23 May 2006, Athens, Park Hotel
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like, first of all, to convey to you the warm greetings of the Minister for Development, Mr Dimitris Sioufas, who wishes you every success in the work of today’s Congress.
The next Programming Period (2007-2013) is the big, and perhaps the final, opportunity for our country to make up lost ground and remedy the misuse of European Union funds during the first years of implementation of the Third Community Support Framework. We believe that the success of the Government, and particularly of the Prime Minister, in securing more than €20 billion for Greece over the next seven years will deliver the expected results only if it is connected with the best possible planning of the new Sectoral and Regional Programmes.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Strengthening the competitiveness of our economy is essential for economic growth, for social cohesion, and for the creation of more and better jobs.
The objectives of the Lisbon Strategy, both before and after its review, include the creation of a business-friendly environment, the strengthening of education and training, and the creation of more and better jobs.
Indeed, according to the European Commission communication “Common Actions for Growth and Employment: The Community Lisbon Programme”:
“If Europe is to achieve full employment, improve quality and productivity at work and strengthen social and territorial cohesion, it must attract and retain more people in employment […] and increase investment in human capital through better education and skills.”
It is clear that new conditions of competition demand modern procedures and new ways of dealing with problems both old and new. Specific abilities and characteristics are required. Constant alertness and the ability of businesses and employees to diagnose new needs, adapt to new conditions, and develop innovative products and services.
In dealing with the new conditions, an absolutely crucial role is played by the individual, who is nowadays the greatest comparative advantage.
A recent survey by Deutsche Bank into global trends concluded that human capital is the most crucial factor for a country’s economy. Indeed, its improvement is directly linked with increased GDP.
In the effort to improve the skills of the people of this country, the Operational Programme for Competitiveness, which I have the honour of administrating, is a useful tool.
Although the Actions co-financed by the European Social Fund make up a small part of the Programme budget (6%), they make an essential contribution to the achievement of its aims.
The Operational Programme for Competitiveness thus incorporates Actions to improve human capital that contribute to increased employment, the promotion of an entrepreneurial spirit and equality of opportunity. Actions that aims to improve employee skills in the sectors of tourism, manufacturing, services, trade, and research and technology.
The main beneficiaries of the Programme’s Actions are small and medium-sized and very small enterprises, new entrepreneurs, employers, new researchers, and public sector employees and bodies.
The basic objectives of the Programme’s human capital Actions are:
- to restructure and improve travel and tourism education and training;
- to train managers of very small and small and medium-sized enterprises in the sectors of manufacturing, trade and services;
- to expand the country’s research resources by training new researchers and attracting researchers from abroad;
- to increase the number of researchers in the production sector, by placing them in businesses.
There have so far been more than 55,000 beneficiaries of Programme Actions co-financed by the Social Fund, of which 72% are located outside Attica. Furthermore, 39% of the beneficiaries are women.
In the same spirit, we are continuing with the planning of the 2007-2013 Programming Period, placing particular emphasis on boosting entrepreneurship and promoting innovation in the field of human resources.
Guided by the needs of the country and the EU’s strategic guidelines for the 2007-2013 Programming Period, which are:
- Making Europe an attractive place to invest and work.
- Improving knowledge and innovation for growth.
- Creating more and better jobs.
we are designing the new Operational Programme for Competitiveness, which aims to make the Greek economy, businesses and employees more competitive.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In the new international economic environment we are prioritising quality and specialist knowledge. Our response to globalisation and the new conditions of competition is outward-lookingness and innovation, quality and standardisation of products and services.
We are aiming to develop innovative, outward-looking businesses with their eye on foreign markets.
The faster Greek businesses turn to foreign markets and the faster they establish networks and acquire the size necessary for exports, the greater will be their efficiency, growth and benefits in the future.
Only with a fundamental improvement of human capital will Greek businesses be able to produce unique and identifiable products and services that respond to the needs of international markets.
We believe that today’s initiative, in view of the next Programming Period, will offer useful conclusions regarding the better planning of Actions policies aiming to improve the human capital and make optimum use of it in the new path of development that lies ahead.
Warm congratulations on your organisation of today’s Congress. Thank you for inviting me.
Thank you very much.