[Excerpt] The sixteenth edition of the Employment in Europe appears just after the European Union's enlargement to twenty-five Member States in May 2004. This unprecedented enlargement is a milestone in the history of European integration and has led to a united European continent sharing common values, fostering economic growth and social cohesion and strengthening Europe's role in a globalised world.
The most fundamental objective of the European Union, however, remains unchanged: to help raise the living standards and the quality of life of its citizens. This implies improving the growth performance of the EU economy on a sustainable basis; pursuing the way back to full employment in Europe; enhancing productivity and quality in work ("better jobs"); and fostering social cohesion and inclusion.
Achieving full employment and reinforcing social cohesion will largely depend on an appropriate macroeconomic policy-mix and on effective employment and social policies. First, an appropriate policy setting would ensure high levels of business and consumer confidence and thus help maintain buoyant demand levels throughout the economic cycle. Second, effective employment and social policies are key to reducing poverty, social exclusion and regional imbalances, in turn helping to manage properly the social consequences of economic change.
The parallel development of economic and social prosperity is central to the European Social Model. In its diverse forms in the Union, the model has played a crucial role in helping to lift productivity and living standards across Europe. It has also helped to ensure that the benefits are widely shared, recognising that we cannot make our economies stronger by making sections of society poorer.
Against this background, the current report shows that the EU25 is potentially well placed to take advantage of the opportunities provided by enlargement. Following the economic slowdown of recent years, the report also documents some encouraging signs of a global economic recovery which may eventually help put Europe back on track towards the ambitious Lisbon objective for the EU “to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion”.