EUROPE - José Manuel Barroso, the new president of the European Commission, says social protection systems should be more than “just a safety net” as population ageing looms.

“Health and social protection systems need to prepare for an ageing population,” Barroso said in an address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg. “And together with education, these services must be more than just a safety net.”

The statement follows the Dutch government’s assertion that the “social and financial sustainability” of pension schemes is one of the stated priorities of its six-month tenure of the European Union presidency.

Barroso told MEPs: “I would like us – together with member states, the social partners, businesses and citizens across the Union - to build a partnership for Europe. A partnership for prosperity, solidarity and security in our continent.”

“We must put growth centre stage,” the former Portuguese premier said. “Our social ambition must be fuelled by economic success.

“Wealth creation is the key to our model of social solidarity and sustainability. This is at the core of the Lisbon agenda. Entrepreneurship and innovation must be harnessed to deliver a better quality of life.”

Earlier this week the Commission warned that population ageing may be one of the “asymmetric shocks” that could hit the euro.