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Brussels, 6 December 2013
Council of Employment, Social Policy and Health Ministers, 9-10 December 2013, Brussels
The EU's Council of Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Ministers will meet on 9 and 10 December in Brussels. Key issues under discussion on 9th December will be the proposed Directive to enforce EU rules on posting of workers, a proposal to improve co-operation between Public Employment Services, implementation of measures to tackle youth unemployment, the social dimension of the Economic and Monetary Union, Roma inclusion and improving the gender balance in Europe’s boardrooms. On 10th of December, the Council will discuss the medical devices package and future EU work on modern, responsive and sustainable health systems. The meeting will be chaired on 9 December by Algimanta Pabedinskienė, Lithuanian Minister of Social Security and Labour, and on 10 December by Vytenis Povilas, Lithuanian Minister for Health. The European Commission will be represented by Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner, László Andor, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, Tonio Borg, European Commissioner for Health and Neven Mimica, European Commissioner for Consumer Policy.
Employment and social affairs
Proposed Directive to enforce rules on posting of workers
The Council will seek to reach a so called 'general approach' on the Commission's March 2012 proposal for a Directive to facilitate and improve enforcement of the rules laid down in the 1996 posted workers Directive (Directive 96/71/EC). The 1996 Directive puts in place a number of safeguards to protect the social rights of posted workers and to prevent social dumping when companies use this freedom to provide services.
The proposed Enforcement Directive would raise awareness of the rights and obligations under the 1996 Directive, facilitate and improve cooperation between Member States (e.g. urgent requests for information to be answered in two working days) and set out clear rules on inspections, penalties and redress procedures (see IP/12/267 and MEMO/13/1103).
Discussion at the Council will focus on two remaining outstanding issues, namely national control measures (article 9) and joint and several liability in the construction sector (article 12). The discussion will be based on a revised Presidency compromise text.
Commissioner László Andor will emphasise the European Council's call for rapid progress on this priority proposal and will urge the Council to agree a 'general approach' that would constitute a basis for negotiations with the European Parliament with a view to adopting the Directive in the Spring of 2014.
Public Employment Services
The Council is due to adopt a 'general approach' on the proposal for a Decision of the European Parliament and of the Council on enhanced co-operation between Public Employment Services (see IP/13/544). This proposal aims to reinforce and modernise the European network of Public Employment Services, which have a key role to play in active employment measures to tackle unemployment, and in particular in the implementation of the Youth Guarantee (see below).
Commissioner Andor will stress that better cooperation can only be achieved when all Member States participate in the network, and will ask their commitment to ensure this. He will urge the Council to reach an agreement before the European Parliament elections, so that the decision can enter into force as soon as possible.
European Semester 2013
Following a presentation by Commissioner Andor, the Council is due to hold an exchange of views on the Annual Growth Survey 2014, the draft Joint Employment Report and the Alert Mechanism Report (see IP/13/1064, MEMO/13/976 and MEMO/13/970).
The Council is also due to approve the scoreboard of employment and social indicators which was included in the Joint Employment Report for the first time this year. These indicators will serve to reinforce the surveillance of major employment and social imbalances that can threaten the long-term sustainability of the monetary union, thus permitting to identify and prevent crisis at an early stage. Both the scoreboard and the Joint Employment Report will be adopted at the next Council of Employment Ministers in March 2014.
The Council will hold an exchange of views on youth employment, notably on the Commission's proposal for a Council Recommendation on a Quality framework for traineeships and on implementation of the Youth Guarantee.
Commissioner Andor will present the Quality Framework for Traineeships (IP/13/1200), an initiative that will enable trainees to acquire high-quality work experience under safe and fair conditions, and to increase their chances of finding a good quality job. He will encourage the Council to agree on this Recommendation during the first half of 2014 as a crucial step to facilitate school to work transitions and to make the Youth Guarantee a reality.
Regarding the Youth Guarantee (see MEMO/13/968 and MEMO/13/984), Andor will thank those Member States that have already submitted their implementation plans and will urge Member States to take full advantage of the €6 billion Youth Employment Initiative (YEI), by programming activities from 1st January 2014. Member States will be able to complement YEI investments by substantial additional contributions from the European Social Fund (worth at least 10 billion per year in 2014-20) and from national budgets.
The Commission will hold a conference in Brussels on 8th April 2014 to take stock of Member States' progress on implementation of the Youth Guarantee.
