102nd International Labour Conference

Introductory remarks by ILO Director-General for the visit of Mr Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council

Statement | Geneva, Switzerland | 14 June 2013

Mr Van Rompuy, it is a great honour to welcome the first ever permanent President of the European Council, for the first time to address the International Labour Conference.

Your presence here at the 102th Session of this Conference is highly appreciated. The hall looks forward to hearing your views and your vision, speaking on behalf of our partner, the European Union. Your Member States are our Member States. Over the years the ILO has developed multiple forms of cooperation with the institutions of the European Union. The EU has strongly supported ILO efforts on the strengthening of the social dimension of globalization and the decent work agenda. And the ILO and EU co-operate within the EU itself; in the framework of the G20; in regional initiatives; in the UN system; and through technical cooperation to developing countries.

Mr President, I recall your words when we first met at the Jobs for Europe Conference in Brussels last year in September. In your opening speech at the Jobs Conference you said: “ I cannot think of a higher priority today. Europeans want jobs. As a source of income, obviously. But also as a place in society. A job is not just about money. It can be a means to use our talent and capacities, to create value for others, to fulfil the projects and dreams we all have for our lives.”

It sounds like a motto, a philosophy, a guiding principle of your activity that we highly value.

Mr President, in your person we can welcome a profound thinker, a successful politician and a dedicated European, a philosopher and an economist. In all these domains you have conveyed constructive messages as a writer and lecturer as well. But you are also a results oriented person.

During your long political career in Belgium, a founder country and still the home-country of the European Union ,as Belgian prime minister you cooperated actively with the social partners in designing and implementing concrete responses to the financial, economic and social crisis.

Chosen as the first permanent President of the European Council you have had the opportunity and the responsibility to shape this new function. The fact that you became President in a time when Europe is facing a serious and enduring crisis highlights even more the political vision, consistency, and negotiating abilities with which you approach your responsibilities.

We know that you put Jobs and Growth already on the agenda of the very first European Council that you chaired, back in February 2010.

And now, your proposals endorsed by last December’s European Council to develop a social dimension, including social dialogue, to a genuine economic and monetary union are very much appreciated. This issue touches upon the centrality of policy coherence between economic, financial, employment and social objectives. It goes to the heart of social and economic governance.

Recently we heard you say: “Especially in times of crisis, it is essential that the burden is fairly shared and that all citizens, all companies contribute to the common effort. It's a matter of social justice.”

From the ILO side let me assure you that we are ready to be partners to address the crisis, with an emphasis on decent work, promoting enterprises, good governance, investment and social justice. The ILO has recently made a clear commitment in our Oslo Declaration adopted at the ILO’s European Regional Meeting in April, to “Restoring confidence in Jobs and Growth” in a European context.

We share your worries also on the gravity of youth unemployment. And you have pushed hard to get endorsement by the European Council on a substantive Youth Employment Initiative. The future EU budget will support the EU Member states worst affected in implementing the new EU Youth Guarantee Scheme, so that every young person is either in training, further education or employment within four months of leaving school.

The ILO stands ready to support these efforts.

In a more global context let me highlight that you have eloquently stated on several occasions that the G20 should deliver a strong and credible message on growth and job creation, and on fair globalization.

Mr President, it is a great privilege to welcome you here. Once again, we look forward to listening to your vision on all these issues of burning common concern that we face today.