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MEMO/11/410

Brussels, 16 June 2011

Employment and Social Policy Council, 17 June 2011, Luxembourg

The EU's Council of Employment and Social Policy Ministers will meet on 17 June in Luxembourg. 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 Council is due to endorse on the country-specific recommendations on the Member States' employment policies to be adopted by the European Council on 23 and 24 June 2011.

The EU's Council of Employment and Social Policy Ministers will meet on 17 June in Luxembourg. 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 Council is due to endorse on the country-specific recommendations on the Member States' employment policies to be adopted by the European Council on 23 and 24 June 2011.

Main agenda items for Commissioner Laszlo Andor:

  • Implementation of the Europe 2020 Strategy, including political agreement on country-specific recommendations

  • Adoption of Council conclusions on Youth Employment

  • Information point about the agreement between the Hungarian Presidency and the European Parliament on the Commission's proposal to designate 2012 as the European Year of Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations

  • Progress report on negotiations to amend the existing regulations 883/2004 and 987/2009 on the coordination of social security schemes

  • The adoption of Council conclusions on Child Poverty

  • Lunch debate on demographic developments and adoption of conclusions on reconciling work and family life in the context of demographic change

  • Any other business', the Presidency will inform Ministers about the outcome of the Council working party discussion on the social and employment-related aspects of the legal migration Directives on intra-company transfers and seasonal workers. The Commission will also present its proposal for a revision of a Directive to improve the protection of workers against risk arising from exposure to electromagnetic fields. Finally, the future Polish Presidency of the Council will present their work programme.

Main agenda items for Vice-President Reding:

  • Longer and better maternity leave

  • Tackling discrimination outside the workplace

  • Implementing the EU disability strategy

The implementation of the Europe 2020 Strategy and the new employment and social country-specific recommendations

The country-specific recommendations proposed by the Commission on 7 June address the challenges most vital to achieving Europe's potential to create jobs and growth growth (see IP/11/685 and MEMO/11/382). In terms of employment and social policy, they cover issues like payroll taxes, childcare, education systems, wage-setting mechanisms and retirement patterns (pensions?). For the labour market, they address four main challenges: to enhance labour market participation, to tackle structural unemployment, to reduce youth unemployment and to ensure wage developments are attuned to productivity growth. The Council is expected to reach political agreement on these recommendations (in line with Article 148 TFEU). The Hungarian Presidency will also invite the Council to endorse the Employment Committee's opinion on the Commission's flagship initiative An Agenda for New Skills and Jobs (see IP/10/1541), as well as a joint opinion of the Employment and of the Social Protection Committees on the examination of the 2011 National Reform Programmes and the Employment Performance Monitor - the analytical tool to measure Members States' progress towards achieving their national employment targets.

Youth employment

The youth unemployment rate in the EU today is unacceptably high ranging from and average of 20.9% to a staggering 45% in some countries). As part of the EU's Europe 2020 Strategy, the Commission's initiative "Youth on the Move" has set out the path for specific and coordinated action at EU level (see IP/10/1124). In this context, the Council is expected to adopt conclusions, taking the Commission's proposals to promote youth employment into account and suggesting further action from Member States. The Commission would, however, welcome a much stronger commitment from the Member States. Around 13% of young people (15-24) are neither in employment nor in education or training. This is why, in ‘Youth on the Move’, the Commission invited Member States to ensure young people are in a job, further education or activation measures within four months of leaving school through a 'Youth Guarantee'. Commissioner Andor regrets the absence of a commitment by Member States to ensure this guarantee and will call on Member States to reconsider their position and commit to the concrete target in this important area.

Decision of the European Parliament and the Council on a European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations (2012)

The Hungarian Presidency will inform the Parliament and Council about an agreement reached on the Commission's proposal for a European Year 2012 at their 3rd trilogue meeting on 10 May. The European Parliament is expected to give its formal green light at its June plenary on 23 June. Employment and Social Ministers already adopted a general approach on this in December 2010, so the decision only needs to be formerly endorsed by another Council formation at end of June before it enters into force.

