Brussels, 30 November 2011
Employment and Social Policy Council, 1 December 2011, Brussels
The EU's Council of Employment and Social Policy Ministers will meet on 1 December in Brussels. The European Commission will be represented by Vice-President Viviane Reding, Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, László Andor, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion and John Dalli, Commissioner for Health and Consumer policy. The Council is due to discuss the 2012 Annual Growth Survey and Joint Employment Report with the view to the European Council on 9 December 2011.
Main agenda items for Commissioner Andor:
Europe 2020 Strategy on the ground: policy debate
The debate will be based on the 2012 Annual Growth Survey (AGS) and the Joint Employment Report (IP/11/1381 and MEMO/11/821). Ministers will also discuss the report prepared by the Employment Committee (EMCO) "Reaching the employment target: progress and thematic surveillance".
The AGS proposes to focus efforts in 2012 on five priorities, among which, to tackle unemployment and the social consequences of the crisis by mobilising labour for growth, supporting specially employment of young people and protecting the most vulnerable. The EMCO report provides an analysis on the interaction between employment and macroeconomic polices in the context of the crisis and it warns that, in the absence of substantial policy change, the EU as a whole and most Member States are likely to fall short of their employment targets.
This discussion of the employment ministers will provide input for the December European Council.
Miscellaneous amendments to existing Regulations on social security coordination
First, the case of formerly self-employed frontier workers who were insured against the risk of unemployment in their country of last activity and who reside in a Member State that does not have any unemployment benefits system for self-employed persons. The Polish presidency is proposing that these persons receive a return on their insurance contributions (or taxes) and should not be left without coverage in their Member State of residence. This proposal builds on the work of the Hungarian Presidency.
The second issue concerns the introduction of the concept of "home base" for air crew members (who habitually cross borders as part of their job). Under the Polish Presidency's proposal, an air crew member will be subject to the social security legislation of the Member State where the "home base" is located.
Progress report on negotiations for a Directive on electromagnetic fields
A proposal to update and improve EU rules to protect workers from electromagnetic fields in their daily tasks was put forward by the European Commission in June 2011 (IP/11/704). The new directive must be adopted before 30 April 2012, date after which the current directive 2004/40/EC will have to be transposed by all Member States if no further action is taken.
The Council will take stock of the negotiations to reach a compromise on the Commission proposal. The discussions will continue during the Danish Presidency.
Proposal to extended the so-called "crisis derogation" of the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund beyond 2011
The Commission proposed in June 2011 to extend the so-called "crisis derogation" of the EGF beyond 2011. This temporary derogation currently allows the EU to provide assistance to workers losing their jobs because of the global financial and economic crisis. It has also increased the EGF co-financing rate from 50% to 65%. If not extended, the "crisis derogation" – including the possibility to benefit from a 65% co-financing rate – will expire at the end of 2011.
The Commission considers that maintaining the crisis criterion is vital in the current economic and social context. The European Parliament supports and has adopted the Commission proposal.
Presentation of the Social Protection Committee's opinion on delivery of the EU's commitment to poverty reduction and inclusion
The Social Protection Committee (SPC)'s opinion "Delivering on the EU commitment to poverty reduction and social inclusion" was adopted on 14 November 2011. Based on current national poverty-reduction targets, only around 12 million people would be lifted out of poverty and social exclusion. This falls short of the EU's 2020 target of 20 million. The SPC draws the attention to the massive pressure on social protection systems as more and more unemployed lose their entitlements to benefits and move to social assistance. It calls for consolidation measures that are responsive to social needs. The Council of Ministers is expected to endorse this report.
Council conclusions on ageing as an opportunity for the labour market
Ageing of the population has been a policy priority of the Polish Presidency and the Council conclusions invite Member States and the Commission to prepare and adapt common principles for active ageing. This covers employment, participation in society and healthy, independent and dignified living. Member States are invited to take due account of active ageing in their policies in the context of Europe 2020 strategy and where appropriate to set employment targets for older workers. 2012 will be the European Year of Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations which aims to raise awareness of active ageing issues and to encourage policymakers and stakeholders to set goals and take action in this area.
