Danes to produce jobs plan for EC

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The Independent Online
THE DANISH presidency of the EC will table a new package to combat unemployment throughout Europe at the Copenhagen summit in June, Danish officials revealed last night. The proposal was the main topic in talks between John Major and the new Danish Prime Minister, Poul Nyrup Rasmussen.

'There is likely to be a paper on job-creation at Copenhagen,' said a Danish diplomat. He said it would include 'proposals on harmonising job-creation, also some investment'. Mr Rasmussen, on his first London visit since coming to power in January, said it was of 'fundamental interest' to create a policy to fight recession.

British officials, recognising the need for a visibly concerted international gesture on unemployment, said a package at Copenhagen was a far more likely option than the call by President Francois Mitterrand and Jacques Delors, the EC Commission President, for an extraordinary summit of the Group of Seven industrial countries. 'That idea is dead, although perhaps not buried, since the French are still talking about it,' a British diplomat said.

Although Britain and Denmark share grave difficulties in ratifying the Maastricht treaty, Mr Rasmussen, a Social Democrat, made it clear that battling unemployment was the key concern of his government, both nationally and as EC president. Ratification, he said, 'will be good for jobs . . . in Europe, which we all need'.

At the Edinburgh summit last December, the Twelve adopted an initiative on job growth but that is proving slow to take effect and more may be needed. Officials in Brussels and Copenhagen have been trying to build on the existing Edinburgh plan, most of the elements of which should be in place by June. As well as new EC funds to assist spending on infrastructure, the Edinburgh initiative included an important role for national programmes. It was partly modelled on plans outlined by the Chancellor, Norman Lamont, in last year's autumn statement.

New elements at Copenhagen are likely to include some investment programmes, perhaps targeted at inner cities as well as education and training, Danish officials say. Another priority is the co-ordination of economic recovery efforts. But it is still unclear if this will mean anything more substantial than a public relations effort to give the impression of coherent response rather than panic. It could entail greater co-ordination of economic policy, perhaps along the lines already sketched out in the Maastricht treaty. The third topic which the Copenhagen summit will have to address is how EC states can create new jobs without merely moving employment across the Community. Investment shifts by multinationals have led to bitter accusations of social dumping, a prime concern of the Danish presidency.

So far, officials have been loath to outline precise plans. This is partly because of the high expectations generated before Edinburgh which were not met in reality. It is also because the Danish presidency does not want to be seen to pre-empt national action at a time when sensitivity at the scope of the EC is already high.