Stepping up Roma inclusion
The European Commission released its latest progress report on Roma integration in the Member States on 26 June 2013 (IP/13/607). The report showed that Member States need to do better in implementing their national plans for Roma under the EU Framework for national Roma integration strategies. At the same time, the Commission put forward a proposal for a Recommendation addressed to EU countries which proposes to Member States on the one hand specific measures, including positive action, and on the other hand, horizontal policy measures, including local actions to improve the situation of Roma people. Under the Council Recommendation, Member States would have two years to put concrete measures into practice to make a difference for Roma people on the ground.
What is expected at this Council? The Council is expected to adopt unanimously the Recommendation on Roma inclusion, based on the Commission’s proposal of 26 June.
Commission position: Political agreement on a Council Recommendation would be a leap forward in the process towards better Roma integration. It would add a new instrument to the legal and political landscape but more importantly, it would represent a strong and unanimous political commitment by Member States that they are committed to make more and better efforts to bridge the gaps between the Roma and the rest of the population and improve the situation on the ground.
Background: Roma integration is not just a moral duty, but also in the interest of Member States, especially for those with a large Roma minority. Roma represent a significant and growing proportion of the school age population and the future workforce. In countries like Bulgaria and Romania, one in every four to five new labour market entrants are Roma. Efficient labour activation policies and individualised and accessible support services for Roma job seekers are crucial to allow Roma people live up to their potential and actively and equally participate in society.
The Commission’s 2013 Roma progress report found that while many Member States have set up mechanisms to better coordinate their Roma integration efforts and bolster dialogue with local and regional authorities, there is room for improvement in involving civil society organisations and putting in place sound monitoring and evaluation methods to measure results.
The report also found that a majority of Member States have not allocated sufficient resources from their national budgets to implement the strategies (MEMO/13/610 and see the country-specific information). In addition, public authorities should do more to fight discrimination and explain the social and economic benefits of Roma integration.
Improving the gender balance in Europe’s boardrooms
On 14 November 2012, the Commission adopted a proposal for a Directive setting a minimum objective of having 40% of the under-represented sex in non-executive board-member positions in listed companies in Europe by 2020, or 2018 for listed public undertakings (see IP/12/1205 and MEMO/12/860).
The strong endorsement by the European Parliament last month (IP/13/1118) means the Commission’s proposal has now been approved by one of the European Union’s two co-legislators. Member States in the Council now need to reach agreement on the draft law, amongst themselves and then with the European Parliament, in order for it to enter the EU statute book.
What is expected at this Council? The Lithuanian Presidency of the Council will present a progress report on discussions over the past five months.
Commission position: The Commission is grateful to the Lithuanian Presidency for the progress made so far. Following the very positive vote in the European Parliament, the Commission will support further efforts by Ministers in the Council towards advancing in the negotiations of the Directive.
Background: In order to become law, the Commission's proposal needs to be adopted jointly by the European Parliament and by the EU Member States in the Council (which votes by qualified majority).
The European Parliament voted on 20 November 2013 with an overwhelming majority (459 for, 148 against and 81 abstentions) to back the European Commission’s proposed law to improve the gender balance in Europe’s company boardrooms (IP/13/1118).
The Council, which decides on this proposal on an equal footing with the European Parliament, took stock of progress achieved under the Irish Presidency at the Council of Employment and Social Affairs Ministers on 20 June 2013 (MEMO/13/584).
Free Movement of Citizens
Commissioner Andor will present the recent Communication on Free Movement of Citizens (IP/13/1151, MEMO/13/1041). The Communication underlines the joint responsibility of Member States and the EU institutions to uphold EU citizens' rights to live and work in another EU country and, to support Member States' efforts to do so, outlines five concrete actions to help national and local authorities to effectively apply EU rules on free movement and use available EU funds on the ground to face particular pressures deriving from the inflow of mobile EU citizens. It also clarifies the conditions needed for citizens to benefit from social assistance and benefits, as well as the existing safeguards to avoid abuse or fraud.
Commissioner Andor will underline that the Communication finds that:
The Commissioner will recall the Commission's April 2013 proposal to improve the application of workers' rights to free movement (IP/13/372, MEMO/13/384 and SPEECH/13/373). This proposal is now under discussion between the European Parliament and the Council, and the Commission hopes for its rapid adoption.
Commissioner Andor will present the proposal to give seafaring workers the same information and consultation rights as on-shore workers in cases of collective redundancies and transfers of enterprises (IP/13/1094). The Commissioner will ask the Council for rapid agreement on this proposal that will help to improve the living and working conditions of seafarers and so to make this profession more attractive for young people and qualified employees.
