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C/02/56

Brussels, 7 March 2002 6695/02 (Presse 56)

2415th Council meeting

- EMPLOYMENT AND SOCIAL POLICY -

Brussels, 7 March 2002

2415th Council meeting

- -

Brussels,

President :

Mr Juan Carlos APARICIO PEREZ

Minister for Labour and Social Affairs of the Kingdom of Spain

CONTENTS (1)

PARTICIPANTS 3

ITEMS DEBATED

PREPARATION FOR THE EUROPEAN COUNCIL IN BARCELONA Presidency conclusions 5

WORK PROGRAMME FOR 2002 OF THE SOCIAL PROTECTION COMMITTEE 11

WORK PROGRAMME OF THE EMPLOYMENT COMMITTEE 2002 11

VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN Presidency Conclusions 12

EUROPEAN COOPERATIVE SOCIETY 14

PROTECTION OF WORKERS FROM THE RISKS RELATED TO EXPOSURE TO ASBESTOS 14

COMMUNITY STRATEGY ON HEALTH AND SAFETY AT WORK 15

SECOND WORLD ASSEMBLY ON AGEING 15

REPORT ON THE PRESIDENCY'S ACTIVITIES 16

OTHER BUSINESS 16

ITEM APPROVED WITHOUT DEBATE

MARITIME TRANSPORT

 European Maritime Safety Agency I

_________________

For further information call 02-285.62.19, 02-285.67.00 or 02-285.68.08

PARTICIPANTS

The Governments of the Member States and the European Commission were represented as follows:

Belgium :

Ms Laurette ONKELINX

Mr Franck VANDENBROUCKE

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Employment

Minister for Social Affairs and Pensions

Denmark :

Mr Claus Hjort FREDERIKSEN

Ms Henriette KJAER

Minister for Employment

Minister for Social Affairs and Equal Opportunity

Germany :
Mr Gerd ANDRESParliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for Labour and Social Affairs
Greece :
Mr Eleftherios TZIOLASState Secretary for Labour and Social Security
Spain :
Mr Juan Carlos APARICIO PÉREZ

Mr Juan CHOZAS

Minister for Labour and Social Affairs

Secretary-General for Employment

France :
Ms Élisabeth GUIGOUMinister for Employment and Solidarity
Ireland :
Mr James BRENNANDeputy Permanent Representative
Italy :
Mr Pasquale VIESPOLIState Secretary for Labour and Social Policy
Luxembourg :
Mr François BILTGEN

Ms Marie-Josée JACOBS

Minister for Labour and Employment

Minister for the Family, Social Solidarity and Youth, Minister for the Advancement of Women

Netherlands :
Mr Willem VERMEENDMinister for Social Affairs and Employment
Austria :
Ms Mares ROSSMANNState Secretary, Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Labour
Portugal :
Mr António DORNELAS

Ms Maria do Céu CUNHA REGO

State Secretary for Labour and Training

State Secretary for Equality

Finland :
Ms Maija PERHOMinister for Social Affairs and Health

Sweden :

Ms Mona SAHLIN

Ms Margareta WINBERG

Minister at the Ministry of Industry, Employment and

Communications, with responsibility for Working Life, Integration and Policy on Metropolitan Areas

Minister for Agriculture and Minister for Equal Opportunities

United Kingdom :
Mr Malcolm WICKS

Mr Alan JOHNSON

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions

Minister of State for Employment Relations and the Regions

* * *
Commission :
Ms Anna DIAMANTOPOULOUMember

* * *

Other participants :
Mr Clive TUCKER

Mr Raoul BRIET

Chairman of the Employment Committee

Chairman of the Social Protection Committee

PREPARATION FOR THE EUROPEAN COUNCIL IN BARCELONA Presidency conclusions

The Council held a wide-ranging debate in preparation for its contribution to the European Council to be held in Barcelona on 15 and 16 March, working on the basis of a number of documents, including:

    €? the Commission's summary report: The Lisbon Strategy Making Change Happen (5654/02), together with the opinions of the Employment Committee (6280/02) and the Social Protection Committee (6644/02) respectively;

    €? the scoreboard on the follow-up to the Social Agenda;

    €? the Commission Action Plan on Mobility and Skills which follows on from the High-level Task Force report and the Commission communication: Making a European Area of Lifelong Learning a Reality, together with a report from the Employment Committee;

    €? the draft joint report from the Council and the Commission: Increasing labour-force participation and promoting active ageing (6519/02);

    €? a Presidency discussion paper (6560/02).

Following the discussion, the Presidency established the following conclusions, which it will be forwarding to the European Council in Barcelona:

    "1. The Barcelona European Council will be the second spring summit developing the mandates established at the European Councils of Lisbon, Feira, Nice, Stockholm, Göteborg and Laeken to fulfil the European Union's strategic goal for the coming years: "to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion".

    2. The Barcelona European Council will also be charged with assessing progress in the application of the European Social Agenda approved at Nice.

    3. The Employment and Social Policy Council on 7 March 2002 takes a very positive view of the achievements of the European Employment Strategy since it was launched in 1997, and the validity of that process has been confirmed both in times of economic expansion and in less favourable circumstances.

    4. The Employment and Social Policy Council likewise views very positively the progress made in developing the open method of coordination for the purpose of ensuring the long-term sustainability of pension systems, with a view to final confirmation of the method by the Barcelona European Council.

    5. The Presidency considers that the Council:

      €? takes a very positive view of the Commission's Summary Report and confirms that it is necessary to strengthen the equilibrium, coherence, coordination and synchronisation between the social and economic dimensions in the Lisbon Strategy framework, through the instruments used in each of those dimensions, along the lines put forward by the Employment and Social Protection Committees in their Opinions.

      This coordination should apply particularly in the Broad Economic Policy Guidelines process and the European Employment Strategy process, with a view to improving coherence between the two processes. To this end, it will be necessary to synchronise timetables, whilst maintaining the independence of each process, and for the spring European Council to direct each of these in a coherent and balanced manner. The European Council will therefore establish the political priorities that should be followed by the various Council configurations.

      The Council is agreed that in the case of the European Employment Strategy it is not necessary to establish objectives other than those set out in a general way at Lisbon and that therefore the new European Employment Strategy will have to be implemented until 2010, with an intermediate assessment in 2006. The process needs simplification, but not watering down, and in particular it needs fewer employment guidelines. Taking account of the results of the current assessment, the new Strategy will incorporate all the positive aspects of the Luxembourg process which have made it possible for all Member States to progress in establishing joint policies and objectives, while taking account of their specific characteristics.

      €? The Council holds that full employment is the essential goal of economic and social policies, which requires the creation of more and better jobs. It is therefore necessary to continue paying particular attention to the reforms of employment and labour market policies. In this context, it is essential to eliminate barriers to entry into the labour market and to promote active employment policies, maintaining a preventive approach and individualised attention to the unemployed to prevent them from falling into long-term unemployment and to improve their employability.

      It emphasises that to achieve the objectives set in Lisbon, the European Employment Strategy will have to pay special attention to the challenges facing the EU in the long term, especially the challenges of ageing. The European Employment Strategy should enable everybody to have an opportunity to take part in working life. At the same time, it will have to contribute to creating a dynamic and effective labour market in which motivated and trained workers can have high-quality and high-productivity jobs. Thus, the Strategy will have to give adequate consideration to policies which improve both the supply of and the demand for work.

      It is therefore necessary to make progress with the modernisation and reform of the labour market, to strengthen our social protection systems so that they both afford protection to those in need and provide incentives to participate in working life, to support lifelong learning in order to secure a knowledge-based society and to promote policies which stimulate, rather than impede, job creation by entrepreneurs.

      €? The Council stresses the importance of job quality. Quality, which must not create new red tape in the labour market, will make possible higher employment levels. The objective of creating better jobs thus complements and reinforces that of creating more jobs.

      €? It emphasises the need to strengthen the role of the social partners in modernising the organisation of work, improving its quality, vocational training and access to and durability of employment. The social partners share responsibility for finding a balance between flexibility and security in employment and making it possible for enterprises to be adaptable. They must above all play the principal role in anticipating and managing change and achieving the balance which will safeguard the way enterprises operate as well as the interests of workers. The setting up of the Social Summit constitutes an essential step forward in achieving this objective. The contributions made by the social partners in this forum will undoubtedly prove a highly valuable instrument for further exploring appropriate ways of strengthening their participation in the EES.

      €? The Council reaffirms the need to strengthen social integration and the fight against exclusion, in line with the conclusions of the Nice European Council, since, notwithstanding the multidisciplinary nature of the phenomenon, the best instrument for inclusion is employment; it is thus essential that employment services and social services work together in such a way that both mechanisms improve the employability of the socially excluded. Employment is always preferable to unemployment, but it must meet certain minimum conditions and offer opportunities for progress in work.

