Wednesday 27 April 2011

Sharing informal EU Council meetings (Employment)

Let us look at how informal meetings of the EU Council inform and enlighten citizens, choosing the first example offered this year by the Hungarian presidency and relevant to the competitiveness challenges important to us all. This leads us to the nourishing gathering of employment ministers, relevant in the context of the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth (EU2020).


Beyond the official Council conclusions reflected on the Consilium website, we noted the informal Council meetings arranged by the presidencies of the Council of the European Union.

The Hungarian presidency programme acted as a GPS navigation device (Wikipedia) offering a clear picture of the main roads and destinations regarding EU efforts to improve competitiveness.

Rereading the first priority of the Strategic framework of the presidency programme 'Growth, jobs and social inclusion' offered me a general roadmap. The following sections of the Operational programme gave more detail about the main challenges for the different Council configurations with regard to European competitiveness: 5. Transport, Telecommunications and Energy (TTE; from page 32), 6. Competitiveness (COMP; from page 37) and 7. Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs (EPSCO; from page 41).

HU news and events

If we want to follow the most recent activities, we can study the homepage of the Hungarian presidency, or we can move on to News and events, where we find press releases ordered chronologically, with the events of today on top.

HU presidency calendar

This time we are interested in information and materials regarding informal meetings of the three Council formations most directly concerned with competitiveness challenges (EU2020): TTE, COMP and EPSCO.

With these limitations, through the Hungarian presidency calendar January – June 2011 we find three relevant informal Council meetings and one just around the corner:

16-18 January EPSCO (employment)
7-8 February TTE (transport)
11-13 April COMP (research and development; industry)
2-3 May TTE (energy)

Nowadays, the formal Council meetings are arranged in Brussels or Luxembourg, but the informal meetings offer the rotating presidencies opportunities to act as hosts to ministers, officials and journalists, as well as to make the presidency visible to the home crowd.

Employment ministers

I decided to look for information based on the specific dates of the informal Council gatherings. There must be more to life than meetings, so the item to turn up on top 'Gala dinner at the Museum of Fine Arts', shared the culinary delights on 17 January 2011 with us EU citizens, in detail equal to an EU legislative act.

If you scroll deep enough, you find that the ministers and state secretaries for Employment were going to discuss in the framework of two workshops: youth employment, and employment friendly growth-recovery and more and better jobs.

We are able to share in on one related document: the Menu of the gala dinner.

After the event, we find the press release 'EU ministers discuss employment in Gödöllö', much less detailed than the culinary exposition.

The summary offered some generalities about the Europe 2020 goal of raising the employment level to 75 per cent, the Commission's flagship initiative Youth in Motion, contributions by the other members of the presidency trio, the use of the European Social Fund (ESF) and other structural funds to improve employment, as well as discussions with the social partners and non-governmental organisations.

The menu excepted, I found no illuminating documents, with a bearing on the workshops or employment issues generally, shared through the web pages of the informal meeting of employment ministers.

Those who remember the Hungarian media law wonder if this is balanced enough reporting.

Ralf Grahn

P.S. Joe Litobarski has littered his basket with comments about blogging versus Facebook, opening and shutting down his new Facebook comment system within a few hours due to critical comments. Interesting questions for all and sundry.

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