Supplementary pension rights
Commissioner Andor will welcome the political agreement reached between the European Parliament and the Council on the Directive on supplementary pension rights, which is expected to be endorsed by the European Parliament's Employment Committee on Monday 9 December. This agreement follows many years of difficult negotiations and it is a key step to ensure that people can move to another Member State without losing their occupational pension benefits. The agreed proposal provides that workers' occupational pension rights should be guaranteed (vested) no later than after three years of employment relationship and preserved when they leave the pension scheme. Under the compromise agreement, the Directive would only apply to workers who move between Member States, however Member States may extend these standards also to workers who change jobs within a single country. Currently, occupational pension scheme rules in some countries mean that people changing jobs after less than five or even ten years will not earn any occupational pension rights.
Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived
Commission Andor will welcome the political agreement reached between the European Parliament and the Council on the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (see IP/12/1141). The Fund would support Member State schemes providing food to the most deprived people and clothing and other essential goods to homeless people and materially-deprived children. Commission Andor will call on Member States to ensure swift preparation of the Operational Programmes so the Fund can start running early in 2014 and provide essential help to those citizens most affected by the crisis already this winter.
Protection of workers in the chemical sector
Commissioner Andor will welcome the Council's preliminary agreement on the Directive on classification, labelling and packaging of substances and mixtures (CLP), which will improve protection of workers in the chemical sector. The February 2013 proposal would amend five existing EU health and safety Directives on protection of workers from exposure to harmful chemicals to align them with the latest rules on classification, labelling and packaging of chemicals (see IP/13/158).
Health and Consumer Affairs:
Medical devices package
The Council will discuss the European Commission's medical devices package (covering medical devices and in-vitro devices) as proposed in September 2012 (see IP/12/1011. The intention is to rapidly arriving at a common position in the Council so as to be able to pave the way for adoption on this important legislation for consumer safety during the term of the Current European parliament. As Commissioner for Consumer Policy Neven Mimica has said "The European Commission's aim in these negotiations will be to ensure the highest level of patient and consumer safety while making sure that innovation continues to flourish".
Reflection process on modern, responsive and sustainable health systems
Commissioner Borg will welcome the Presidency's initiative to propose Council conclusions on the “Reflection process on modern, responsive and sustainable health systems” to take stock of progress and to suggest orientation for future work at EU level. The Commission welcomes the progress achieved since the previous Council conclusions in 2011 and stresses that the draft Council conclusions set out steps for further cooperation at European level on the sustainability of health systems.
Any other business (AOB)
During the EPSCO Council on 10 of December, the Presidency will provide a state of play on on-going legislative files, including:
- Clinical Trials
The Commission welcomes the progress made on a number of technical issues concerning this file and on some of those that are more critical (insurance, joint assessment opt-outs, clinically relevant benefit). Europe needs to remain an attractive location for clinical research, i.e. clinical trials. Clinical trials are of benefit to patients, public health, and Europe's competitiveness and innovation capacity. Commissioner Borg will invite the Council to seize the opportunity to improve the status quo for clinical research, while keeping a high level of patients' safety.
- Proposal for the revision of the Tobacco Product Directive
Commissioner Borg will thank Ministers for progress made to date in trilogue negotiations, for their cooperation and for their prioritisation of this important public health file in the EPSCO Health Council.
- Proposal on fees for the European Medicines Agency ('EMA') on pharmacovigilance
The proposal aims at ensuring necessary funding of the EU pharmacovigilance system which has been operating since July 2012 when the pharmacovigilance legislation became applicable.
- Implementation of Cross-border Healthcare Directive
Directive 2011/24/EU on the application of patients’ rights in cross-border healthcare was due to be transposed by Member States by 25 October 2013. Member States have had 30 months to transpose the Directive into national law and the Commission has offered substantial help during the process. Commissioner Borg will urge those Member States who have not yet transposed the Directive to do so now.
- Joint procurement of medical countermeasures
In the context of the Decision on serious cross border threats to health, which entered into force on 6 November, Commissioner Borg will update the Council on the state of play regarding the joint procurement of medical countermeasures. In December 2010, Health Ministers asked the Commission to develop a voluntary mechanism for joint procurement of vaccines.. The next step will be the signature and ratification of the Joint Procurement Agreement at the beginning of next year.