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[EN] An interview with Andriana Sukova, Deputy Director-General of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion
Hit by unemployment and bearing the brunt of the Covid-19 pandemic, young people are being paid particular attention by the European Union. Andriana Sukova provides an overview of the European measures to promote young people’s integration into the labour market.
In charge of preparing the ESF’s and FEAD’s policies and legislation for the 2014-2020 programming period, Andriana Sukova is Deputy Director-General of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion (DG EMPL). This European Commission department is in charge of the European Union’s policies on social affairs, employment and inclusion. It makes a concrete impact on citizens’ lives by facilitating their job searches and their moves to other Member States for work or to upgrade their professional skills.
An interview with Andriana Sukova
What are the main challenges identified by the Commission for young Europeans ?
Andriana Sukova: There are many challenges that young Europeans face nowadays, particularly in view of the tense situation on European soil. I’m thinking of the war in Ukraine and especially the pandemic, which has taken a serious toll on young people.. Many of them were employed in sectors strongly impacted by Covid-19, like healthcare and tourism. So, unemployment is still one of the biggest problems for young Europeans The health related restrictions that have been introduced in the last two years have had a huge impact on young people’s social lives and therefore their well-being, mental health and professional orientation. It’s essential to support them and give them every chance to bounce back.
How is the European Social Fund contributing to the Commission’s solutions to young Europeans’ concerns and difficulties ?
Andriana Sukova: Let me mention the European Pillar of Social Rights, announced five years ago. It defines 20 key principles and rights for a fairer and more inclusive EU. This means guaranteeing equal opportunities, access to the labour market, fair working conditions and promoting integration and social protection for all Europeans. The European Social Fund for 2021-2027 period has been fully linked to the principles of the Pillar and thus the ESF+ will directly contribute to its implementation and European citizens can benefit directly from this investment.
The ESF is the first fund created by the Commission and the European Union, in 1957. Since its creation, it has provided major support to the member states on employment, education and social integration.”
And this support is ongoing. For the 2021-2027 period, any member state with a higher youth unemployment rate than the EU average (14.9% in December 2021) must allocate to this sector 12.5% of its national ESF allowance.
The Youth Guarantee has been reinforced with the pandemic. What’s the outcome of this commitment ?
Andriana Sukova: Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, the European Commission has adopted a range of employment support measures in order to provide an individualised support to the most vulnerable. Our overall objective is to support young people in gaining work experience and developing the right skills for a changing world of work, in particular those relevant to the digital transitions. According to estimations, at least 90% of jobs will require very solid digital skills in the years to come. These digital skills will be crucial to young people’s future jobs.
During the 6th Cycle of Structured EU Dialogue, focusing on youth, 11 goals were adopted to help develop the 2019-2027 strategy. What can you say about these goals ?
Andriana Sukova: These 11 goals support the European Union’s development by meeting existing and future challenges. This strategy for youth aims to mobilize, connect and empower young people. For example, the Commission has launched ALMA (“Aim, Learn, Master, Achieve”). This initiative is aimed at underprivileged youths aged 15 to 29 who are not in education, employment or training (“NEETs”). ALMA will provide these young people with new career opportunities, along with advice and personalized follow-up. It will also offer young NEETs the possibility of a supervised work experience in another EU member state. The goal is simple: help them to enter the job market once they return to their country of origin.
France took over the presidency of the European Council in January 2022. Four months later, what you can say about France’s management ?
Andriana Sukova: Since taking the role of Presidency in January, France has been very active and highly engaged in the social and employment areas. I must sincerely thank my colleagues and all the French political leaders involved. We appreciate the priority that this presidency has made of certain topics that are very important - I’m thinking in particular of the draft legislation on adequate minimum wages or the discussions on an equitable transition to climate neutrality. Numerous events and meetings are being organized by the French presidency to put social issues and solidarity at the heart of our socioeconomic goals. And this involvement by the French presidency is also visible in the response to the war in Ukraine. The Commission proposals for amending the basic legislation to ensure support from cohesion funds for people fleeing Russia’s invasion in Ukraine, the CARE amendment, were adopted very quickly and entered into force in the middle of April. These amendments allow flexible use of any EU budget from the previous programming period to address the needs people fleeing the war in Ukraine.