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MEMO/05/468

Brussels, 7th December 2005

Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council, December 8-9, Brussels

The Council meeting will take place 8-9 December in Brussels. The Employment and Social Affairs points will be taken on 8 December, beginning at 10h00. The meeting will be chaired by Minister Johnson (working time) and Minister Hutton (all other points). The Commission will be represented by Commissioner Špidla.

The main two items on the agenda are the revision of the Working Time Directive and the public debate on Demography and Human Capital as a follow-up the Hampton Court summit.

Working time:

Ministers will attempt to reach a political agreement which would send the file back to the European Parliament for a second reading. The main bone of contention is the individual opt-out provision where the Council remains divided between those wanting a phase out of this possibility and those wanting to ensure a full continuation of the opt-out. The Commission has indicated its willingness to help to find a compromise between the two camps. There is one other key issue at stake for which the Council agrees with the Commission proposal to reverse the case-law of the Court of Justice on the definition of the on-call time as working time for the purposes of this directive. The case law as it stands could force quite comprehensive changes to the work organisation of some activities such as hospitals which currently relay heavily on call work. This raises the urgency of finding a solution on all the points of the Directive. Ministers will discuss this over lunch, reporting back in the formal session.

Demography

Following this, the Ministers and Commissioner Špidla will debate how the EU and Member States can contribute to providing the most effective responses to demographic change. The key basis for the discussion will be the Commission's green paper on demographic change adopted earlier this year and an expert opinion on human capital from the Employment Committee (EMCO).

National Reform Programmes

The EMCO Chairman will also report back on the state of play on the examination of the first National Reform Programmes coming from Member States on the implementation of the Revised Lisbon Strategy, laid down at the Spring Summit of the European Council.

Equal treatment/PROGRESS

Ministers will endorse a political agreement on the recasting of EU legislation in the area of equal treatment of men and women and a partial political agreement (awaiting the decision on the financial framework 2007-2013) on the PROGRESS programme on funding of actions on Employment and Social Solidarity.

Other issues

The Commissioner will be asked to present the Commission's proposal for a directive on improving the portability of supplementary pension rights.

The Presidency will refer to a number of successful events staged together with the Commission, including on health and Safety of Workers, Corporate Social Responsibility and Poverty and Social Exclusion.


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