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Brussels, 19 June 2013
Council of Employment, Social Policy and Health Ministers, 20-21 June 2013, Luxembourg
The EU's Council of Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs (EPSCO) Ministers will meet to discuss employment, social policy and health on 20-21 June in Luxembourg under the Irish Presidency chairmanship of Joan Burton, Minister for Social Protection, Richard Bruton, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and Ciarán Cannon, Minister for Training and Skills. The European Commission will be represented by Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion László Andor and Vice-President and Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental rights and Citizenship Viviane Reding. The Health part will be chaired by Mr James Reilly, Minister for Health and the Commission will be represented by Commissioner Tonio Borg.
20 June: Employment and Social Policy
European Semester 2013
The Council will start with a policy debate on the European Semester 2013 with a view to the approval of the country-specific recommendations (CSRs) proposed by the Commission in May (see IP/13/463). The outcome of the Council of Employment and Social Affairs Ministers' discussion on the CSRs, together with the one taking place in the Council of Economic and Finance Ministers, will be transmitted to the General Affairs Council in preparation of the European Council, which endorses the CSRs before their formal adoption by the Council in July.
Commissioner Andor is due to express his satisfaction that overall the assessment of challenges presented by the Commission was accepted. The Commissioner will stress the importance of the Employment and Social Policy Committees' work within the new economic governance procedures. He will warn that, in some cases, the Council Committees' discussions have led to a weakening of the Commission's policy advice, which dilutes the appeal for urgent reforms in the Member States.
Commissioner Andor will also reflect on the way forward as regards the European Semester. Europe is making progress in implementing highly needed structural labour market and social reforms and it is vital not to weaken the pace of reforms. Commissioner Andor will urge Member States to ensure the urgent implementation of the Youth Guarantee (see IP/13/152). He will also call for strengthening of European coordination of employment and social policies, in order to reinforce the surveillance of employment and social developments with a view to better preparing the ground for future recommendations within the European Semester. This should also include the reinforcement of existing processes of consultation of social partners at EU and national level.
Public Employment Services (PES)
Commissioner Andor will present to the Council the proposal for a Decision of the Council and European Parliament on 'Enhanced cooperation between Public Employment Services', presented by the Commission on 17 June (see IP/13/544 and SPEECH/13/546). The proposal would help public employment services to maximise their effectiveness through closer cooperation to better address the needs of the unemployed and businesses and so be more effective in helping the 26 million unemployed in Europe to get a job. Effective public employment services are essential for the practical implementation by Member States of employment policies, such as the Youth Guarantee. For example, public employment services are well placed to advise individual jobseekers on training, apprenticeship, traineeship and further education opportunities adapted to their situation and to employers' requirements. The proposed Decision would establish a platform for comparing the performance public employment services against relevant benchmarks, identifying best practices and fostering mutual learning.
The Council will hold a policy debate on youth employment, with a view to contribute to the discussion on this topic at the forthcoming European Council of 27-28 June. Ministers are to exchange views on their intended actions to implement the Youth Guarantee and to improve labour mobility for young people.
Commissioner Andor will present the Communication on Youth Employment adopted by the Commission on 19 June (IP/13/558). The Commissioner will outline its key components, in particular the urgent implementation of the Youth Guarantee supported by investment in young people through the European Social Fund, front-loading of the Youth Employment Initiative, support for intra-EU labour mobility with EURES, specific steps to ease the transition from education to work by boosting the supply of high-quality apprenticeships and traineeships and addressing skills shortages, and measures to support job creation and hiring of young people, especially by SMEs.
The Council is due to agree a general approach, on the basis of a Presidency compromise, on the Commission's proposal for a Directive on improving the portability of supplementary pension rights (see IP/05/1320, MEMO/05/384). Following lengthy discussions over many years, the Council's Working Party has reached a broad agreement, subject to a few remaining outstanding issues being resolved (including the scope, conditions governing acquisition, and the role of social partners).
At present, changing job or country can mean losing occupational pension benefits in some Member States. Under the 'portability of pensions' Directive, workers switching jobs between countries would no longer have to worry about substantial loss of work pension benefits. The Directive would thus make it easier for workers to move.
Posting of workers
The Council is due to take note of a progress report from the Presidency on negotiations on the proposal for a Directive concerning the enforcement of EU rules on the posting of workers. The Commission presented its proposal in March 2012 (see IP/12/267), but the Council has not been able to find agreement so far, notably on two outstanding issues: national control measures and the introduction of a limited system of joint and several liability at EU level. Further work still needs to be done to come to a compromise solution which would be acceptable to a qualified majority of Member States.
