THE EUROPEAN UNION
16139/07 (Presse 284)
2837th Council meeting
Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs
Brussels, 5-6 December 2007
Presidents Mr José VIEIRA DA SILVA
Minister for Labour and Social Solidarity
Mr António CORREIA DE CAMPOS
Minister for Health
Main results of the Council
The Council adopted common principles of flexicurity.
The Council had for the first time a fruitful debate on the access of migrant people to health care on the EU.
PARTICIPANTS Error: Reference source not found
EMPLOYMENT AND SOCIAL POLICY Error: Reference source not found
Working time / Temporary agency workers Error: Reference source not found
Common principles of flexicurity - Council conclusions Error: Reference source not found
Future prospects for the European Employment Strategy in the new cycle of the Lisbon Strategy - Council conclusions Error: Reference source not found
Social services of general interest Error: Reference source not found
Coordination of social security systems Error: Reference source not found
Supplementary pension rights Error: Reference source not found
Active inclusion of people furthest from the labour market - Council conclusions Error: Reference source not found
Beijing platform for action - Council conclusions Error: Reference source not found
Follow-up to the European Year of Equal Opportunities for all (2007) Error: Reference source not found
Balanced roles of women and men - Council conclusions Error: Reference source not found
MIGRATION, EMPLOYMENT AND LISBON STRATEGY Error: Reference source not found
HEALTH Error: Reference source not found
Health and Migration in the EU - Council conclusions Error: Reference source not found
EU Health Strategy - Council conclusions Error: Reference source not found
Organ donation and transplantation - Council conclusions Error: Reference source not found
Strategy for Europe on nutrition, overweight and obesity - Council conclusions Error: Reference source not found
Combating HIV/AIDS within the EU and in neighbouring countries Error: Reference source not found
OTHER BUSINESS Error: Reference source not found
OTHER ITEMS APPROVED
The governments of the Member States and the European Commission were represented as follows:
Mr Christian DUPONT Minister for the Civil Service, Social Integration, Policy on Large Towns and Cities and Equal Opportunities
Mr Bruno TOBBACK Minister for the Environment and Minister for Pensions
Mr Peter VANVELTHOVEN Minister for Employment
Mr Didier DONFUT State Secretary for European Affairs, attached to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Ms Emilia Radkova MASLAROVA Minister for Labour and Social Policy
Mr Valery TZEKOV Deputy Minister for Health
Mr Petr NEČAS Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Labour and Social Affairs
Mr Michael VÍT Deputy Minister for Health with responsibility for the protection and promotion of public health, Chief Public Health Officer of the Czech Republic
Mr Claus Hjort FREDERIKSEN Minister for Employment
Mr Olaf SCHOLZ Federal Minister for Labour and Social Affairs
Ms Ulla SCHMIDT Federal Minister for Health
Mr Karl-Josef WASSERHÖVEL State Secretary, Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs
Mr Hermann KUES Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth
Ms Maret MARIPUU Minister for Social Affairs
Mr Pat the Cope GALLAGHER Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children with special responsibility for Health Promotion and Food Safety
Mr Billy KELLEHER Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment with special responsibility for Labour Affairs
Mr Vasilios MAGGINAS Minister for Employment and Social Protection
Mr Dimitrios AVRAMOPOULOS Minister for Health and Social Solidarity
Mr Jesús CALDERA SÁNCHEZ-CAPITÁN Minister for Labour and Social Affairs
Mr Joseba AZKARRAGA Minister for Justice, Employment and Social Security of the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country
Mr Bernat SORIA ESCOMS Minister for Health and Consumer Affairs
Mr Manuel CERVERA Minister for Health of the Autonomous
Mr Xavier BERTRAND Minister for Labour, Labour Relations and Solidarity
Ms Roselyne BACHELOT-NARQUIN Minister for Health,Youth and Sport
Mr Cesare DAMIANO Minister for Labour and Social Policy
Mr Gian Paolo PATTA State Secretary for Health
Mr Kostas KADIS Minister for Health
Mr Antonis VASSILIOU Minister for Labour and Social Insurance
Ms Iveta PURNE Minister for Welfare
Mr Armands PLORIŅŠ State Secretary, Ministry of Health
Mr Rimantas KAIRELIS State Secretary at the Ministry of Social Security and Labour
Mme Romalda BARANAUSKIENE Secretary of the Ministry of Health
Mr François BILTGEN Minister for Labour and Employment, Minister for Culture, Higher Education and Research, Minister for Religious Affairs
Mr Mars DI BARTOLOMEO Minister for Health and Social Security
Mr Gábor CSIZMÁR State Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment
Ms Ágnes HORVÁTH State Secretary, Ministry for Health
Mr Louis GALEA Minister for Education, Youth and Employment
Ms Helen D'AMATO Parliamentary Secretary for the Elderly and
Mr Piet Hein DONNER Minister for Social Affairs and Employment
Mr Martin BARTENSTEIN Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Labour
Mr Erwin BUCHINGER Federal Minister of Social Affairs and
Ms Andrea KDOLSKY Federal Minister for Health, Family and Youth
Mr Jarosław DUDA Secretary of State, Ministry of Labour and Social Policy
Mr Marek TWARDOWSKI Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Health
Mr António CORREIA DE CAMPOS Minister for Health
Mr José VIEIRA DA SILVA Minister for Labour and Social Solidarity
Mr Jorge LACÃO State Secretary for the Prime Minister's Office
Mr Pedro MARQUES State Secretary for Social Security
Mr Fernando MEDINA State Secretary for Employment and Vocational Training
Mr Paul PĂCURARU Minister of Labour, the Family and Equal Opportunities
Ms Marjeta COTMAN Minister for Labour, the Family and Social Affairs
Ms Zofija MAZEJ KUKOVIČ Minister for Health
Mr Daniel KLAČKO State Secretary, Ministry of Health
Ms Tarja CRONBERG Minister for Labour
Ms Liisa HYSSÄLÄ Minister for Social Affairs and Health
Mr Göran HÄGGLUND Minister for Social Affairs
Mr Sven Otto LITTORIN Minister for Employment
Mr John HUTTON Secretary of State for Business,
Enterprise and Regulatory Reform
Ms Dawn PRIMAROLO Minister of State for Public Health
Mr James PLASKITT Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions
Mr Franco FRATTINI Vice President
Mr Markos KYPRIANOU Member
Mr Vladimir ŠPIDLA Member
Ms Elise WILLAME Chair of the European Social Protection Committee
Mr Emilio GABAGLIO Chair of the Employment Committee
EMPLOYMENT AND SOCIAL POLICY
Working time / Temporary agency workers
The Council sought to reach political agreement on two draft directives, the first one aimed at amending Directive 2003/88/EC concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time1 (16061/07), the second one aimed at establishing working conditions for temporary agency workers (15086/07 ADD1).
Already, in July, the Presidency announced that it would consult with different member states in order to evaluate the conditions for balanced solutions concerning the legislative files under discussion in the (EPSCO) Council, namely the two above mentioned draft directives.
The need for progress on these two draft directives was clear. The need to move forward was recognised by most member states, many of which have problems they need to address.
After extensive bilateral consultations with different member states and the Commission, the Presidency decided to present compromise proposals for both directives.
In the past, both draft directives had been discussed separately, but the Presidency considered they were linked since they deal with central aspects of the regulation of contemporary labour markets. Given the difficulties in finding separate solutions for each of the files, the Presidency decided that there would be added value in working on a simultaneous and integrated solution, thus allowing member states to find a balance between the two directives that would be acceptable from the political point of view.
This joint approach was widely accepted by a large majority of member states, in the Council. The connection between the two directives, and more specifically the proposals presented by the Presidency, was considered a solid and viable basis for negotiation towards an agreement on both.
The Presidency explored different solutions, within the balanced framework underlying the proposals, to reach an enlarged consensus that would be politically desirable.
Bearing in mind the fact that this linked proposal was still very recent, as well as the sensitive nature of these directives for some member states and the importance of exploring all attempts to reach as broad an agreement as possible before the final decision was taken, the Council agreed that the best option at this moment was to postpone a decision, in order to further pursue the dialogue.
Nevertheless, the Presidency noted that a vast majority of member states had spoken in favour of an integrated solution for the directives, building an overall equilibrium between the two, and that many member states had pressing needs to address labour market regulation problems which depended on a solution on these files. Achieving results in the short-term is therefore of utmost importance for the EU as a whole.
