The Netherlands holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union from 1 January to 30 June 2016 and has presented, together with the Slovak and Maltese Presidencies that will follow, the Council's work programme for the period to June 2017.

As stated on the Netherlands Presidency’s website homepage, ‘it wants a Union that focuses on the essentials, creates growth and jobs through innovation, and connects with civil society.’

The EU Presidency Trio states in its programme that ‘inclusive, smart and sustainable growth, jobs and competitiveness remain the top priority over the next 18 months.’

Elaborating, the programme talks about ‘creating new green jobs’ and ‘promoting a climate in which SMEs thrive’ resulting in ‘the potential for the Union to generate further growth and create jobs.’

Unemployment remains a major concern in most Member States. Therefore, ‘proposals which help tackle unemployment and which open up opportunities for European citizens will be a key priority.’ The area of youth, long-term and structural unemployment, is singled out for particular attention with the launch of new initiatives.

The three Presidencies ‘are determined to work together on the forthcoming Labour Mobility Package removing the remaining obstacles to EU mobility.’

A review of the youth guarantee implementation is among the priorities as is a proposal for a Council Recommendation on the integration of the long-term unemployed into the labour market.

Related priorities include investment in human capital, education and skills, performance and innovation, which are essential for a competitive knowledge-based economy, and rapid measures to modernise educational systems and facilitate training and jobs for young people as well as develop lifelong learning.

The Presidency Trio ‘will work on preserving Europe's social model in its various expressions.’ It will ‘focus on the role of inclusive high quality education for all in promoting social equity, social inclusion, citizenship and shared European values.’

A priority in this context will be the new Skills Agenda for Europe.

VET modernisation

The specific programme of the Netherlands EU Presidency states that a key focus of attention in the area of education is the moderni­sation of higher education and vocational education and training (VET).

It also announces that the new skills agenda ‘will promote investment in skills development so that workers are better equipped to deal with the changing labour market and society.’

The Netherlands Presidency promises to ‘address the mutual recognition of qualifications, which will support vocational training and higher education and help realise the full potential of digital jobs.’