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Brussels, 3 December 2010

Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council, 6 December 2010, Brussels

The Council of EU Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Ministers will meet on 6 December in Brussels. The European Commission will be represented by Vice-President Viviane Reding, Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship and László Andor, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion.

The main agenda items for employment and social policy will be based around:

  • the maternity leave proposal,

  • the proposal to make 2012 the European Year of Active Ageing,

  • the implementation of the Europe 2020 strategy, including its social dimension in times of crisis,

  • the future of pensions systems

  • a declaration on the legacy and follow-up to the 2010 European Year of the fight against poverty,

Orientation debate on the maternity leave proposal (contact: MN)

In October 2008, the Commission adopted a draft proposal for a Directive amending Directive 92/85/EEC (Pregnant Workers Directive). Under the Commission’s proposal, women would receive 18 weeks of maternity leave, up from 14 weeks, at sick pay, which is the current minimum level. 13 Member States already have 18 weeks or more with at least sick pay. Moreover, 18 weeks corresponds with an International Labour Organization (ILO) recommendation. The European Parliament’s report on 20 October 2010 goes further than the Commission proposal (see MEMO/10/509): it proposes 20 weeks of maternity leave and two weeks fully paid paternity leave. The Council has not yet given its position in first reading. The orientation debate will give a first snapshot of Ministers' priorities.

General discussion on the proposal to make 2010 the European Year of Active Ageing (Contact: Cristina Arigho/CA)

On 6 September the Commission adopted its proposal to designate 2012 as European Year for Active Ageing. The debate and general orientation foreseen at this Employment and Social Affairs ministerial meeting is the first opportunity for Ministers to express their views on the initiative.

Exchange of views on the implementation of the Europe 2020 strategy and the "European Semester" (CA)

Council will adopt its conclusions on the social dimension of the integrated Europe 2020 strategy, a low carbon economy and the impact of an ageing workforce on employment policies.

Ministers will also look at the methodologies on the way the performance of member states in the field of employment should be examined and assessed on the basis of their national reform programmes.

A joint evaluation by the Commission and the Social Protection Committee (social affairs representatives from Member States) on the social consequences of the crisis will be presented too. This will provide a preliminary assessment of Member States' challenges and policy responses emerged in 2010, focusing on fiscal consolidation measures and new measures taken in response to the crisis. It will feed into the report on social inclusion and social protection policies that will be adopted in early 2011.

Update on the Green Paper on pensions (CA)

Ministers will review a Report on pension policies jointly prepared by the Social Protection and the Economic Policy representatives of the Member States (Social Protection and Economic Policy Committees) and the Commission Green Paper on adequate, sustainable and safe pensions. (IP/10/905, MEMO/10/302)

Ministers will discuss how pension systems need to adapt to the impacts of the crisis and to demographic changes. The Commission looks forward to learning how Ministers see, in particular, the EU's role in actively supporting pension reform in the Member States to ensure that pensions are adequate today and in future. The Commission will highlight that pension reform need to be accompanied by active policies to open labour markets for older workers and that adjusting pension parameters as pensionable ages have to be done in a national context. The Commission will stress the importance for both pension adequacy and promoting modern labour markets that mobile workers are not punished in the acquisition of pension rights for being mobile.

Adoption of a declaration on the European Year 2010 against poverty and social exclusion (CA)

One of the results of the European Year 2010 was to have a solemn Declaration endorsed by the European Council in December as the Year drew to a close. The declaration is a type of "testament" aiming at consolidating the achievements of the Year and securing adequate follow-up. The first step is its adoption by the Employment and Social affairs Ministers. In parallel, the Belgian Presidency is working with the President of the European Council to integrate the declaration either as part of the conclusions of the December European Council or as an annex. The Declaration will be presented during the Closing Conference of the European Year on 17th December in Brussels, during the European Council.

Other points on the agenda

  • The Commission will provide an overview of the recently proposed flagship initiative on 'New Skills and Jobs' (IP/MEMO) and the Presidency is expected to present its conclusions on this flagship and the one on “Youth on the Move.” (IP/MEMO)

  • The Council is to adopt Conclusions on the Commission's new gender strategy, on reinforced action on the gender pay gap, on employment policies for the green economy and on Social Services of General Interest.

  • The Commission will present the biennial report on social services of general interest, its conclusions on the 5th Cohesion report, its new disability strategy (2010-2020) and its 2010 Report on citizenship.

The Presidency will also provide information on the state of play of the ongoing negotiations by Member States on the Commission’s 2008 proposal for equal treatment between persons irrespective of religion, disability age or sexual orientation.

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