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MEMO/0 9/528

Brussels, 27 November 2009

Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council, 30 November and 1 December 2009, Brussels

Employment and social affairs issues will be discussed on 30 November under the presidency of Sven-Otto Littorin, Swedish Minister for Employment. The European Commission will be represented by Vladimír  Špidla, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities. The focus of the meeting will be to provide input for the EU 2020 Strategy. Ministers will also address legislative proposals on the following themes: parental leave; the situation of self-employed workers and assisting spouses; the working conditions of fishermen; and equal treatment on the basis of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation. The Council will also be asked to adopt conclusions on several current challenges. Health issues will be discussed on 1 December under the presidency of Maria Larsson, Minister for Elderly Care and Health and of Göran Hägglund, Minister for Health and Social Affairs with the Commission represented by Androulla Vassiliou, Commissioner for Health.

Employment and Social Policy points (30 November)

1. A political debate on recovering from the crisis and preparing for the EU 2020 Strategy

Work on the EU 2020 Strategy has now started. The debate will allow Ministers to provide their input – highlighting the social dimension and the importance of a fully effective Social Open Method of Coordination (OMC) to achieve greater social cohesion. They will base their discussions on a report from the Social Protection Committee from September 2009 ( IP/09/1374 ) .

2. Agreement on three legislative proposals (parental leave, equality of treatment between self-employed men and women and assisting spouses and working conditions of fishermen)

Ministers are expected to reach agreement on the following three legislative proposals from the Commission:

  • Parental leave: On 30 June, the Commission presented a proposal for a directive based on a framework agreement signed by social partners last June, updating the existing directive (96/34/CE). The revised directive will allow each parent to take four months leave per child (previously three months). The extra month cannot be transferred from one parent to the other, thereby encouraging fathers to take their leave. It will also eliminate all forms of discrimination towards workers requesting parental leave and will give workers the right to request a change in their working conditions (working hours, for example) to take account of their childcare obligations. ( IP/09/948 )

  • Equality of treatment between self-employed men and women: On 3 October 2008, the Commission proposed a revision to Directive 86/613/CEE which would allow self-employed female workers to have the same access to maternity leave as salaried workers, and assisting spouses to have access to the same social protection systems as formally self-employed workers ( IP/08/1450 ) .

  • Ratification of the 2007 ILO Convention on Work in Fishing: On 27 May 2008, the Commission adopted a proposal for a Council decision authorising Member States to ratify, in the interests of the European Community, the International Labour Organisation's 2007 Work in Fishing Convention. The ILO Convention sets minimum rules with the aim of improving the working conditions on board fishing vessels in areas such as health and safety and medical care, rest periods, protection by a work agreement, and social security.

3. Progress report on the proposal for a directive on the principle of equal treatment on the basis of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation

The Swedish Presidency included this dossier as a priority early on in their Presidency. This new directive proposed by the Commission on 2 July 2008 would ensure equal treatment in the areas of social protection, including social security and health care, education and access to and supply of goods and services which are commercially available to the public, including housing ( IP/08/1071 ). Similar protection already exists in the field of employment but the Commission proposed to extend this legal framework beyond the workplace to grounds not already covered (i.e. age, disability, sexual orientation and religion or belief). Negotiations have not been easy but important progress has been made which the Presidency wants to report on. The Commission thanks the Presidency for its efforts and hopes that political agreement can be found very soon.

4. Adoption of Council conclusions concerning healthy and dignified ageing, gender equality and strengthening growth and employment, and the Beijing Platform of Action

The Council should adopt conclusions addressing major issues for the EU over the coming years on the following issues:

  • Healthy and dignified ageing, with a proposal for an action plan for 2011 which will promote dignity, health and quality of life for older persons.

  • Gender equality, strengthening growth and employment, highlighting the positive impact of male-female equality in the workplace, for growth, employment and social inclusion.

  • Beijing Platform of Action, in line with the fifteenth anniversary of its adoption, with an analysis of future challenges in terms of women's rights in the future will be addressed.

Health points (1 December)

1. Patients' rights in cross-border healthcare

Since the adoption of the proposed Directive on the application of patients' rights in cross-border healthcare in July 2008, work has progressed in parallel in the Council and the European Parliament. The first official step of the co-decision procedure resulted from the European Parliament's first reading on 23 April 2009. The objective of the discussion at the Council will be to reach a political agreement on the text

2. Effective Antibiotics

The Council will adopt conclusions on innovative incentives for effective antibiotics. The spread of antibiotic resistance is a major threat to public health security worldwide which requires action at all levels. The disease burden related to antibiotic resistant bacteria that cannot be effectively treated with first- or even second-line medicinal products, is rapidly increasing in the world.

3. Healthcare through eHealth

The Council will adopt conclusions on safe and efficient healthcare through eHealth. In February 2009 European Union Member States' representatives issued a declaration at the Prague eHealth Ministerial Conference, recognising the benefits of eHealth for a safer and more efficient health sector. It also called for action on building an eHealth area for European citizens, and initiated a process for coordinated action and governance in the field of eHealth.

4. Alcohol and Health

The Council will adopt conclusions addressing the topic of alcohol and health. Member States have the main responsibility for national alcohol policy but the Commission can further support and complement national public health policies through the EU Alcohol Strategy. Harmful and hazardous alcohol consumption is the third most significant risk factor for ill health and premature death in the EU.

5. Pandemic A(H1N1) – follow-up to the Council meeting of 12 October 2009

Commissioner Vassiliou will inform the Council on the recent developments in the EU and its neighbouring countries regarding the pandemic A(H1N1). The information part will be followed by a discussion.

6. Smoke-free Environments

The Council is expected to adopt a Recommendation to Member States on smoke-free environments. It aims to encourage all MS to have more comprehensive rules to protect citizens from harmful effects of tobacco smoke.

Any Other Business

1. Quality and safety of human organs intended for transplantation

The Commissioner will inform the Council of the progress made in implementing an Action Plan, adopted by the Commission in December 2008. The Action Plan lines out ten priority actions providing mechanisms to strengthen co-ordination between Member States as regards the safety of organs intended for transplantation.

2. Action against Cancer: European Partnership

Commissioner Vassiliou will inform the Council about the latest Commission initiative following the Council Conclusions on reducing the burden of cancer (2008). In June 2009, the Commission published a Communication on the European Partnership on "Action against Cancer".

3. Combating HIV/AIDS in the European Union and neighbouring countries

The Commissioner will speak about the Communication on "Combating HIV/AIDS in the EU and neighbouring countries, 2009-2013", which was adopted in October 2009. This Communication provides a comprehensive HIV policy for Europe and should contribute to a better cooperation among Member States and other countries addressed and to the implementation of effective policies across Europe.

4. Reducing health inequalities in the EU

Commissioner Vassiliou will inform the Council on the Commission Communication "Solidarity in health: reducing health inequalities in the EU", published in October 2009. The magnitude of the health inequalities, which can potentially be reduced through public policy, represents not only a huge loss of human and economic potential but also are a challenge to EU fundamental objectives of solidarity and cohesion.

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