ECONOMY

Greece opposes labor market deregulation

Prime Minister Costas Simitis told representatives of European trade unions yesterday that labor market flexibility, but not total deregulation, was the way to create more jobs, a goal which the European Union, he said, «has not even come close» to achieving. Speaking on the second and last day of the meeting of the Executive Committee of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), Simitis said that Greece, as the president of the EU for the current six-month period, was to push for the implementation of the goals set three years ago at the Lisbon spring summit and to incorporate the principles of social welfare and full employment into the European Constitutional Treaty currently being prepared by the European Convention. Simitis admitted that the EU has failed to approach the Lisbon goals on employment, noting that there are still 15 million jobs that need to be created. He emphasized the difficulties under the prevailing global economic slowdown, adding that what was needed in labor relations «is not their deregulation but how, through new regulations, we can ensure the necessary adaptability in order to boost enterprise competitiveness and employment.» Simitis argued that the Greek labor market is now more flexible than before. «We have taken measures regarding working hours and which accommodate both workers and enterprises. We are now planning to introduce part-time employment in the public sector,» he said. Former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres expressed the view that the current stagnation in growth in most of the eurozone countries could not only be explained by labor market inflexibility. «We read in the press that Germany’s labor market problems are due to inflexibility. But you cannot blame the slowdown on inflexibility. The root of the problem is Germany’s current mix of macroeconomic policies. It has low interest rates and a big budget deficit in conditions not conducive growth. At the same time, the expensive euro, compared to the US dollar, creates more problems, since its trade with the USA and other non-EU countries is much more important than for other member states,» he said. European Social Affairs Commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou criticized the proposal by British Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown to devolve decisions on regional aid to state level as «a step backward in European solidarity.»