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European Union Seeks New Solutions to New Challenges

Despite dark clouds of economic crisis looming over the European Union (EU) one can confidently say that hopes are kept as high as they were at the time of its inception.  On 9 May 1950, Robert Schuman, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs put forward proposals based on the ideas of Jean Monnet. He proposed that France and the Federal Republic of Germany pool their coal and steel resources in a new organisation which later other European countries joined. In 1951, the European Coal and Steal Community was formally established with the Treaty of Paris by France, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

Tackling the jobs crisis

Recently the European Commission launched Your first EURES jobs a pilot project to help young people, aged 18-30  to find a job in another EU country . The aim of the project is to improve cross-border mobility by helping some 5, 000 people to fill job vacancies throughout the EU as sales, financial services, housekeeping and restaurant services workers. The EU ensures that young people receive options in employment, continuing education, an apprenticeship or a traineeship after leaving a school without having achieved upper secondary education.

The EU also stretches its rights-based approach to external affairs in fields of employment, social affairs and inclusion. In 2010, the EU adopted a strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth by 2020. It acknowledges that the current economic hardship cannot be addressed without connecting to the rest of the world. It is open to learn from other countries through exchanging good practices, promoting sustainable development through partnership, cooperation and trade agreements and funding.

The 5+5 Mediterranean Community

The EU is interested in creating a sense of community. Through ongoing efforts and cooperative models it can materialise at a global level. The European Commission has the mandate to negotiate trade agreements with third countries. Trade agreements can have positive impacts on employment in terms of gender equality and labour standards. The EU stands for an economic performance combined with a society which strives for equality, fights poverty and ensures labour and social rights. There is growing awareness of the need to include social partners within the context of global economic processes.

The economic partnerships are not only growth oriented but seek to improve the youth employment situation by seeing more children going to school, young women staying longer in the school system and setting up their own businesses.

All EU member states are engaging in several similar initiatives. For instance, on 5 and 6 October 2012, “5+5 Dialogue” was hosted by Malta. The initiative of this regional grouping was first proposed by France in the 1980s and then was officially set up on 10 October 1990 in Rome. The initiative revolves around 10 countries in the West Mediterranean sea: Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya on the southern rim and  Portugal, Spain, France, Italy and Malta on the European side. This regional initiative was established to create a propitious framework for dialogue and cooperation amongst member countries to tackle issues as security and stability, economical integration and regional migration. This year the first week of October brought leaders from France, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Malta face-to-face with their counterparts from Mauritania, Tunisia, Libya, Algeria and Morocco. It was an opportunity to address the wave of democratic reform occurring across the Arab world. Malta’s Prime Minister Dr. Lawrence Gonzi said the major point of the Malta Declaration was a common commitment to the democratic development of the region. He stressed, “We are heads of government, but we represent people, and the human dimension, the human reality was always present in our discussions.”

Since the world is facing new challenges, for which new solutions and new modus operandi are required. Cooperation instead of competition, in economy, security and environment challenges, between countries of different regions of the world is encouraged.

An ageing Europe

One of the new challenges the world is facing is the increase in ageing population. In 2050, one in five people will be aged 60 years or more. In 2010-2015 the life expectancy is 78 years in developed countries and 68 years in developing regions. Instead of seeing it as a problem, it must be taken as an opportunity for our common future, which calls for new approaches to the way societies, workforces and social intergenerational relations are structured. Initiatives like 5+5 must be encouraged in all regions of the world to bring countries’ leaders face to face to identify common challenges, to be followed by cooperative means to address them in the spirit of sustainable co-development. The only way forward is through cooperation, developed through dialogue and negotiations.

“Action and reaction, ebb and flow, trial and error, change – this is the rhythm of living. Out of our over-confidence, fear; out of our fear, clearer vision, fresh hope. And out of hope, progress.” Bruce Barton

5+5 Dialogue-Malta Summit (Photo: DOI Omar Camilleri)

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About The Author(s)

Nighat J Urpani

Nighat J Urpani

Nighat is a spokesperson for the Malta Green Party on global development and occasionally writes for local papers. She also acts as president for the Ceratonia Foundation - the cultural wing of the Green Party, who works in collaboration with the Green European Foundation (GEF) situated in Brussels. Her academic background is in Anthropology, and she has obtained two post-grad degrees in European Studies and Diplomatic Studies.

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