Ladies and Gentlemen,
First of all, let me state that I fully align with the statement delivered by the Council Presidency on behalf of the European Union and its Member States
For the European Union, the substantive theme on the agenda of this ILO regional meeting - the future of work - is very relevant and timely.
However we cannot deny that this ILO regional meeting takes place in the context of the absence of ITUC, ETUC and the workers group. This is an unprecedented situation in ILO history.
At the June Governing body, the EU and its Member States recalled that the participation of all constituents is important to achieve meaningful outcomes. We invited the Office, the Workers and the Government of Turkey to continue their efforts in order to reach a common understanding, that would be acceptable to all parties.
The international and European Trade Union Confederations have decided not to participate, considering the lack of progress in addressing their demands to the host country of this international meeting, as regards freedom of association, non-discrimination in employment and remedy for dismissed workers.
I would like to be very clear. There is no future for decent work without respect, in law and practice, for fundamental rights at work and rule of law, as enshrined in the ILO Conventions and the European Human Rights Convention.
Before coming to the substance of our discussion, I would therefore call our host country to take concrete actions for the 120.000 dismissed or suspended Turkish workers, such as effective and speedy appeal procedures and with possibility for reinstatement. To end arrests and other prejudicial acts against workers based on trade union membership, and to guarantee freedom of expression.
We need to restore the conditions for a peaceful and productive dialogue to take place, both at national level and in international meetings. And we hope that Turkey will reverse the current trend with positive and tangible developments.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Ten years since the crisis struck, European economy is bouncing back. This gives us a window of opportunity to look beyond urgencies at the way to shape our future.
The ILO future of work initiative has attracted a lot of interest in our region. Many of our Member States have organised National Dialogues to reflect on long-term changes in the world of work and the design of appropriate policy orientations. Conferences, hearings, research workshops and other activities have also taken place at European level.
It is good that, after this blooming first stage, that we reflect together on the main lessons we draw for the region. With the agenda of the G7, the G20 and the OECD also looking at the future of work and with the ILO Global Commission on the Future of Work starting its work now, the timing of our reflection is perfect.
The EU attaches great importance to the future of work. The sustainability and inclusiveness of our economies and societies will depend on it.
This importance is reflected in the EU initiative for the European Pillar of Social Rights, which aims to provide a citizen-oriented response to shape the future of work, addressing access to the labour market and equal opportunities, working conditions and modern social protection. This initiative is well documented in the report.
The Social Pillar is a political commitment to deliver on a more social and a fairer Europe. It is designed as a compass for a renewed process of upward convergence towards better working and living conditions in Europe.
In building this initiative, we have benefited from the work done at international level and the important contribution of the ILO.
It is only fair that this initiative in turn contributes to the ILO work.
Employment and social protection are obvious aspects addresses when shaping the future of work. But let me take two other aspects the report identifies as challenges in the region and that in our view deserve more attention: fundamental rights and social dialogue.
On fundamental rights: I recall that there cannot be any sustainable future without respecting fundamental rights. As does your report, Director-General, we welcome that Europe is the only region that achieved universal ratification of the ILO fundamental conventions.
But yet, effective application needs also to follow and regression should by all means be avoided. This battle is far from being won.
On social dialogue: it is key for the integration of different interests in an ever more complex world of work. Initiatives have been taken on social dialogue in the EU. The EU has also been working with the ILO for many years to promote social dialogue, build capacity and undertake research in the region.
Yet the challenges are quite high in this area. We think that more efforts need to be done for social dialogue to give its full potential.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
For the European Union, the ILO regional meeting is important.
It is the meeting of a key international organisation –the ILO- for our region.
We support the work of the ILO.
This holds true in the promotion of decent work, in our region and beyond.
This holds also true financially, with the EU being the first donor to ILO since the Oslo regional meeting, as the report recalls, even without counting the contribution from individual EU Member States.
Let us address present challenges and step up our joint efforts for shaping the future of work in Europe.