusion of people with disabilities, adopted on 25 October 2011, deals with this new, more flexible system, which promises to increase the share of people with disabilities in the labour market", the EPP Group MEP said.
In their presentations, Vice President Atinc and Dr Krauss introduced the World Disability Report which was published jointly in October 2011. More than 380 experts and 70 countries took part in preparing the publication, which corresponds fully to the 2006 UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities ratified by the European Union in January this year.
In his speech Commissioner Andor pointed out that disability is not merely an economic issue but also a significant aspect of the fight against poverty and stressed the importance of accessibility to suitable health and social services. He reminded that the principal of equal opportunities is a core value of European politics and announced that the European Commission has ordered a detailed study to analyse the costs and expenditures of disability. In today's ageing European society, this may become especially important in the interest of sustainable development. "The European Social Fund must continue to play a key role in the next financial framework, among others, in the field of ensuring equal opportunities for people with disabilities" – said the Commissioner in his closing remarks.
Olivér Várhelyi highlighted that "Hungary has always been committed to the situation of people with disabilities, and it was for this reason that the issue of disability belonged to the priorities of the Hungarian Presidency." The ambassador pointed out that the Hungarian Presidency supported this position during the summer EPSCO consultation of the European Council, the conclusions of which serve as a framework of the European Commission's disability strategy for 2010-2020. "Therefore, MEP Kósa's report which reflects the European Parliament's position, gives reason for further confidence", the ambassador added.
EPP Group MEP Ádám Kósa, President of the EP's Disability Intergroup presented the European Parliament's position based on his Report on Mobility and Inclusion of People with Disabilities. Kósa reminded the participants that the European Accessibility Act, currently being planned by the Commission should include the report's main recommendations adopted in October 2011.
MEP Kósa highlighted that special efforts must be made to increase the employment level of people with disability and underlined that the new EU-level proposal must also target this goal. He explained the importance of promoting inclusive workplace practices and pointed out that substantial progress must be achieved to make new services and infrastructure contributed by Structural Funds' projects more accessible and barrier-free for the people with disabilities. "Inclusive education must certainly be promoted by all means in order to ensure the competitiveness of people with disabilities in the labour market, too" – he added.
The Hungarian MEP called on the Commission to pay more attention to the profitability and communication of accessibility-related investments. He underlined the need of a more substantial cooperation with people with disabilities as well as with the European Parliament in order to find solution for European-level challenges faced by the people concerned. The aim is clear and unambiguous: people living with disabilities also want to become effective tax-payers especially in an ageing and sustainable European society.
MEP Kósa finally urged the participants to organise a joint Disability Parliament sitting next year in the European Parliament's building, involving people with disabilities, with representatives of the European Council and the European Commission and with the aim of speeding up and enhancing the legitimacy of legislation.
Presidents of the EU institutions confirmed that the European Union must be attentive to the situation of people with disabilities. "All material and immaterial barriers to their full participation in society must be removed. The inclusion of people with disabilities would also provide an indispensable contribution to the near future needs of the European labour market as a result of the retiring millions of the baby-boom generation", highlighted President Buzek in his closing remarks. "The European Parliament is firmly committed to safeguarding the rights of people with disabilities, as is reflected by their inclusion in all relevant legislation and staff regulations and, last but not least, by the Parliament as a workplace itself", he added. Finally, Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council stressed: "Even in the economic crisis our goals should remain accessibility and equal opportunities in a real sense, so that full participation of persons with disabilities becomes a reality. It is a matter of civilisation, of defending our common values. In Europe, society means everyone and a modern society must reflect all its members."
The European Parliament's debate on the situation of Roma in Member States was held with the participation of representatives from the European Council and the European Commission. In her speech on behalf of the EPP Group, MEP Lívia Járóka pointed out four tasks that are essential for the success of the European Framework of National Roma Inclusion Strategies adopted in June.
According to Járóka, firstly the institutional framework needs to be finalized. For this purpose, the European Commission must strictly evaluate the national strategies due to be submitted until the end of this year, and it also needs to present specific recommendations for their possible revision. Secondly she emphasized, that a crisis map must be established to identify and measure the underdeveloped areas which are struggling with serious structural disadvantages and where complex immediate intervention is necessary. Járóka expressed her hope that the recently ongoing survey which has been carried out by the Fundamental Rights Agency under the supervision of the Commission will fulfil these requirements. She called the modification of the next Multiannual Financial Framework the third task, so that EU level and national funds could contribute to the substantial and enduring improvement of the life conditions of Roma. As examples, Járóka mentioned the longer time coverage and greater territorial relevance of programmes; the eligibility of the provision of quality public services and the review of co-financing rules, so that projects targeting Roma could possibly be required to have a lesser share of co-financing from the country, with a higher share by the EU. Fourth, the 2000/43 directive on equal treatment must be fully implemented by the Member States and enforced by the Commission. "National Equality Bodies have to be strengthened, and all violations of these legal principles need to be immediately reported and sanctioned as appropriate" – underlined the single Roma member of the EP.
In her answer, Elżbieta Radziszewska, the Polish government's Plenipotentiary for Equal Treatment called the unsustainable life conditions of Roma Europe's shame and confirmed that the Council would pay special attention to the implementation of the framework strategy, including the proper complexity of national strategies. The representative of the Polish Presidency also praised the work of Lívia Járóka as the Rapporteur of the European Parliament's report on the EU strategy on Roma inclusion. Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism, Youth and Sport praised the political and institutional unity behind the framework strategy and confirmed that the Commission is committed to its effective implementation. Vassiliou also emphasized that the goal was to grant equal access for Roma to all fundamental rights and highlighted that the Commission will closely monitor the proper transposition of the 2000/43 EU directive on equal treatment.
MEP Lívia Járóka, Rapporteur of the EU Strategy on Roma Inclusion reminded that despite significant institutional and financial input, the Decade of Roma Inclusion had not yielded the expected results. The situation of European Roma Program did not improve in the past years rather deteriorated weakening Europe’s social cohesion as a whole. According to Járóka, one of the most important conclusions of the program was that a clear and strict distinction must be made between good practices and those projects that had obviously failed. "For this purpose, it is necessary to extend the scope and stiffen the rules of monitoring"- she highlighted.
Járóka, who herself is of Roma origin also pointed out that it was equally important to create a catalogue of “worst practices”. This list would contain past mistakes and would be complemented with a register of those projects that were successful, but some limited and specific factors made them impossible to be transposed under different circumstances. Járóka underlined that despite its doubtful results, the Decade Program introduced numerous good proposals and ideas to build on – for instance it was the first ever framework which bought together EU Member States with candidate countries to cooperate fostering Roma social inclusion.
She expressed her hope that the European Framework for National Roma Strategies would be able to remedy the shortcomings of the Decade in terms of coordination and cooperation. The European Commission as an independent and multi-sector body had undertaken the role of supervising, coordinating, and monitoring the strategy as well as harmonizing national action plans and the EU framework. Járóka finally welcomed the European Commission's recent confirmation to present specific recommendations for revising national strategies and to report annually on the progress of integration and the achievement of goals. This would be in accordance with the EP report and would only happen after thorough evaluation on professional substantiation, complexity and financial feasibility of the strategies.
The full-day conference was opened by George Soros, Chairman of the Open Society Institute, under the patronageof Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament and with the participation of the EP’s group leaders, EU and government officials as well as representatives of international Roma organizations.
Due to limited mobility and communications solutions, people with disabilities are often unable to find educational, training or job opportunities that fulfil their needs. In this regard, in his speech, Ádám Kósa drew attention to a recent US study, which shows that 2/3 of people with disabilities in the US could be provided with sound and reasonable accommodation to the value of maximum $500 which nowadays means the average price of a good Smartphone or an iPhone. On the other hand, the inclusion of people with disabilities would also provide an indispensable contribution to the near future needs of the European labour market as a result of the retiring millions of the baby-boom generation.
Based on this, the document aims to introduce a revolutionary approach to disability. It promotes barrier-free accessibility; special communication techniques for the deaf and hard-of-hearing as well as the blind and proposes new patterns and obligations for inclusive education systems with stronger support for parents of children with disabilities, with emphasis on the importance of the early recognition of special needs. A lot of unique proposals have also been introduced in the Report like a new approach to car-modification production for wheelchair users; finding solutions for the blind to handle electronic interfaces; EU-based and organised information desks for parents with disabled children in order to help and educate them to cope with the challenges that people with disabilities face every day.
According to the only deaf MEP in the European Parliament, it is also important to have legal instruments and measures for the protection of people with disabilities at a European level. As the European Council has been blocking the so-called general Anti-discrimination Directive for several years, the EPP Group proposal wished to empower the Commission to ensure the anti-discrimination of people with disabilities in the European Accessibility Act, to be presented next year. As the left-wing and liberal groups of the EP rejected this proposal, resolving anti-discrimination of people with disabilities could be halted for a long time to come. "As there is little hope of having the horizontal Anti-discrimination Directive adopted in the Council in the foreseeable future, the voting down of the EPP Group's amendment is regrettable as it prevents promoting a considerably faster process aimed at improving the situation of people with disabilities", said Mr Kósa.
Mr Kósa hopes that by the end of 2012, the European Accessibility Act will fulfil all the requests and recommendations of the Report, thus it will provide the opportunity for the inclusion of people with disabilities and revitalise the European labour market.