    The Council emphasises the importance of the Community Strategy for combating exclusion and of the adoption by the Member States of National Plans. Similarly, it urges the Employment and Social Protection Committees to continue working towards the adoption of specific objectives to reduce social exclusion, taking account of the indicators adopted at Laeken and the multi-faceted nature of the phenomenon of exclusion.

      €? It likewise confirms the importance of implementing the Social Protection strategy as regards the quality and viability of pensions, which supports the reform of pension systems, in the framework of the open method of coordination, with the aim of safeguarding the capacity of systems to fulfil their social objectives, ensuring financial sustainability, and adapting their capacity to meet the new needs of society. To fulfil these objectives, it considers the common objectives and the working method developed with a view to their confirmation by the European Council in Barcelona to be very valuable and useful.

      €? draws attention to the need to continue to work for equality between men and women by developing measures to make it easier for women to enter and remain in the labour market, and by avoiding discrimination. In this context, it is important to increase the number of measures directed at reconciling family life and working life, particularly through the creation of services caring for children and other dependents. It also supports the need to establish an integrated and multi-disciplinary approach in order to eradicate all forms of violence against women with the cooperation of all the policy sectors involved.

    6. The Presidency notes that the Council welcomes the progress achieved in developing the Social Policy Agenda, and stresses the importance of the initiatives set up in the past twelve months.

    The Presidency notes that the Council welcomes the content of the Action Plan on Mobility and Skills and is agreed on the importance of the three challenges of the Plan: (a) to improve job mobility; (b) to promote geographical mobility; and (c) to establish adequate channels of information on work and training opportunities in the EU. To this end, it stresses the need to develop and recognise qualifications and skills, including those acquired informally, invest in human resources, pursue efforts to ensure lifelong learning and modernise Public Employment Services, particularly the EURES network.

    8. The Presidency shares the Council's interest in the importance of lifelong learning in helping people enter and remain in the labour market and progress in their working lives, in particular the role which training systems provided in a genuine working environment can play to that end.

    9. The Presidency observes that the Council stresses the need to increase participation in the labour market for all and to encourage older workers to stay active voluntarily in response to the challenge of ageing. The social partners must play an essential role in determining the necessary policies. At the same time, it stresses that early retirement must cease to be the immediate response to the problems of restructuring enterprises. Opportunities must be given to older workers to keep their jobs, since flexible work organisation formulas (part time and teleworking among others) and the guarantee of lifelong learning are tools that can help make those opportunities a reality.

     It also notes that the Council is adopting the joint report by the Commission and the Council on "increasing labour-force participation and promoting active ageing".

    10. As an essential complement to the above-mentioned employment measures, the Presidency stresses the importance of reforms to Member States' pension systems with a view to creating a gradual and flexible approach to retirement, encouraging a voluntary raising of the true retirement age in keeping with the reality of longer life expectancy, facilitating a gradual transition from full activity to retirement and promoting the active participation of older people in public, social and cultural life so as to achieve the objective of active ageing.

    11. The Presidency emphasises the importance of the agreement achieved in the conciliation process in relation to the Decision on incentive measures in the field of employment for the future development of the European Employment Strategy in the Lisbon framework, and stresses the will of the institutions to make information on the Strategy's results more transparent and accessible to the citizens of Europe and to those groups most concerned, with particular attention to its regional and local dimensions.

    12. The Presidency notes that the Council endorses the joint Report by the Social Protection Committee and the Economic Policy Committee on the principles on health care and care for the elderly, so that everyone can be guaranteed access to quality health care, the transparency and quality of health care systems is improved, and the reform process that has begun continues, with the aim of making the rate of cost increases compatible with improvement in the quality of public finance, thus making it possible to ensure that health care is adequately funded, with the necessary cooperation and participation of all actors involved.

     To this end, the Council is agreed on the need to initiate and to develop cooperation between the Member States over 2002 and 2003, on areas in which to exchange best practice and information, once they are identified, and to discuss common challenges at European level, which could lead to the creation of added value in achieving the objectives of the Lisbon Strategy."

The Council also adopted an initial report on health care and care for the elderly (6361/02), drawn up jointly by the Social Protection and Economic Policy Committees. The report was also approved by the ECOFIN Council at its meeting on 5 March and will now be submitted to the European Council in Barcelona.

