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Brussels, 16 February 2012

Employment and Social Policy Council, 17 February 2011, Brussels

The Council of EU Employment and Social Policy Ministers will meet on 17 February 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.

Employment and social inclusion issues will be:

  • Debate on women on company boards

  • Debate on progress on the Europe 2020 strategy

  • Conclusions on 2012 priorities for employment and social policies

  • Presentation of the third report on the social impact of the economic crisis and report on macro economic imbalances (alert mechanism report)

  • Information by the Commission on the transitional arrangements on free movement of workers from Bulgaria and Romania

  • State of play on International meetings, including G20 and EUROMED

  • Preparation of the Tripartite Social Summit

Main agenda items for Vice-President Reding:

Women on Company Boards Policy debate

For the first time, Ministers will debate at EU level how to improve the participation of women on company boards. They are invited to share their experiences and to discuss what can be done at EU and national levels to address the problem of women's under-representation in company boardrooms. Even though women represent 60 percent of university graduates, they still do not enjoy equal opportunities with men in the labour market.

Vice-President Reding will outline what steps have been taken at EU level so far and present a number of studies that show the positive correlation between the presence of women in senior positions and the economic and organisational performance of companies.

On 1 March 2011 Vice-President Reding met with the chief executives of large publicly listed companies in Europe and asked them to sign the "Women on the Board Pledge for Europe" (MEMO/11/124). A year later, in March 2012, the Commission will assess the situation. If no sufficient progress is achieved through self-regulation, it will explore different policy options to increase the number of women on company boards. The debate at the EPSCO Council will feed into this process.

Main agenda items for Commissioner Andor:

Debate on Europe 2020 Strategy

The Council of Ministers will hold a debate on progress on the Europe 2020 Strategy. Interventions will concentrate on three areas: the measures that have been most effective in getting people into work and keeping the workforce employable; whether active inclusion strategies have been successful in protecting the most vulnerable groups; priority structural reforms at national level in employment and social protection for 2012. The conclusion of this debate will feed into the meeting of the Heads of States and Governments, to be held on 1 March 2012.

Conclusions on the priorities for employment and social policies in 2012

Ministers will be invited to adopt Council conclusions on the priorities for action in 2012 in the areas of employment and social policies. This is based on the Joint Employment Report and the 2012 Annual Growth Survey (AGS). They are expected to adopt the Joint Employment Report, to endorse the opinion of the Social Protection Committee on the Annual Growth Survey and to approve the work Programmes for 2012 of the Committees on Employment and on Social Protection. The conclusions provide the political guidance for the European Council in March and should be reflected in Member States' National Reform Programmes to be submitted mid-April 2012.

The Council of Ministers is also expected to reach political agreement on Member State employment Guidelines. As proposed by the Commission and endorsed by the Employment Committee, the Employment Guidelines for 2012 are likely to remain unchanged to give Member States a chance to focus on implementation.

Reports on the Social impact of the economic crisis and on Macro Economic Imbalances (Alert mechanism report)

Employment and Social Affairs Ministers are expected to endorse the third Report on the Social Impact of the economic crisis and ongoing fiscal consolidation, adopted by the Social Protection Committee (SPC) on the 26th of January 2012. The report shows that the crisis has led to a general fall of the income levels, worsened people's living standards, and deepened inequalities throughout the whole EU.

The Commission will also present the Report on Macro Economic Imbalances - Alert Mechanism adopted on 14 February. The Alert Mechanism Report, based on an assessment of a scoreboard of indicators, is the first step in the surveillance procedure to prevent and correct macroeconomic imbalances, in the framework of the European Semester for economic policy coordination.

Information by the Commission on the transitional arrangements on free movement of workers from Bulgaria and Romania

The Commission will present an overview of the implementation of the transitional measures by the Member States that will continue to impose restrictions to workers from Romania and Bulgaria until 31 December 2013. The final third phase of the transitional arrangements on free movement of workers from Bulgaria and Romania started on 1 January 2012.

Of 11 Member States that had still applied restrictions at the end of 2011, 2 Member States - Italy and the Czech Republic - informed the Commission that they had decided to end applying national law on labour market access and move to apply EU law on free movement of workers as of 1 January 2012. 9 Member States (Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, and UK) notified the Commission before 31 December 2011 of their decision to continue to apply restrictions and provided an explanation with arguments and data of serious labour market disturbances or threat thereof.

International meetings – G20/EUROMED

The Ministers will be informed about the state of play of the preparations for the 3rd Labour and Employment Ministers Meeting, to be held in May 2012 in Mexico in the context of G20.

They will also informed about the results of the meeting of the Euro-Mediterranean Employment and Labour High Level Group, held on 14 February in Brussels.

Preparation of the Tripartite Social Summit

Ministers will be informed about the preparations and agenda of the next tripartite social summit, to be held on 1 March in Brussels.

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