Consumers and taxpayers of the future
As the financial and economic crisis rages with ever-decreasing levels of consumption, a lack of accessibility to services and limited mobility and communications solutions for people with disabilities means that they are often unable to find educational, training or job opportunities that fulfil their needs and enable them able to take part in the open labour market.
"The creation of barrier-free workplaces would be required for them to become equal members of the labour market and society and that is the most important goal," says Kósa, Rapporteur on the mobility and inclusion of people with disabilities and the EU Disability Strategy 2010-2020.
Reaching this goal would mean a revolutionary approach to people with different disabilities and needs, within a framework of tailored opportunities for the tens of millions of people with disabilities, who could not only become the taxpayers but the consumers of the future.
Dramatic changes expected in the labour market by 2020
The inclusion of people with disabilities and old people would provide an indispensable contribution also to the short-term needs of the European labour market. On one hand, the European workforce is diminishing because, according to the Commission's data, from now until 2020 one million workers a year will be leaving the labour market due to the retirement of the so-called 'baby-boomer' generation. On the other hand, people with disabilities have been forced to adapt to non barrier-free environments that prevent their real mobility and inclusion and accept low-level jobs, regardless of their education and skills.
This new link between the gap in the labour market and people with disabilities is created by Ádám Kósa, the European Parliament's first deaf MEP, in his report on 'mobility and inclusion of people with disabilities and the new EU Disability Strategy 2010-2020'.
Ádám Kósa's proposals
Ádám Kósa's report was presented in the Employment and Social Committee (EMPL Committee) at the end of May 2011 and adopted in July with remarkable support from all the political groups in the European Parliament. The document, the result of long and broad consultations between all stakeholders, including political groups, a wide range of disability-related NGOs, the Hungarian EU Presidency and the European Commission, aims to introduce a revolutionary approach to disability. It promotes barrier-free accessibility, special communication techniques for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, as well as the blind, and proposes new patterns and obligations for inclusive education systems, with stronger support for parents of children with disabilities and an emphasis on the importance of early recognition of special needs.
Apart from the proposals already mentioned in the Commission’s EU Disability strategy for 2010-2020, this report introduces many other unique proposals, such as a new approach to the production of cars modified for wheelchair users, finding solutions to enable the blind to handle electronic interfaces or EU-based information desks to help parents with disabled children to cope with the challenges they face every day.
Assessing the European Disability Strategy
The report underlines three important priorities that should be included in the Commission's ten-year European Disability Strategy. Firstly, the report calls for a focus on the human rights of people with disabilities and initiates a shift in the public approach towards this group taking into account changes caused by the ratification of the UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities. Secondly, it highlights the need to ensure accessibility, in principle as well as in practice, with new innovations (ICT, GPS, etc) to be applied in the spheres of everyday life (from taking part in elections to having accessibility to public information and services). Lastly, it emphasises the importance of employment and stresses the need for inclusive work and educational practices.
According to the EPP Group MEP, it is also important to have legal instruments and measures for the protection of people with disabilities, such as those in the new Hungarian constitution, which uniquely contains elements concerning people with disabilities. The preamble to the document includes the protection of sign language, recognising it as being part of Hungarian culture, and a ban on discrimination against people with disabilities.
Furthermore the EPP Group sees a new opportunity for anti-discrimination legislation in the interest of people with disabilities within the framework of the European Accessibility Act planned for 2012. On this upcoming proposal from the Commission, Kósa considers that it is high time the situation of people with disabilities is dealt with not only academically but in reality – and more effectively, based on eliminating not only obstacles in the approach to disability but also existing physical and communication barriers. Without the latter, the former means nothing, believes Kósa.
The European Council has been blocking the 'general anti-discrimination directive' for years and there is no hope for a change in point of view in the foreseeable future. The new approach adopted by Mr Kósa in his report is in line with the UN Convention on the rights of people with disabilities. He believes that the European Parliament must play its own role during the implementation of the Convention itself, which was already ratified by the EU this year.
Achieving growth targets
As president of the Disability Intergroup Ádám Kósa believes that it is of utmost importance to reach higher employment levels for people with disabilities. In Western Europe roughly 40% of disabled people have gainful employment. In Eastern Europe this is only 10-15%. But in both regions, people with disabilities are always at risk of being fired first during any lay-offs, regardless of their abilities or skills.
Many studies have proven, however, that people with disabilities are very loyal to their employers in general and work harder than people without disabilities. This is an indispensable condition for the creation of an economically sustainable and inclusive society. The target of 75% employment which was set at the EU level in its EU 2020 Strategy cannot be achieved without including disabled people. Agreement with this was reflected by the adoption by MEPs of Mr Kósa's report in the EMPL Committee this summer with a 92% majority.