The report has been drawn up on the basis of a Commission Communication; it is in response to instructions of the Göteborg European Council in June 2001, which called on the Social Protection and Economic Policy Committees to draw up a joint report on the problems raised by population ageing, in particular in the light of the repercussions on social security systems. The interim report sets out the broad thrust of the political debate and proposes a number of activities for 2002 and 2003.

WORK PROGRAMME FOR 2002 OF THE SOCIAL PROTECTION COMMITTEE

The Council took note of the 2002 Work Programme of the Social Protection Committee (6238/02). The Committee's rules of procedure stipulate that the programme should be submitted annually to the Council for information.

The programme's priorities are set by reference to the mandates given to the Committee by the Lisbon European Council. The two issues on which the Committee has worked throughout 2001 the fight against social exclusion and safe and sustainable pensions will continue to be central to the 2002 programme. However, the 2002 programme will also devote attention to other issues such as, for example, health and long-term care, and extending the dialogue on social protection to the candidate countries.

WORK PROGRAMME OF THE EMPLOYMENT COMMITTEE 2002

The Council noted the Work Programme of the Employment Committee for the year 2002 (6271/02). The Committee's rules of procedure lay down that its annual work programme is to be submitted to the Council for information at the beginning of the year.

In 2002 the Committee should finalise the impact evaluation of the European Employment Strategy established by the Luxembourg European Council in 1997 and begin discussing the future direction of the Strategy. The outcome of those proceedings will be used as a basis for preparation of the employment package (employment guidelines, joint employment report and recommendations on the implementation of Member States' employment policies).

The Committee, working together with the Social Protection Committee, will assist the Employment and Social Policy Council in preparing a contribution to the preparation for the Broad Economic Policy Guidelines (BEPGs) for 2003.

VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN Presidency Conclusions

On the eve of International Women's Day on 8 March, the Council held a public debate, broadcast live to the press and interested members of the public, on the issue of violence against women, based on a discussion paper prepared by the Presidency (6279/1/02). The debate was conducted to raise public awareness of the phenomenon.

At the close of debate the Presidency drew the conclusions set out below. In that context, the Council took special note of the undertaking given by the subsequent Presidency (Denmark) to continuing discussion of the matter, particularly with a view to developing indicators.

Presidency conclusions:

"The public debate held during the meeting of the Employment and Social Policy Council demonstrated once again that violence against women is a widespread and persistent problem, which occurs at every level of society, despite the national and international laws in favour of equality.

Violence against women is a deep-rooted structural problem, the eradication of which requires an unstinting effort by governments and society as a whole.

The debate provided opportunities to analyse this problem in depth and to draw up proposals for progressing in the eradication of violence in its various aspects and involved a reaffirmation of the principles of freedom, democracy, respect for human rights, for the fundamental freedoms and the rule of law, on which the Union is based.

    1. By way of general considerations, the Presidency noted that the Member States underlined the importance of establishing an integrated, multidisciplinary and multi-level approach to the eradication of violence against women, by applying gender mainstreaming in the various political sectors involved: not only in Employment and Social Affairs, but also in Justice and Home Affairs, Health, Education and Youth.

    2. The exchange of best practices within the European Union has proved to be an efficient instrument in developing policies of common interest for the Member States and can also be of use in finding solutions in the area of gender-related violence.

    In that connection, the Member States emphasised that the Guide of Best Practice, which the Spanish Presidency is preparing, can help Member States to take more effective action against gender-related violence and should be presented at the abovementioned formations of the Council of Ministers of the European Union.

    3. With the fundamental aim of preventing gender-related violence and involving the whole of society in the eradication of the problem, it was considered necessary to continue developing awareness campaigns so that society took note of its seriousness.

    The Presidency therefore encourages the Member States to coordinate at national and local level the awareness campaigns on violence against women, and to identify each year priority common themes throughout the European Union, so that this year, 2002, domestic violence is tackled, in 2003 trafficking in women and girls, and in 2004 violence at the workplace. The High-level Group on Gender Mainstreaming is responsible for identifying priority areas for the following years.

    4. With the aim of taking cognizance of the incidence of violence in the Member States and having standardised information, the Presidency and the Member States noted the need to improve the statistics and establish some common definitions.

    It is also deemed necessary to evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of all the measures taken to combat violence against women. To that end, it is necessary to draw up common terminology on violence throughout the European Union, and to establish some indicators which would allow us to evaluate the progress made in complying with the Platform for Action adopted in Beijing in 1995.

