Greece and the European Commission yesterday reached an important political agreement on a program designed to improved labor training and boost employment which will be funded with -2.26 billion in the 2007-2013 period. Speaking at a press briefing after the completion of a hard round of negotiations, Labor Minister Vassilis Magginas and EU Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs Vladimir Spidla unveiled two of the most difficult chapters of the agreement, concerning the transition of the government’s Manpower Organization (OAED). The first chapter concerns the splitting off of OAED’s Employment Monitor and Vocational Agency from the organization and their placement under the direct responsibility of the Labor Ministry. The second chapter concerns the gradual shedding of OAED’s current exclusive right for job placements to other public or private agencies. «OAED undertakes the obligation, under certain terms and conditions, to assign contracts of active employment policies to other agencies. These include local government, educational institutions, non-governmental organizations and agencies of the private sector at large,» said Magginas. The Labor Ministry committed itself to increasing the percentage of long-term unemployed who benefit from active policies to 25 percent, and that of jobless from vulnerable social groups to 15 percent. Magginas found himself under pressure from two fronts, the ruling New Democracy’s party’s establishment, which urged a postponement of the agreement, and the Brussels officials, who have not made a secret of their suspicion regarding the Greek government’s promises to modernize OAED, which will remain the strategic operator in employment issues. Spidla noted delays on the part of the government in developing the labor market and that «the level of employment remains low.» Speaking after a meeting with Economy Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis earlier, Spidla said the two sides agreed on the diagnosis of certain problems in the labor market but had to look into them in depth. «Greece’s growth and progress is wonderful, all macroeconomic indicators are in very good condition. However, there are certain issues concerning the labor market which we must discuss at some point. I am not saying that the problems in the labor market will arise next week but there are some structural problems which must be faced,» he said.