Commissioner Andor is due to emphasise the European Council's call for rapid progress on this priority proposal and will call on Member States to reach agreement as soon as possible.
Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived
The Council is due to take stock of the progress made so far on the Commission's proposal for a Regulation on the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD) (see MEMO/12/800), on the basis of a progress report from the Presidency. While substantial progress has been achieved under the Irish Presidency on many parts of the text, the Council has yet to agree on the mechanism for participation of Member States. As the FEAD should be operational at the beginning of 2014, there needs to be a rapid agreement between Council and Parliament on this proposal.
Commissioner Andor is due to recall the European Council's decision to dedicate €2.5 billion to the fund for helping the most deprived. He will explain the risks associated with a 'voluntary' approach proposed by some Member States from the point of view of budgetary management and the risk of delay that it could cause putting at risk the provision of assistance during the winter of 2013-2014.
Social Investment Package
The Council is due to adopt Council Conclusions on the Commission's Social Investment Package presented on 20 February 2013 (see IP/13/125). The Conclusions would welcome the main policy messages of the Package, and in particular its integrated, preventative approach. The Conclusions would call on Member States and the Commission to give consideration to the social investment approach in their policies.
Commissioner Andor is due to underline the importance of the social investment approach, which puts the emphasis on empowering people to reduce the frequency of people needing support. This way social policy represents an investment with economic returns as well as positive social effects. The Commissioner is due to underline his commitment to the further follow-up of the Package.
European Globalisation Adjustment Fund
The Council is due to agree a general approach on the Commission's proposal for a Regulation on the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund 2014-2020 (EGF). Currently there is a stalemate in the Council on this issue, due to a number of outstanding items: the scope of the Fund, the co-financing approach, the categories of eligible beneficiaries and an option for the Fund to additionally support young unemployed persons under the age of 25. Commissioner Andor is due to urge the Council to reach agreement so as to allow discussions with the European Parliament to start immediately.
The Irish Presidency is due to present a state of play report on the preparation of G20 Labour and Employment Ministers' meeting and the joint meeting with Finance Ministers in Moscow on 18-19 July 2013. Commissioner Andor is due to emphasise that the joint Labour and Finance Ministers Meeting should be seen as an important step in strengthening the coherence between economic, financial, employment and social policies and to better integrate the labour dimension into the broader work of the G20.
Women on boards
Despite women representing 60% of university graduates, today just 15.8% of the members of company boardrooms around Europe are women. To change this the Commission proposed on 14 November 2012 a law setting a minimum objective of 40% of the under-represented sex in non-executive board-member positions in big listed companies in Europe by 2020, or 2018 for listed public undertakings (see IP/12/1205 and MEMO/12/860).
What is expected at this Council? The Irish Presidency of the EU will present a progress report on developments during the first half of the year.
Commission position: The Commission's proposal will make sure that in the selection procedure for non-executive board members priority is given to female candidates. The proposal is reasonable and places the emphasis firmly on qualification and merit. The example set by countries such as Belgium, France and Italy, that have recently adopted legislation and are starting to show progress, clearly demonstrates that time-limited regulatory intervention can make all the difference. The Europe-wide law the Commission has put on the table will make sure existing talent is used boosting gender balance evenly across all company boards throughout the Single Market. The Commission will continue the constructive work on this proposal with the co-legislators, the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament, which is likely to vote on the proposal before the end of this year.
Background: The proposed Directive sets an objective of a 40% presence of the under-represented sex among non-executive directors of companies listed on stock exchanges. Companies which have a lower share (less than 40%) of the under-represented sex among the non-executive directors will be required to make appointments to those positions on the basis of a comparative analysis of the qualifications of each candidate, by applying clear, gender-neutral and unambiguous criteria. Given equal qualification, priority shall be given to the under-represented sex.
21 June: Health
Main agenda items for Commissioner Borg:
The Proposed revision of the Tobacco Products Directive will be discussed extensively with Ministers. The Irish Presidency aims to achieve a general approach on the proposal, which includes harmonised provisions on labelling and packaging, ingredients (regulation of reporting and content), electronic cigarettes, cross border internet sales, illicit trade and oral tobacco. Following this, the Presidency will present Progress Reports on the clinical trials proposal and the medical devices package.
In any other business (AOB), the Presidency will inform the Ministers of the agreement on the Decision on serious cross-border threats to health. The Commission will then inform the Ministers of the preparation for the new rules relating to import of active pharmaceutical ingredients under the falsified medicines legislation. The Commission will also give a state of play on the transposition of the Directive on patient's rights in cross-border healthcare and on the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus.