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8th ILO European Regional Meeting

European leaders, ILO Director-General and social partners discuss key policy responses to the financial and economic crisis

A group of top European leaders joined the ILO Director-General and representatives of the social partners met in Lisbon for a high-level discussion on comprehensive policy responses to the financial and economic crisis.

News | 12 February 2009

LISBON, 11 February – A group of top European leaders joined the ILO Director-General and representatives of the social partners here today for a high-level discussion on comprehensive policy responses to the financial and economic crisis.

The panel, which took place during the 8th European Regional Meeting of the ILO, analyzed a range of measures governments, workers and employers are adopting or could adopt to mitigate the negative impact of the crisis on employment, the labour market and social conditions and prepare for recovery.

The Moldovan Prime Minister, H.E. Ms. Zinaida Greceanii, referred to measures her country had introduced prior to the crisis, which are now helping to reduce its negative impacts. “We stimulated economic development, investment and we managed to create quite a few jobs. These measures are particularly important for our economy now. We have also set up a coordinating council to monitor the development of our financial sector.”

The discussion was chaired by ILO Director-General Juan Somavia, who highlighted the importance of finding a more balanced growth path for a sustainable recovery. “The current model of globalization has – for the past 30 years – reduced the percentage of wage participation in the national product. Now we find ourselves saying that we need to increase purchasing power. Maybe one of the conclusions we can draw from this crisis is that in the future wage participation in the GDP has to be greater than in the last 30 years. Social dialogue can help us see how we can do this”, said Mr. Somavia.

Czech Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra, whose country now holds the rotating Presidency of the European Union, emphasized the seriousness of the economic crisis but also stressed the need to avoid protectionist measures that could lead to a distortion of the European market. “It is important to resist temptation to increase protectionism, both inside and outside Europe… A coordinated approach is very important”, he said.

The Labour Minister of Luxembourg, Francois Biltgen, also referred to the need for coordinated action between countries: “We will not solve a global crisis by adopting piece-meal national solutions or by retreating behind protectionist barriers. Let’s not go back to the model of globalization we had before, because otherwise we will face the same problems we are facing now, but worse.”

The Portuguese Labour Minister and Chairman of the 8th Regional Meeting of the ILO, José Vieira da Silva, listed a series of measures to revert the negative impact of the crisis. “We need to respond to the lack of liquidity and credit in the economy. We also need to stimulate demand and investment, and protect jobs by using all available instruments, particularly social dialogue. But we shouldn’t forget that these investments and measures have to be compatible with reforms that will strengthen the potential for growth at the local, regional and global level.”

The President of the Portuguese Industrial Association – Business Confederation (AIP-CE), Mr. Jorge Rocha de Matos, said small and medium-sized companies required special attention during a time of crisis. He said it was crucial to strengthen the liquidity of the financial system and resist temptation to raise protectionist barriers. He also stressed the importance of promoting fundamental principles and rights at work, as well as the importance of corporate social responsibility and ethics in business.

Ms Anne Demelenne, General Secretary of the Belgian General Trade Union Confederation (FGTB), said measures were needed both at the local and European level. “What we really want to see is better coordination on, for example, wage policy. We also want more consultation between the social partners and improved and strengthened macroeconomic dialogue between social partners. The same is true for taxation.”