Janez Cigler Kralj
Minister of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities of the Republic of Slovenia
It has been said before: Europe is one of the best places to live and work. Putting people and their well-being at the forefront of endeavours has been, is and will be our common objective. European women and men are an incredible force of progress and with our policies we aim to meet their needs from the earliest stages of their lives. Any policy in the future should always take into account the well-being of people.
Unfortunately, Europe is facing unprecedented and unexpected challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Our responsibility has become even greater. We are all mandated to act in order to limit the consequences of the virus and guarantee that nobody is left behind in these difficult times. This has been our commitment before and it will remain for the time to come.
The European Pillar of Social Rights will stay our compass, gaining even more importance than before. While most challenges remain unchanged, some are becoming more visible and even more pressing. While we should not lose sight of already identified challenges, we should especially concentrate on those that guarantee a decent life and work for all in an uncertain future.
The European Union has chosen its priorities for the so-called twin transition: stronger efforts towards climate neutrality and digitalisation. Our industry and companies – big and small – will have to adapt to these new realities on top of coping with the consequences of the pandemic. We will have to be smart; our work force will have to keep up with the changes. We should not lose time, but plan our future on solid ground instead.
First, we have to help our economy and workers to progressively regain activity after the pandemic. Solidarity and mutual understanding are the key words. Every moment spent for discussion on common and specific problems of the Member States and finding fair solutions is a moment well invested.
Second, and even more important, we should guarantee better skills as well as healthier and safer working environments for all workers. Decent work should be the focus of our actions. We should not forget the most vulnerable in the labour market. We will put a particular emphasis on the older workers, whose adaptability to new circumstances could be the hardest to guarantee. Improving the accessibility of work places for persons with disabilities should remain our priority.
The Covid-19 pandemic showed that our social protection and social security systems work, but we can further improve them. There are individual cases when our safety net does not hold. We have understood this before, however, addressing this challenge in the future proves to be as important as ever. We are looking forward to future discussions that will lead to better understanding and acting on this issue. No worker should be in a worse position because of her or his employment status.
Tackling all the issues mentioned above will be constructive only in the environment of strong social partners. A strong social dialogue contributes to long-lasting and effective solutions, which take account and guarantee the compromise of all parties involved. Further, capacity and involvement of social partners have to be promoted.
Our social protection and inclusion systems should guarantee smart support to the most vulnerable, especially in times of crisis. Older persons, people with health problems or disabilities, victims of violence, ethnic minorities and homeless people should receive the attention and support they deserve. An enforced corporate responsibility and stronger social entrepreneurship could increase the visibility of these topics.
Despite the difficult times our citizens and economy are facing, we should not put aside our efforts to continue achieving gender equality in all aspects of life. We are given an excellent chance to replace old practices and provide equal opportunities for everyone in society. We are already aware of the impact of increased participation of women in the labour market. Every measure contributing to this goal should be supported and implemented further.
„Our social protection and inclusion systems should guarantee smart support to the most vulnerable, especially in times of crisis. “
Children and the youth are the driving force of our future. Therefore, we should concentrate our efforts on finding positive messages and measures that will support every child’s development and give additional strength to young people to fully contribute to our society.
Past and current circumstances emphasise challenges that we have been discussing for some time. Some of them are becoming very clear. Now, we have the opportunity to find good common solutions to come out of the crisis stronger, and especially stronger together.
I am convinced that the Trio Presidency of Germany, Portugal and Slovenia will contribute to this goal. The sailing might not always be smooth, but the ship will certainly be under reliable and efficient command. All welcome aboard!