Brussels, 20 June 2012
Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council - Employment and Social Affairs, 21 June 2012, Luxembourg
The EU's Council of Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Ministers will meet on 21 June in Luxembourg under the chairmanship of Mette Frederiksen (Danish Minister for Employment), Karen Hækkerup (Danish Minister for Social Affairs and Integration) and Manu Sareen (Danish Minister for Gender Equality). The European Commission will be represented by László Andor, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion.
Policy debate on the Europe 2020 Strategy: contribution to the European Council
The Council is due to consider:
draft Council Recommendations on the National Reform Programmes 2012 to each Member State (see MEMO/12/386)
examination of the National Reform Programmes (2012) and implementation of the 2011 Country-Specific Recommendations (on the basis of a joint opinion from the Employment Committee and the Social Protection Committee)
the Employment Performance Monitor of the Employment Committee (where all Member States are represented)
the Employment Package presented by the Commission in April 2012 (see IP/12/380)
As regards the 2012 draft Country Specific Recommendations (CSRs) presented to Member States at the end of May (see MEMO/12/386), Commissioner László Andor will note that employment policies can play an important role in the prevention and correction of macroeconomic imbalances and that a new EU growth initiative needs to tap the potential of the European labour force as a key source for growth. He will urge Member States to take action in a number of specific areas in order to:
supplement on-going pension reforms with further efforts to prevent early exit options and to help older workers to stay in the labour market
promote more and better apprenticeships, adequate skill formation and effective education systems to help young people to integrate labour markets
better target and render more effective active labour market policies and public employment services to provide individualised reintegration services for jobless people, particularly for long-term unemployed and vulnerable groups
remove obstacles for women to participate in the labour market, due to insufficient childcare or inadequate tax-benefit systems
adjust wages in line with productivity in order to avoid distortions to Member States' competitiveness
lighten taxation on labour and shift taxation towards other sources that are less distortive for growth, such as environmental taxes.
to better address poverty issues such as in-work poverty.
As regards the Employment Package that was presented by the Commission on 18 April (see IP/12/380), Commissioner Andor will emphasise the importance of the governance proposals. He will invite Member States, as an integral part of their National Reform Programmes, to set out comprehensive National Job Plans and indicate that progress in Member States' employment situations and reforms should, as of the next European Semester, be traced on the basis of indicators and agreed monitoring instruments. Commissioner Andor will invite the Council to adopt clear and ambitious decisions in this respect, taking up the Employment Package's orientations on job creation, structural labour market reform and investment in human capital. He will call for EU funding, and in particular the European Social Fund, to be used to support a majority of Member States' labour market reforms. Finally, he will outline that the Commission is working to establish the social partners' concrete relevance and co-ownership with regard to the reform process set in motion at the EU level.
The Council is due to debate whether the European Semester (through Country-Specific Recommendations and multilateral surveillance) helps to steer national progress and how this could be further developed in order to reach the overall employment and poverty targets. They will also consider which elements of the Employment Package should be prioritised for further elaboration and action, both on the national and European levels, in order to maximise job creation and growth in the years to come.
The contribution of the 21 June Employment and Social Affairs Council, together with the contribution of the 22 June Economic and Financial Affairs Council, will be sent to the 26 June General Affairs Council for transmission to the 28-29 June European Council. Once endorsed by the European Council on 28 June, the Country Specific Recommendations will be adopted at the first available Council in early July, thus completing the 2012 European Semester under the Europe 2020 Strategy. Once the Recommendations are adopted, Member States will be required to implement the Recommendations in their budgetary cycle. In the framework of the new procedure for surveillance of macroeconomic imbalances, 12 Member States have been identified as experiencing macroeconomic imbalances, some of them originating on their labour markets.
Legislative proposals on posting of workers
The Council is due to take note of a progress report on negotiations on the two proposals concerning the posting of workers presented by the Commission in March 2012 (see IP/12/267). The Commission proposed an enforcement Directive to increase monitoring and compliance and to improve the way existing rules on posted workers are applied in practice and a Regulation clarifying that workers' rights and their freedom to strike are on an equal footing with the freedom to provide services. Commissioner László Andor will thank the Danish Presidency for the progress made in a short period of time.
Proposal for a Directive on minimum health and safety requirements regarding exposure of workers to electromagnetic fields
The Council is due to take note of a progress report on negotiations on the Commission's June 2011 proposal to amend the current 2004 Directive (see IP/11/704). Commissioner Andor will urge the Council to approve the proposal before the end of 2012 but to avoid raising compliance costs for business.
Proposal for a Regulation on the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund
The Council is due to take note of a progress report on the proposed Regulation on the EGF 2014-2020 (see MEMO/11/663). Commissioner Andor will stress that the EGF should be maintained during the programming period 2014-2020 as it has proven to offer added value in the case of large-scale redundancies, while at the same time respecting the principle of subsidiarity.
Proposal for a Regulation on the EU Programme for Social Change and Innovation
The Council is due to endorse a partial general approach (i.e. an informal agreement pending the adoption of an Opinion by the European Parliament) on the Commission's October 2011 proposal on the Programme for Social Change and Innovation (PSCI) (see IP/11/1159). The PSCI incorporates three existing programmes: PROGRESS (Programme for Employment and Social Solidarity), EURES (European Employment Services) and the European Microfinance Facility. Commissioner Andor will underline the added value of such an instrument to contribute to reaching the Europe 2020 Strategy's employment and poverty targets and to supporting job creation by helping entrepreneurs.
Pensions adequacy: Social Protection Committee report
The Council is due to endorse a report from the Social Protection Committee on pensions adequacy. Commissioner László Andor will emphasise that pension systems and pension reforms are about delivering adequate retirement incomes today and in the future. He will welcome the report's main messages that highlight the trade-offs and difficult choices between adequacy and sustainability. However, he will underline that there are ways of achieving both at the same time, as indicated by the Commission's annual growth surveys for 2011 and 2012, proposed by the Commission in the draft Country-Specific Recommendations and in the White Paper on pensions (MEMO/12/108), by ensuring that workers can and do remain longer on the labour market and by enhancing the opportunities for supplementary retirement savings.
Responding to demographic challenges through enhanced participation in the labour market and society by all
The Council is due to adopt conclusions without discussion.
Lunch Debate on "Visions for a social Europe"
During an informal lunch, Ministers are due to discuss their visions for a Social Europe in the years to come. Commissioner Andor will stress the need to mobilise EU budget resources for inclusion and solidarity.