Correspondent's Choice

Late on the morning of the third day of the European Economic and Social Committee conference in Florence, President Barroso arrived.

The previous two days of presentations and debate had been building recommendations to be handed to the European institutions. These recommendations will hopefully be used to provide guidance on how to structure a genuine European social policy. Since these recommendations aim to bring more people into the labour market, political process and civil society across the EU, we can only hope that they prove to be valuable.

Mario Sepi greets President Barroso in Florence
Mario Sepi greets President Barroso in Florence

Upon arrival, President Barroso was greeted by EESC President, Mario Sepi. Seemingly in a bid to escape the cameras and attention, they disappeared into a stairwell and towards the incredible art gallery of the Instituto degli Innocenti. This was hardly private time, but it did allow for a gentle stroll amongst their finest paintings.

In joining the conference proper, President Barroso gave a keynote address in French, bringing together his EU 2020 vision, education and the relationship with social exclusion. This was followed by a press conference in which he answered questions in Italian, French and English.

It seems clear from our interviews that the cost to Europe of not having a social policy is very heavy indeed and that progress needs to be made. It also seems clear that the financial crisis is taking a heavy toll on the potential progress that can be made. With the major EU institutions all receiving a copy of the report, and progress already underway in some areas of the recommendations, that progress can be achievable.

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