Employment and Social Policy Council
Ministers invited to adopt country recommendations
By Sophie Petitjean | Thursday 21 June 2012
The ‘European semester’ will be at the heart of the Employment and Social Policy Council, on 21 June in Luxembourg. The ministers will be asked to approve country-specific recommendations on employment, education and exclusion, presented by the European Commission on 30 May. They will also adopt a partial general approach on the programme for social change and innovation. The remainder of the meeting will focus on the adoption of various progress reports and conclusions.
The Council will begin its meeting with a policy debate on ways of strengthening the ‘European semester’ and on the elements of the employment package to be prioritised. The ministers will also be asked to approve the employment and social policy aspects of the country-specific recommendations, ahead of their formal endorsement by the General Affairs Council, on 26 June, and then by the European Council, on 28-29 June. Danish Ambassador Jonas Bering Liisberg told
Europolitics: “The draft recommendations have been analysed by different committees, including the employment and economic policy committees, and we have obtained a revised version. [...] Like last year, there are subjects that are a bit more sensitive, such as the indexing of salaries or retirement age, but I think that there is fairly broad support for the revised version”. He nevertheless warns that the outcome is not certain: “If the European Commission does not support these changes, the Council will have to justify its position in a public document,” he explained.
Generally speaking, the recommendations aim to improve the functioning of the employment market, reduce unemployment, boost job creation, lengthen careers, increase women’s employment and reduce poverty in the member states.
ASSESSMENT OF DANISH PRESIDENCY
The ministers will also be invited to adopt a partial general approach on the regulation creating a European programme for social change and innovation (2014-2020), pending Parliament’s opinion and negotiation of the multiannual financial framework (MFF). This programme (proposed on 6 October 2011 by the Commission) combines three existing programmes - Progress (programme for employment and social solidarity), EURES (European employment services) and the Progress microfinance facility – and extends their scope.
The compromise proposes to set a threshold for access by social enterprises to microfinance and adds specific provisions on co-financing.
The Danish Presidency will also review the legislative proposals on which it has failed to win agreement: the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund, which in all likelihood will disappear in 2014 due to a blocking minority (Czech Republic, Germany, Estonia, Latvia, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Sweden and the UK); minimum health and safety requirements relating to workers’ exposure to physical agents (electromagnetic fields); equal treatment (ban on discrimination on grounds of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation), which has been under review by the Council since 2008; and the posting of workers.
REPORT AND CONCLUSIONS
After a working lunch focused on the future of social Europe, the ministers are set to adopt the key messages of the 2012 report on pension adequacy (2010-2050), drawn up jointly by the Commission and the Social Protection Committee. They will also adopt conclusions on demographic challenges and on gender equality in decision making on climate change.