I speak on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.
The Candidate Countries Turkey, the Republic of North Macedonia*, Montenegro*, Serbia* and Albania*, and the EFTA country Norway, member of the European Economic Area, as well as the Republic of Moldova, Armenia, and Georgia align themselves with this statement.
At the outset, we would like to thank the Committee of Experts for the very well drafted report and its addendum. It provides a sound background for our discussions in this Committee and on the COVID-19 outcome document as well. Importantly, it will also provide a very useful reference for effective employment policies grounded in international labour standards.
We would also like to commend the input of constituents into this general survey, which underlines their commitment to ensure full, productive and freely chosen employment.
We look forward to an interesting and very timely discussion today, although we regret that due to the circumstances we only have three hours scheduled for this very important and broad subject area.
The world of work has changed significantly in the last decade since the last discussion on employment instruments. Due to environmental and social changes, and as a result of technological advancements, there are new opportunities and challenges that governments have to take into account when designing employment policies and in their efforts, together with social partners, to ensure and promote decent work for all.
In the last year, our labour markets have faced major upheaval, leaving hundreds of millions of people without income or with significantly reduced income, exacerbating poverty and widening inequalities. The COVID-19 crisis has shown the importance of comprehensive employment policies that ensure that those most vulnerable on the labour market are not left behind. This is our opportunity to build back better and we must seize it.
To this end, the European Union and its Member States are committed to a fair and just recovery from the crisis, which is reflected in our recovery plan, NextGenerationEU. Furthermore, we support these efforts globally as well, through the Team Europe Initiative. As of 1 January 2021, we have collected more than 40 billion euros to support our partner countries in dealing with the pandemic, including helping them rebound economically and promote decent work and full, productive and freely chosen employment.
EU Member States coordinate their economic and employment policies through the European Semester. The Annual Sustainable Growth Strategy sets out sustainability, productivity, fairness and macroeconomic stability as the guiding principles underpinning national recovery and resilience plans.
The ILO plays a unique, normative role in ensuring that economic growth goes hand-in-hand with decent work, and as such, should play a key, proactive role in addressing consequences of a changing world of work in line with the Centenary Declaration. The EU and its Member States continue to stand ready to support the ILO and effective multilateralism in employment and social policies.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the weak spots in our employment policies. People in the informal economy were in the front row of the socio-economic hardship as a result of the pandemic. Additional efforts are needed to foster the transition from the informal to the formal economy while also improving working conditions in the informal economy. It is also important to design inclusive employment policies, in consultation with social partners, and ensure labour protection for all, paying special attention to youth and women, as well as to vulnerable groups, such as migrant workers, workers from minorities, the low skilled and persons with disabilities.
 *The Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.