Miscellaneous amendments to existing Regulations on social security coordination

Although "miscellaneous amendments" of the social security coordination Regulations were made in the past, it is the first time that they are made to the new Regulation 883/2004 and Regulation 987/2009. Two issues in particular have been debated at length in the run-up to the June Employment and Social Affairs Council:

First, the proposal by the Hungarian Presidency that former self-employed persons insured against the risk of unemployment in their country of last activity and who reside in a Member State that does not have an insurance system for self-employed persons could, for a limited period of time, receive unemployment benefits from their country of last activity.

Second, the concept of "home base" for air crew members (who habitually cross borders as part of their job) is to be introduced. This will help to determine which Member States' social security rules should be applied to the air crew member. The Hungarian Presidency will provide a progress report on the negotiations. The European Parliament has also to agree to any amendments.

Child poverty and promoting child well-being

The Council is due to adopt conclusions on child poverty, with the Hungarian Presidency wishing to build on the work of the Trio Presidency (ES/BE/HU) and maintain political momentum on the issue of child poverty and well-being, in particular in the context of Europe 2020 and in the context of the Commission Recommendation that Commissioner Andor announced for 2012. The Conclusions are due to call on the European Commission to consider child poverty and well-being as one of the priorities of the social dimension of the Europe 2020 Strategy. They are also due to invite Member States to mainstream child poverty and tackle the issue adequately in their National Reform Programmes.

Demographic Change and Family Policies

Over the past months, the Hungarian Presidency has focused on demographic change and family policies, organising demography week as well as related events at the end of March this year. The Council is expected to adopt conclusions on reconciling work and family life in the context of demographic change and to invite Member States and the European Commission to undertake various measures like promoting flexible working arrangements and various forms of leave for women and men, improving the supply of high-quality childcare services or providing training and qualifications of care workers.

Longer and better maternity leave

Juggling work, family and private life is a huge challenge for millions of Europeans – both men and women. But having children often comes at the expense of women's income and their job prospects. Only 65.5% of women with dependent children are working, compared to 91.7% of men. In October 2008, the Commission proposed to update the existing Pregnant Workers Directive with longer and better maternity leave (IP/08/1450).

What is expected at this Council? The Hungarian Presidency will present a progress report on the draft Directive.

Commission position: The Commission proposal strikes a good balance between the views of the Council and the European Parliament. It urges the co-legislators to start negotiating a compromise text.

Background: Adequate maternity leave allows women to combine work and family, improving their and their family's quality of life. This can also help increase women's labour market participation and address the challenge of an ageing population: countries with more women in the workforce also have higher birth rates.

Under the Commission’s proposal, women would receive 18 weeks of maternity leave, up from 14 weeks with sick pay, which is the current minimum pay level. 13 Member States already have 18 weeks or more with at least sick pay. The European Parliament on 20 October 2010 went further in its first reading than the Commission proposal (see MEMO/10/509) by proposing 20 weeks of maternity leave and two weeks fully paid paternity leave. The Council has not yet given its position from the first reading. At the EPSCO meeting in December 2010, several Member States called for an additional impact assessment by the Council into the Parliament's position.

Tackling discrimination outside the workplace

In July 2008, the Commission proposed to extend existing EU protection against discrimination on grounds of age, disability, sexual orientation and religion or belief to areas beyond the workplace (IP/08/1071 and MEMO/08/461).

What is expected at this Council? The Hungarian Presidency will present a progress report on the draft Directive.

Commission position: The Commission welcomes the Hungarian Presidency work.

Background: The new Directive would complement existing EU rules prohibiting discrimination in employment and on the grounds of race or ethnic origin. It 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.

Implementing the European Disability Strategy

Most people take it for granted that they can hop on a bus to go shopping, surf the Internet or enjoy a television series. But for the 80 million Europeans with a disability, there may be major obstacles that put these activities out of their reach. In November 2010, the Commission adopted a new strategy to break down these barriers (IP/10/1505 and MEMO/10/578).

What is expected at this Council? The Council will adopt conclusions to support the implementation of the European Disability Strategy 2010-2020.

Commission position: The Commission strongly supports the Council's position, as Member States are key to the success of the European Disability Strategy.

Background: The overall aim is to empower people with disabilities so that they can enjoy their rights and participate fully in society. National governments are mainly responsible for policies that directly affect access for disabled people, such as transportation, health, education and sports. The European strategy identifies actions at EU level to supplement national measures.


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