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Europe — Language barriers and bureaucracy delay globalisation aid paid to the unemployed

15 July 2010

The European Parliament's Budgets Committee claims in a review of the European Union (EU) Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) that the EU institutions could halve the time they take to give financial aid to workers who have lost their jobs as a result of globalisation or the financial crisis. It also urges the Commission to find out why the sums requested by Member States vary so much and why some countries often apply for aid while others never do.

Between when it was set up in December 2006 and April this year, the EGF has supported nearly 37,000 workers who had lost their jobs in 17 different EU countries. The aid has consisted of measures such as training, job coaching and support to start their own businesses.

The added value of the EGF is that it "provides a visible, specific, targeted and temporary financial support for personalised programmes for the re-skilling and re-integration into employment of workers affected by collective redundancies in sectors or regions undergoing severe economic and social disruption" say Members of the European Parliament (MEP).

However, the period between the notice of workers and the payment of EU funds is far too long. At the moment, there are on average more than nine months between the day a Member State applies for help and the day the payment is made.

The Budgets Committee believes this period could be halved if some routines were changed. For example, Member States could apply as soon as they learn about redundancies and send their applications not only in their national language but also in one of the Commission's working languages, thus avoiding the translation delay.

The Commission should have enough staff to deal with the applications and the payments and it should time its proposals better to chime with Parliament's calendar of meetings. Parliament must do everything to speed up the process on its side.

MEPs note that there are large differences between countries applying for aid, both regarding the frequency with which they apply and the amounts they ask for. The five Member States that requested the highest contributions (France, Italy, Spain, Ireland and Germany) accounted for around 70% of the total appropriations requested, while the five Member States that requested the lowest contributions (Czech Republic, Poland, Malta, Finland and Lithuania) accounted for some 2%. Ten Member States have not yet wished or been able to make use of the EGF.

The amounts requested per worker also vary sharply, from 511 Euro (former Unilever workers in the Czech Republic) to 22,031 Euro (former car workers in Austria).
MEPs therefore call on the Commission to look into the reasons for these differences and the success of the fund by next summer. They also ask the Commission to consider making the EGF permanent.

Lastly, the Budgets Committee welcomes that the Commission, for the first time, has proposed a budget line of its own for the EGF in 2011. Thus, the fund will not receive money at the expense of other EU funds.



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