INTERVIEW WITH LASZLO ANDOR, COMMISSIONER FOR EMPLOYMENT, SOCIAL AFFAIRS AND INCLUSION : ACTIVATION OF YOUNG AND OLDER PEOPLE A PRIORITY.

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Pensions, employment and economic migration: Commissioner Laszlo Andor has a heavy agenda for the start of 2012. With the unprecedented economic crisis and the ageing of the population, the priority of the commissioner with responsibility for employment and social affairs is to help young and older people stay active and participate in society more and longer. On 18-19 January, he inaugurated the European Year of Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations in Copenhagen, Denmark. The commissioner talked to Europolitics social on that occasion, reviewing future initiatives on ageing.

How does the European Commission plan to contribute to the objectives of the European year 2012?

We have a twofold objective: on the one hand, we wish to increase citizens' awareness of the challenge of ageing, and on the other to help member states and the institutions develop their policies in this area. The European population as a whole is increasingly older. Different approaches exist and we wish to disseminate good practices and support them where necessary. The European Social Fund (ESF) can contribute to these aims by providing financial support for actions to promote lifelong learning or digital inclusion, for example. The European Union will also organise a number of events during this half-year: several conferences on ageing, an event in schools to promote solidarity between generations and so on. It will also propose common principles on active ageing before the end of 2012. We are going to do as much as we can with the available budget.

There is not much talk about solidarity between generations. Why? What does this term imply?

It's a fact that the Danish EU Presidency has chosen to give emphasis to active ageing. But Cyprus, which will take over the Presidency from Denmark at mid-year, has already announced that it plans to focus on solidarity between generations. [ ] In Europe, we need solidarity in many areas. And I am referring above all to finances. We have been in crisis for too long and one of the reasons is that member states have moved apart from each other rather then developing closer ties. Too much emphasis has been put on austerity rather than adopting a balanced approach that combines budget discipline and elements to promote solidarity, cohesion and economic growth. The Commission represents this balanced approach and will continue to defend it during the European semester.

The white paper on the future of pensions is far behind...

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