Throughout the years the European Commission (EC) and the ILO have progressively intensified their cooperation. This ILO-EC cooperation dates from 1958 and was set up immediately following the establishment of the European Economic Community. The partnership between the two institutions continuously enlarged, keeping pace with the evolution of the responsibilities, policies and activities of the EC, the emergence of the EU as a global player and the convergence of the strategic objectives and values of the EU and the ILO.
In 2001, a formal exchange of letters between the ILO Director-General and the EU Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs renewed the cooperation. It was agreed that, as from 2002, annual high-level ILO-EC meetings were to be held.
In 2003 the ILO adhered to a financial and administrative framework agreement (FAFA) governing financial and administrative matters between the United Nations and the EC. In 2004 the ILO and the EU signed a strategic partnership concerning development cooperation. The EU is a major global player in international development assistance. The executive arm of the EU, the EC, is divided into several Directorate-Generals (DG) responsible for the different dimensions of the EU's development programs. Among the different DG's, the ILO-Brussels Office has close contacts with those that have areas of common interest with the ILO, such as:
- DG for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities (DG Employment): has the task of contributing to the development of a modern, innovative and sustainable European Social Model with more and better jobs in an inclusive society based on equal opportunities.
- DG for Development and Cooperation - EuropeAid (DG DevCo): is responsible for designing EU development policies and delivering aid through programmes and projects across the world. It incorporates the former Development and EuropeAid DGs.
- DG for Enlargement (DG Enlargement) is responsible for assistance to candidate countries in the process of negotiating future EU membership - particularly Turkey and most Balkan countries.
- The ILO also collaborates on an occasional basis with other DG's such as Trade (in such areas as promotion of ILO labour standards and decent work in international trade), Home Affairs (in various areas such as migration), Environment (greening the economy), Health and Consumers, Transport, Justice, the European External Action Service and Economic and Financial Affairs (economic governance).
Europe 2020 is the EU's growth strategy for the coming decade, designed by the EC. In a changing world, the EC wants the EU to become a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy. These three mutually reinforcing priorities should help the EU and the Member States deliver high levels of employment, productivity and social cohesion.
The EC proposed a set of five ambitious objectives - on employment, innovation, education, social inclusion and climate/energy - to be reached by 2020. Each Member State adopts its own national targets in each of these areas. Concrete actions at EU and national levels underpin the strategy. These objectives are backed up by concrete proposals to make sure they are delivered. To catalyse progress under each priority theme, the EC initiated seven flagship initiatives, from which three deal with employment:
- “An agenda for new skills and jobs”: to modernize labour markets and empower people by developing their of skills throughout the lifecycle with a view to increase labour participation and better match labour supply and demand, including through labour mobility.
- “European platform against poverty”: to ensure social and territorial cohesion such that the benefits of growth and jobs are widely shared and people experiencing poverty and social exclusion are enabled to live in dignity and take an active part in society.
- “Youth on the move”: to enhance the performance of education systems and to facilitate the entry of young people to the labour market.
These flagship initiatives commit both the EU and the Member States and require a coordinated European response, including with social partners and civil society. EU-level instruments, notably the single market, financial levers and external policy tools, are fully mobilized to tackle bottlenecks and deliver the Europe 2020 goals. As an immediate priority, the Commission charts what needs to be done to define a credible exit strategy, to pursue the reform of the financial system, to ensure budgetary consolidation for long-term growth, and to strengthen coordination within the Economic and Monetary Union.