Busy half-year ahead
By Sophie Petitjean | Thursday 12 July 2012
As EU Presidencies follow one after another, social problems remain the same: unemployment, social exclusion and early school leaving to name just a few. In this context, the Cyprus Presidency has decided to place social cohesion, jobs and stakeholder participation at the heart of its priorities. It hopes to work out an agreement on several legislative proposals that are already well advanced, namely the draft directive clarifying rules on the posting of workers and the proposal on electromagnetic fields. The Cypriots plan to spare no effort to get other older issues moving again, including the draft directive on maternity leave. Meanwhile, the European Commission is expected to implement the commitments made in the employment package by presenting a guarantee for young people, a quality charter for traineeships and a legislative proposal on pension portability. This is going to be a busy half year for the EU.
Four issues are expected to evolve positively. The first is the draft directive clarifying the implementation of rules on the posting of workers to a member state other than the one where they normally work, for a limited period of time and in the framework of the provision of services. The 27 will have to settle the question of the cross-border enforcement of fines and administrative sanctions and matters related to national monitoring measures, time limits and the system proposed for joint and several liability, in order to reach an agreement. By contrast, the other component of the posting of workers package, the Monti II Regulation, seems far shakier since more than 18 national parliaments have submitted reasoned opinions. The Council will tackle the different multiannual programmes for 2014-2020 on the regulation creating a European programme on social change and social innovation (2014-2020), following the Council’s June 2012 general approach, and the regulation establishing the European Social Fund. Progress can also be hoped for on the draft directive on minimum health and safety requirements relating to workers’ exposure to risks from physical agents (electromagnetic fields) in spite of the highly technical nature of this issue.
ISSUES HELD UP
Despite its determination, the Cyprus Presidency is not likely to succeed in saving the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF). A minority of countries – the Czech Republic, Germany, Estonia, Latvia, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Sweden and the United Kingdom – oppose renewal of this instrument designed to help workers who have been made redundant find new jobs. The latest version of the ‘negotiating box’ for the multiannual financial framework, drawn up by Copenhagen, considers only one option: scrapping the EGF from 2014.
Like its predecessors, Nicosia will have to take up two legislative proposals presented in 2008 and stuck in Council ever since: the draft directive on improving the safety and health of pregnant workers and workers who have recently given birth or are breastfeeding. This harmonises, among other things, the minimum duration of maternity leave, and the draft directive on implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation. On the first, the member states – especially Germany and the United Kingdom – rejected the minimalist approach proposed by the Danish Presidency while showing a degree of flexibility to pursue the negotiations. The second, which requires unanimity, is criticised by several countries, led by Germany, due to its impact on the subsidiarity and proportionality principles.
The European Commission is set to present new proposals during the latter half of 2012.
In terms of legislative texts, it plans to come forward with the following initiatives: a draft directive on musculoskeletal disorders (by the end of the year); a proposal to help workers exercise their right of free movement; and a proposal to protect the supplementary pension rights of people who change jobs (probably based on the draft directive as amended in 2007). If the social partners come to an agreement, the EU executive may propose a revision of Directive 2003/88/EC on the organisation of working time.
In terms of non-legislative proposals, the Commission is due to publish a green paper on opportunities for economic migration and a draft recommendation (or a communication) on a quality framework for traineeships and another on guarantees for young people. It may present a new initiative based on the results of the consultation on corporate restructuring.