Presentation by the Commission of the Report on the functioning of the transitional arrangements on the free movement of workers from Bulgaria and Romania
The Commission will present the report adopted on 11 November 2011 which highlights the overall positive role that mobile workers from Bulgaria and Romania (EU-2) have played in receiving countries' economies (IP/11/1336, MEMO/11/773). The report was requested by Romania and Bulgaria in June 2011 as the Accession Treaty of the two countries foresees the possibility of a further review by Council of the functioning of the transitional arrangements.
Information from the First Annual Convention of the European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion
The First Annual Convention of the European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion, organised jointly by the European Commission and the Polish Presidency, took place in Cracow (17-18 October 2011), bringing together over 400 participants from 38 European countries. The convention took stock of the implementation of the Poverty Platform and made some suggestions for future actions. The Convention also welcomed the Commission's proposal to allocate at least 20% of the future European Social Fund to "promoting social inclusion and combating poverty" (up from the current 13%).The Council is expected to analyse this document and to follow up on its conclusions in the context of the European Semester.
Information concerning the review of the Working Time Directive
The Commission will update the Council on the decision of the cross-sectoral social partners to enter into negotiations on the revision of EU Working Time rules (MEMO/11/789).
Information concerning the posting of workers package
Commissioner Andor will inform Ministers about the state of play of two legislative proposals, aimed at improving the enforcement of the legislation on posting of workers and to clarify the extent to which trade unions may use the right to strike in the case of cross-border operations.
The posting package should be adopted by the Commission soon and presented to the Council of Employment and Social Affairs Ministers in February 2012.
Vice-President Reding and Commissioner Andor:
National strategies for improving Roma integration
Under the EU Framework, each of the EU's 27 countries will set out how they intend to improve the situation of the most vulnerable Roma communities living on their territory. Member States will have to address four key areas for better social and economic integration – education, employment, healthcare and housing – and set out measures proportionate to their Roma population. It is also about ensuring that Roma people's fundamental rights are respected.
The Commission will remind Member States that they have until the end of 2011 to submit their national strategies. The Commission will then assess the plans and report back in spring 2012.
Main agenda items for Vice-president Reding:
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 to provide for longer and better maternity leave (IP/08/1450).
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 at first reading, with a majority of Member States disagreeing with the Parliament's position.
The issue was discussed at an informal ministerial meeting in Cracow on 21 October and the Polish Presidency will now present a report on progress made on the draft Directive during the Presidency.
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).
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.
The Polish Presidency will present a progress report on the draft Directive.
Better gender balance in Europe's board rooms
Women are seriously under-represented in senior management and in corporate boards in the EU, representing just 12% of board members in Europe's top companies. The Commission gave companies listed on the stock market a chance to solve the problem of gender imbalance on supervisory boards through self-regulation, notably by signing the 'Women on the Board Pledge for Europe' (MEMO/11/124). To date only eight companies have signed the Pledge.
The Commission will invite ministers to publicise the Pledge in their countries and report on progress made at the EPSCO Council in February 2012.
Main agenda items for Commissioner Dalli:
Council Conclusions are expected to be adopted on the prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of chronic respiratory diseases in children, on communication disorders in children, and on 'closing health gaps' within the EU through concerted action to promote healthy lifestyle behaviours. Ministers will also hold a first exchange of views on the Commission's proposal for the next funding programme in the area of health, the Health for Growth Programme, which was adopted by the Commission on 9th November. They will discuss the Commission's revised proposals on information to patients on prescription-only medicines, and on strengthening the EU-wide systems for monitoring the safety of medicines, or pharmacovigilance, following adoption of the revised proposals on 11th October. The Commission will also present the state-of play on the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing."