Speaking at a press conference in Athens, Commissioner László Andor stressed the need to "mobilise more effectively European Social Fund (ESF) resources to promote access to employment and new skills, while strengthening the role of social partners in the governance of policy reforms at all levels".
The EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion praised the progress made by Greek authorities, particularly in the use of the ESF in 2011. "Nevertheless, there is still need to further accelerate implementation, an issue for which the Commission requested a clear commitment from the political leadership. Moreover, a better use of ESF resources is necessary to address the adverse effects of the current crisis and enhance the quality of human capital", he added.
Mr Andor explained that the Commission services are currently discussing with the Greek authorities on how to use the remaining funds for 2012 and 2013 to do more for young people, in the context of the Youth Opportunities Initiative , presented last year. "Globally, the Commission estimates that an amount of 200-250 million € may be re-allocated between the ESF operational programmes in order to support youth employment and SMEs", he explained.
For the funding period (2014-2020), the ESF will be positioned to support key labour market, education/vocational training and social inclusion interventions, and administrative reforms in line with the challenges identified by the Greek Authorities and the Council Recommendations in the framework of the Europe 2020 Strategy . "The Commission together with the ESF can help, enable and support, but in the end of the day, it is the Greek citizens themselves who need to take the action to reform their country and take the responsibility for it", Mr Andor said.
The Commissioner also called for stepping up efforts to accelerate the implementation of the Administrative Reform: "The 15 ESF projects of the priority project list with an overall cost of around 1 billion EUR are expected to create around 125.000 jobs during implementation and 90.000 new jobs following completion of the projects".
In his one-day visit to Athens Mr Andor also met with representatives of the social partners, and emphasised their role in the implementation of measures to facilitate employment growth. "That's why the European Commission has put forward and supports, within the framework of the ESF, projects aimed at strengthening the capacity of social partner organisations in Greece", he explained.