Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2006-03-23-Speech-4-037"

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". Mr President, in the words of Commissioner Špidla, demographic change is not only a topical issue, but also one of the biggest challenges facing Europe today. That is why the report from Philip Bushill-Matthews is both timely and highly relevant. The problem with politicians nowadays is that we only think in five-year time frames. It is not seen as politically expedient to deal with matters that will have a dramatic impact on our lives ten or twenty years down the line. Indeed, in the past few months I have been chairing a PPE-DE working group dealing with specific aspects of demographic change. We have come up with some fairly useful conclusions on the issue. First of all, in the field of demography and the family, Europe should not resign itself to a decline in its population. Improving the overall situation for children and for young people and enhancing the compatibility of work and family life for men and women, combined with tax incentives, could have a significant impact on birth rates. Secondly, it is clear that more choice and flexibility in the labour market is needed in Europe. In this respect we should enhance the participation in the workforce of women, young people and older people, by providing new opportunities through, for instance, flexibility of working hours, the promotion of part-time jobs and autonomous work. The education systems need to be reformed in order to increase the efficiency and pace of higher education, thus enabling an earlier entry into working life. Thirdly, skilled workers from third countries should be attracted, but according to our working group, we should not consider immigration as a single solution to Europe’s future demographic and labour market problems. Immigrants have to possess talents and skills that Europe is short of and must be prepared to integrate themselves into our societies and accept our common values. In order to be able to face the challenge of demographic change and sustain an ever-changing society, we need to ensure the determined implementation of the Lisbon Agenda. The status quo is not an option. To develop and thrive, Europe needs – to use one of Mr Barroso’s buzz words – ‘flexicurity’ and innovation. Security and flexibility of the labour market will enable us to respond to the challenges of globalisation. To achieve this we need to reform our pension systems and concentrate on growth and jobs by introducing innovative measures to support the birth rate and by a judicious use of immigration. Only through innovation, through re-inventing ourselves, can we be sure that the challenge of demographic change will become tomorrow’s opportunity for growth."@en1

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