Opening address at Social Summit for Fair Jobs and Growth

Opening address by Prime Minister Stefan Löfven at Social Summit for Fair Jobs and Growth, Gothenburg.

Check against delivery.

Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Friends,

It is my great pleasure to welcome you all to Sweden and the beautiful city of Gothenburg. This is a city with a long history of trade and seafaring. The port where we are right now dates back to the 17th century. And this building used to be a mechanical workshop, when Gothenburg was known around the world for its fine shipbuilding.

The working men and women of the time fought for decent wages, acceptable working conditions, and the right to paid annual leave.

The old docks have been transformed into a campus and a science park, where thousands of people today work, live and study.

What takes place here nowadays has very little to do with building ships. And the people going about their activities are doing so in an environment that would have been unimaginable in the shipbuilding days.

Our economies and the world of work have changed so profoundly. This means that the challenges we face have also changed, and that we need new solutions to manage them. That is what this Summit is about.

If we look around Europe, we can see how timely this Summit is. Europe has faced numerous challenges over the last decade. We have seen growing concerns among people and rising distrust in political solutions. It is time for us to put people first.

The European Union is nothing more and nothing less than our people. Addressing issues such as inequality, unemployment and unfair practices is not only morally right. It is also the smart thing to do. It will boost productivity and strengthen our economies. So let’s focus on two things at the same time: fair jobs and growth.

Let’s improve access to the labour market and get more people into work. Let’s ensure decent working conditions and put an end to unfair practices. Let’s better manage the forces of globalisation, so that change can be an opportunity, not a threat.

Most of the tools we need to achieve our goals are national. But support and coordination at European level can add tremendous value. That is why I am so very happy to welcome you all here today and to be co-hosting this Summit with President Jean-Claude Juncker. My friend Jean-Claude has made enormous efforts to put these issues higher on our agenda. But keeping fair jobs and growth at the top of the EU agenda must be the work of many.

And thankfully, as I look around this room, I see heads of state and government, social partners, civil society representatives, students, and other stakeholders.

As a former trade union leader, I am naturally guided in our common mission for fair jobs and growth by the popular motto: United we stand, divided we fall. If we do not work together, we will fail to meet tomorrow’s challenges, and the competitiveness, prosperity and legitimacy of the EU will suffer.

But by working together, as leaders, unions and employers, we can improve both the lives of our people and the strength of our economies. So let’s unite, and let’s get to work!

Thank you.