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Modernising Europe to Meet the Challenges of Globalisation and Ageing

Press Release, European Union Office Brussels

European Union

October 20, 2005

Europe must reform and modernise its policies to preserve its values. Modernisation is essential to continue keep Europe's historically high levels of prosperity, social cohesion, environmental protection and quality of life. The European Commission's Report 'European Values in a Globalised World', its contribution to the Informal Summit of Heads of State and Government on 27 October in the UK states that unless we are able to change, the forces of global competition, the impact of new technologies and our ageing population will call our economic success and the financial viability of our social systems - pensions, welfare, health -into question. There is an urgent need to move ahead with economic reforms and the modernisation of our social systems.

"Status quo is not an option", said European Commission President, Josť Manuel Barroso. "This is about the kind of Europe we want our children to live in and how we pay for it. We can achieve a Europe which meets our citizen's expectations and values, such as social justice and quality of life. Acting together at European level, we can give Europe a future. Action and delivery on modernisation promises must be the watchwords."

The European Commission's report, sent today to European leaders, analyses the scale of the challenges faced by the European Union. Instead of a single social model across the Union, Europeans benefit from different national systems, reflecting their traditions and preferences. These systems nevertheless build on common European values. The report recognises that Europe's success will only be secured if Member States modernise pensions, healthcare and education systems. 

These must ensure that European citizens are better equipped to deal with the impact that new technologies and globalisation have on their lives. No Member State has all the answers, but some have been more successful than others in bringing down unemployment, while maintaining high standards of social protection. Member States can learn from each as they adapt these systems to future financial challenges and to the way in which society, from the world of work to family structures, has changed. The European Commission's Report considers current policies have not yet delivered social justice for everyone. More must be done to tackle 19 million unemployed, continuing child poverty and growing differences in living standards. 

Globalisation is not new. But the speed at which it is now happening is extraordinary. While it raises anxieties, we must remember that globalisation is driven by the wish of billions of people to create a better life for themselves and their families. Under current trends the population of the current European Union will be both smaller and older in 2050 by which time there may be 48 million fewer 15-64 year olds and 58 million more people over 65.

The Report identifies ways in which the Union, working together at EU and national level can respond; a new commitment to delivering promised reforms, new steps at national level to tackle globalisation such as the creation of a globalisation adjustment fund, and new ways to reinforce a partnership for change with the Member States in areas like energy, research - from stronger economic policy co-ordination to giving people the skills and training needed in a knowledge-economy. Next week's Informal Summit is an ideal platform to build consensus, to acknowledge common interests, to learn from successes and failures and to create a combined and coherent strategy.

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