    These indicators should be incorporated, if possible, into the present Eurostat and Europol data collection mechanisms.

    In that regard, the Presidency and the Council note with satisfaction the initiative by Denmark to use the work carried out by the Spanish Presidency as a basis for developing and establishing some common indicators on gender-related violence during its own Presidency."

EUROPEAN COOPERATIVE SOCIETY

The Council noted the Presidency's progress report on the draft Directive supplementing the Statute for a European Cooperative Society with regard to the involvement of employees in the management of a cooperative. It instructed the Permanent Representatives Committee to complete its work as soon as possible.

Agreement has been reached on most of the proposals. The two major issues still outstanding are firstly, the possible introduction of a threshold in terms of number of employees for the Directive to apply and secondly, maintaining the right, where it already exists, for employee representatives to be members of and vote in the cooperative's general assembly.

PROTECTION OF WORKERS FROM THE RISKS RELATED TO EXPOSURE TO ASBESTOS

The Council noted the progress made on the proposal for a Directive on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to asbestos. It established guidelines for developing outstanding issues in more depth, and instructed the Permanent Representatives Committee to continue working in that direction pending the European Parliament's Opinion.

At the heart of the proposal, which aims to bring Directive 83/477/EEC up to date to ensure better worker protection, is the introduction of a single limit value for exposure, as opposed to two under the original Directive. Matters covered by other amendments include scope (with the removal of the derogations applicable to the sea and air transport sectors), the simplification of provisions in the case of limited exposure, the method for measuring the asbestos level in air, the detection of asbestos and training for workers.

COMMUNITY STRATEGY ON HEALTH AND SAFETY AT WORK

The Council took note of the information supplied by Commissioner DIAMANTOPOULOU on the key components of a "Community strategy on health and safety at work", as well as her undertaking to submit the strategy to the Council during the Spanish Presidency.

SECOND WORLD ASSEMBLY ON AGEING

The Council took note of the information from the Presidency on progress in preparations for the "Second World Assembly on Ageing" to be held in Madrid from 8 to 12 April 2002 with the aim of adopting a new world strategy to meet the challenge posed by the ageing of the world population and, if possible, agreeing on a policy statement.

The Council was also given notice by Commissioner DIAMANTOPOULOU of a communication on demographic challenges which she would be presenting in the near future, and by the German delegation of the ministerial conference on ageing, convened under the aegis of the Economic Commission for Europe, to be held in September in Berlin.

REPORT ON THE PRESIDENCY'S ACTIVITIES

The Council took note of the reports on the Presidency's activities concerning:

€? the informal meeting of Employment Ministers (Burgos, 18 and 19 January 2002);

    €? the seminar on active ageing and on gradual and flexible pension systems (Lanzarote, 4 and 5 February 2002);

    €? the large-scale conference on employment policy in Europe: from Luxembourg to Barcelona (Madrid, 11 and 12 February 2002);

    €? the ministerial conference on violence against women (Santiago de Compostela, 18 and 19 February 2002).

OTHER BUSINESS

The Council took note of the oral presentation by the Commission

     of the report on the social situation in Europe; this joint report by the Commission and Eurostat based on an analysis of social indicators will act as a tool for comparative analysis of demographic development in the Member States;

 report by the High-level Working Party on the future of industrial relations.

ITEM APPROVED WITHOUT DEBATE

The documents whose references are given are available on the Council's Internet site http://consilium.europa.eu. Acts adopted with statements for the Council minutes which may be released to the public are indicated by an asterisk; these statements may be obtained by following the procedure indicated above or from the Press Office.

MARITIME TRANSPORT

European Maritime Safety Agency

The Council adopted a Common Position on the draft Regulation establishing a European Maritime Safety Agency in accordance with the political agreement reached at its meeting on 7 December 2001. The text will be forwarded to the European Parliament for a second reading under the codecision procedure (15121/01).

The new Agency will provide Member States and the Commission with the necessary technical and scientific support properly to apply the Community legislation in the field of maritime safety, thereby contributing to ensuring a high and uniform level of maritime safety and pollution prevention in the Community. The Regulation is part of the second set of measures proposed by the Commission in the aftermath of the Erika incident.

(1) Where declarations, conclusions or resolutions have been formally adopted by the Council, this is indicated in the heading for the item concerned and the text is placed between quotation marks.


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