Brussels, 4 December 2007
The main items on the Employment and Social Policy agenda are:
An amended proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 93/104/EC on the Organisation of Working Time
The Portuguese Presidency has decided to put forward a new compromise text in order to reach a political agreement on a directive amending Directive 93/104/EC on the Organisation of Working Time. The proposed directive has been on ice since November 2006 and it is hoped that the new political context which prevails in some Member States, as well as the Ombudsman's report to the European Parliament in September 2007 will encourage Member States to reach an agreement to improve the protection of the health and safety of workers throughout the EU. Most Member States are not complying with the Directive as currently interpreted by the European Court of Justice (Simap/Jaeger rulings). According to these rulings, on-call time must be counted as working time. If Member States do not come to an agreement, it is the duty of the Commission to open infringement proceedings. The second important issue concerns the opt-out from the 48 hour working week which has been the main obstacle to reaching agreement. The current proposal would improve significantly the situation for workers who sign an opt-out. For example, an opt-out could not be signed at the same time as a working contract and workers would have the right to withdraw from it without repercussions.
An amended proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on Working Conditions for Temporary Workers
8 million workers in the EU are temporary agents and numbers are increasing. In March 2002, the Commission therefore adopted a proposal to create a level playing field for temporary agents across the EU. The draft Directive has not been discussed in Council since October 2004. The Portuguese Presidency has now decided to put forward a new compromise text in order to reach a political agreement on the directive. The Directive seeks to combine business flexibility and workers' mobility, on the one hand, and more security for workers without thwarting the development of temporary agency work, on the other. The main issue at stake is the length of the so-called "grace period", after which the same pay conditions must apply to the temporary agency workers as to the workers of the user company.
An amended proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on minimum requirements for enhancing worker mobility by improving the acquisition and preservation of supplementary pension rights
Mobility is a key issue in today's economy and currently, workers lose out on their supplementary pensions when changing employers in most Member States. As supplementary pensions will be an increasingly important element of incomes in retirement in the coming decades in many Member States, it is crucial that those workers who are mobile get the maximum benefit also in terms of preserving their pension rights. The main issues to be discussed are the vesting periods – i.e. the minimum period of work in an enterprise before a worker accrues supplementary pension rights.
Common principles on flexicurity
At the request of the European Council, the Commission has proposed common principles on flexicurity (see MEMO/07/256) The Council is expected to endorse the common principles which are based on four components: effective labour market policies, flexible and reliable contractual arrangements, comprehensive lifelong learning strategies and modern and adequate social protection systems. Member States are invited to implement this flexicurity approach at national level and to report to the Commission as part of the new Lisbon Strategy cycle. The Commission also welcomes the invitation to launch a public initiative to promote flexicurity in the Member States and will follow it up with successive Presidencies.
The Council will also hold a policy debate on Social Services of General Interest and adopt a Council resolution on the Follow-up of the European Year of Equal Opportunities for All (2007).
Finally, the Council will adopt several sets of conclusions including on:
The main points on the Health agenda are
Health and Migration in the EU
The Council is expected to hold a debate and to adopt Conclusions. The Portuguese Presidency has prioritised migration in all relevant policy areas including health. The aim of the Presidency is to raise awareness of the particular health needs of migrants, including illegal migrants, from third countries into the EU and to encourage Member States and the Commission to express renewed commitment to action. A key argument is that health is a human right. Migrants should be accorded the same high level of health protection as other people in the EU regardless of their status.
EU Health Strategy
The Council is expected to hold a policy debate and to adopt conclusions on the Commission White Paper “Together for Health, a Strategic Approach for the EU 2008-2013” of 23 October 2007. The Conclusions welcome the strategy’s objectives; emphasise e.g. health in all policies, prevention, threats and health and competitiveness; underline two Presidency themes: gender and migration and call upon the Commission to present ideas for the implementation mechanism.
Organ Donation and Transplantation
The Commission adopted a Communication on organ donation and transplantation on 31 May. The Portuguese Presidency suggested Council conclusions on the issue to be agreed upon by Member States. The Conclusions will be in line with the Communication and will invite the Commission to continue preparatory work.
Commission White Paper on A Strategy for Europe on Nutrition, Overweight and Obesity related Health issues
The Council will adopt a set of Council Conclusions prepared in the working groups responding to the Commission strategy as adopted in the White Paper, "A Strategy for Europe on Nutrition, Overweight and Obesity related health issues" on 30 May 2007.
Combating HIV/AIDS within the EU and in neighbouring countries
The Portuguese Presidency organised, with support of the Commission, the first meeting of "National AIDS Coordinators" (NAC) on 12/13 October 2007 in Lisbon. NACs of the WHO Europe region were invited to attend this technical meeting. The conclusions of this meeting are used as basis for the "progress report" now presented in the Council. Both papers make reference to the most recent policy papers, Council conclusions and political declarations addressing HIV/AIDS in Europe.
Specifically, the NAC meeting conclusions acknowledge the outcome of the Ministerial conference on Health and Migrations in the EU conclusion on HIV/AIDS, the European Commission's initiative around World AIDS Day (joint school visits, awareness raising) and express the intention that regular NAC meetings shall be organised in the future.