Labour market restrictions still in place in Germany and Austria for workers from eight Member States that joined the EU in 2004 (excluding Cyprus and Malta) will be finally removed on 1 May 2011. As a result of this, workers from the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia will be able to work freely in the entire territory of the EU27.
Reports made by the European Commission and other think-tanks clearly show the positive effects of labour migration. Analyses predict that with the liberalisation of the German labour market, the employment of the workers coming from these Member States can contribute an additional 0.3-0.6% GDP growth to the German economy. "Promoting free movement of labour is beneficial for the whole of Europe as it increases competitiveness, employment and economic growth. Therefore, we need to further advance the removal of existing labour barriers for workers coming from Romania and Bulgaria and finish the creation of the common and single European labour market", highlighted the Hungarian MEP.
Accession Treaties allow Member States to apply a transitional period in order to gradually introduce the free movement of workers after a new Member State joins the EU. These restrictions can be maintained for up to seven years (the so-called 2+3+2 scheme). When the 10 new states joined the EU in 2004, three Member States, namely Ireland, the UK and Sweden, immediately opened their labour markets, and for the workers of Malta and Cyprus there were no restrictions at all. Most Member States followed this practice between 2006 and 2009. However, Germany and Austria continued to apply restrictions until the 2011 deadline. However, the right to free movement for workers from Bulgaria and Romania (the two Member States that joined the EU most recently in 2007) is currently still restricted by ten Member States, so they will have to wait until a maximum date of 31 December 2013 to benefit from this right.
At the Hearing, Tamás Deutsch declared that after the Lisbon Treaty came into effect, a new era started regarding the regulation of the Protection of the Community's Financial Interests. "The new Treaty, the start of the new financial perspectives in 2014, together with the economic and financial crisis, create an exceptional opportunity to strengthen the institutional and legal framework of the protection of the European Union's financial interests", he said.
He suggested to implement the PFI2015 programme, which would re-think the Community's criminal law Regulation and modify the Directives regarding the institutions applying these laws. After these changes, the European Union will have a stronger and more efficient institutional background in order to fight more effectively against fraud and corruption.
Tamás Deutsch concluded the discussion and stated that the European Parliament's Committee on Budgetary Control is willing to revise the two dossiers blocked by the Council and also to accept them as soon as possible, in order to move forward with the two proposals in the legislative procedures.
Speakers at the Hearing included: Kęstutis Sadauskas, Head of Cabinet of Algirdas Šemeta, European Commissioner for Taxation and Customs Union, Audit and Anti-Fraud, Lothar Kuhl from OLAF's Planning and Policy Department, Ákos Farkas, Director of the Institute of Criminal Law Sciences at the University of Miskolc, and Rosaria Sicurella from the Faculty of Law, University of Catania.
The Őry Report follows, in broad terms, the European Commission's initial proposal, which was presented as part of the Integrated Guidelines package in April 2010, in support of the implementation of the future EU 2020 Strategy on jobs and growth. However, there were several new aspects introduced by the Rapporteur. In order to have a more coherent and more effective text, Őry merged the two initial guidelines of the Commission concerning education and training, and he also introduced a new guideline on cohesion policy.
According to the Rapporteur, in view of the current economic and financial crisis and of the long-term challenges faced by European societies, employment policy has a very important role to play. "The European Union has to work more and better, if we want to survive the crisis and we want to stay competitive with the developed or emerging regions of the world like China, South-eastern Asia, South America or the United States," concluded the Rapporteur. Őry therefore endorses proposals to take decisive action in order to increase the employment levels of European men and women, but he also believes that this objective can only be achieved if special attention is paid by the Member States to fostering mobility and the employment of youth, the elderly, people with disabilities and women. The Member States should also set several sub-targets in this context, for example increasing the share of 15 to 24 year-old women and men in education, training or employment to at least 90%, with the aim of reaching those sub-targets by 2014.
In addition, adequate use of flexicurity principles and the promotion of quality education and life-long learning are also of the utmost importance. Member States should take into consideration the growing number of new forms of work and atypical employment contracts, and should set an appropriate legislative framework for this area. Furthermore, ensuring the availability of a skilled labour force has to be accompanied by intensified investment in job creation, where SMEs have an extremely important role to play. Őry also emphasised in his Report the importance of the fight against poverty, particularly child poverty – which is also a priority of the current Belgian and the future Hungarian Presidencies. In the debate, the Rapporteur especially welcomed the statement of the Belgian Presidency on the importance of good governance and he also called for stricter monitoring.
The Council will vote on the Guidelines in October 2010, after having received and negotiated the European Parliament's opinion.