I would like to focus on the investments and actions that need to be taken to secure the future of all. Let's look beyond the crisis, and let's try to build the best package for securing sustainable growth in Europe and all over the world.
Yesterday's and today's discussions prompt some interesting conclusions, which we can use as the starting point for action.
Crisis or not, we are now working in an open trading area, and in a globalised world. Europe will not build a sustainable society that is prosperous in the long term without the rest of the world. We need to share the same objectives even if we don't use the same tools.
As an open globalised economy we must TOGETHER identify and share good practices. It is in all our interests.
The role of entrepreneurs in channelling such investment for economic recovery is key to ensuring a competitive and dynamic economy. To make sure that this renewed economy is sustainable in the future, we must invest in education in entrepreneurship.
Business associations, trade-union confederations, international development agencies, the World Bank, ILO, OECD, NGOs, and the vast majority of you here today support the promotion of entrepreneurship as a key tool for growth, development, poverty alleviation and social inclusion. Now we need to find new ways of sustainable entrepreneurship as a key driver for growth to keep our countries competitive.
And the recognition of skills and competences through entrepreneurship is one mechanism for solving problems and building on new ideas.
Entrepreneurs have become even more important as providers of employment opportunities and key players for the wellbeing of local and regional communities. The EU has firmly placed the needs of SMEs at the heart of its activities, and has achieved positive results.
Let's look towards the future: to make sure that our future societies become sustainable for all, what do we need to develop? We need to invest in education in entrepreneurship.
Primary, secondary and higher education should all provide a better basis for acquiring the skills and ability to develop independence and an entrepreneurial spirit at a later stage.
Entrepreneurship training programmes play a crucial role in encouraging young people to consider self-employment as a future career option.
Vocational secondary and higher education are also very important. One solution is to develop practical and timely contacts between schools, businesses, government, the relevant authorities and the local community. Education authorities and entrepreneurs should cooperate to develop the best education possible. Employers and employees should be visible and play an appropriate role in education. In my view, this still requires a real commitment from leaders.
Teachers need innovative styles and experimental learning techniques to deliver to students competences and technologies which reflect globalisation. In the EESC's view, partnership with employers, trade unions and NGOs to support knowledge transfer is vital here.
Third conclusion of this conference:
We must focus on untapped human capital. This mainly means young people, women, older workers, migrants and other vulnerable groups.
Every person is talented, with creativity and an entrepreneurial spirit.
The focus on the individual, taking diversity into account, is essential. Exclusion and discrimination are a vicious downward spiral that exacerbates inequality of opportunity: the less people's potential is fulfilled, the less motivated they are to achieve. Today, a diverse approach can offer new ways of addressing the high number of unskilled and unemployed people. It can also help create opportunities for a larger number of people irrespective of age, gender, race, abilities or social conditions.
One of the three themes of this conference has been women's entrepreneurship: today you have discussed entrepreneurship from a gender perspective in the EU and in the Euromed region.
We must promote women's entrepreneurship. It is key for democracy. This is the fourth conclusion of this conference.
Women-owned businesses are crucial for the health of the European economy.
Despite encouraging progress, the EU still needs to take further significant measures to release the full potential of enterprises and especially SMEs owned by women.
There is a continuing gender gap in terms of entrepreneurship, which translates into fewer women entrepreneurs. Today women make up only 30% of Europe's entrepreneurs. This adds to the unexploited potential for economic growth.
In 2012, the role of women-owned businesses is more important than ever: there are women-owned businesses operating across Europe and neighbouring regions such as Euromed, in every sector, and their role in growing the economy, and creating and sustaining new jobs, is crucial to recovery and growth.
A number of other initiatives have been discussed today, and they should serve as examples of good practice and transfer of knowledge between the EU and the ETF partner countries.
I will conclude now by inviting you to share these conclusions with others when you get back home. I also invite you to come back to the EESC and discuss the progress made, with the ETF and the EESC.
The ETF is leading some very concrete and delivery-oriented actions. They are doing excellent work on behalf of the European Union. Let's support them by reporting regularly on the needs, on the opportunities, on the good practices. The EESC is a great supporter of the ETF, and will be honoured and happy to welcome all of you again soon.