Thus, and respecting the dominant orientation within the Council, the Presidency stressed that this openness to dialogue and consensus sought only to strengthen the conditions for a solution that reflected the position of a clear and strong majority. The proposals presented are a major step forward, because they now open up an appropriate way of reaching a solution on these files. There is a real margin for political decision in 2008, building on the solid basis for progress that the Council has just established. The forthcoming presidencies and the Commission might proceed with efforts to achieve a positive and final outcome on both directives, given the importance of the issues at stake and the specific needs of many member states.
Directive 2003/88/CE establishes minimum requirements concerning the organisation of working time, inter alia in respect of daily and weekly rest periods, breaks, maximum weekly working time, annual leave and certain aspects of night work, shift work and patterns of work.
The objective of the draft amending Directive currently under examination is twofold:
First, it would prevent some of the consequences of the European Court of Justice's case law, in particular of the rulings in the SIMAP1 and Jaeger2 cases, which held that any on call duty performed by a doctor, as long as he or she is required to be physically present in the hospital –even if he or she spends his or her time resting – must be regarded as working time. It is currently impossible for member states to apply European case law strictly, without a huge impact on their medical structures and economies. To avoid those negative effects, the draft Directive would introduce a definition of "inactive part of on-call time".
Secondly, to review some of the provisions of Directive 2003/88/EC concerning the possibility of not applying the maximum weekly working time (48 hours) if the worker agrees to work longer hours (the "opt out" provision).
With a view to achieving agreement, the Portuguese Presidency tabled a set of proposals, built on previous Presidencies' compromise texts.
The Presidency text provided for the possibility of the opt-out clause, with some elements being taken into account to guarantee the protection of health and safety of workers, in particular:
the opt-out clause would be seen as an exception, the working week of a maximum of 48 hours being the general rule in the EU;
implementation of the opt-out must be laid down by collective agreement, agreement between the social partners or by national law;
employers and employees must consider other flexibility provisions – such as the longer reference period when counting working time – before making use of the opt-out provision;
it would not be possible for a member state to make use of both the longer reference period and the opt-out clause;
an employee who refuses to work more than the average working time must not suffer as a result;
an agreement signed at the beginning of the working contract would be null and void;
a weekly limit of working hours would be set for workers who agree to the opt-out;
there must be follow-up by the national authorities;
a specific evaluation must be conducted at European level of the provisions concerning the opt out and the implementation of longer reference periods; taking into account this evaluation, the Commission may, if appropriate, submit a proposal to revise the Directive.
Legal basis proposed: Article 137(2) of the Treaty – qualified majority required for a Council decision; codecision procedure with the European Parliament applicable. The European Parliament delivered its first reading opinion on 11 May 2005 (8725/05) and the Commission its amended proposal on 31 May 2005 (9554/05).
Temporary agency workers
Temporary agency work is seen as a key factor in meeting the requirements of the Lisbon Strategy, as it contributes to increasing both employment and competitiveness.
There are considerable differences in the use, legal situation, status and working conditions of temporary agency work within the EU. In this context, the draft Directive aims to establish, at European level, a common legal framework to regulate temporary agency work. It seeks to strike a balance between flexibility and job security, while completing a package of measures aimed at regulating working conditions for so-called "atypical" workers. It will, in its turn, be complemented by Directive 91/383/EEC of 25 June 19911, supplementing the measures to encourage improvements in safety and health at work.
The draft Directive would apply to workers who have an employment relationship with a temporary agency and who would perform temporary work under the supervision and direction of a user undertaking. It aims to ensure the protection of temporary agency workers and to improve the quality of agency work by ensuring, in particular, that the principle of equal treatment – in relation to workers recruited by the user undertaking to occupy the same job – is applied. Temporary agencies would be recognised as employers.
The main outstanding issues may be summarised as follows:
prohibitions and restrictions on temporary agency work, in particular, their review or removal;
the principle of equal treatment, possible exceptions to that principle and the maximum length of assignments to which such exceptions can apply.
Legal basis proposed: Article 137(2) of the Treaty; qualified majority required for a Council decision; codecision procedure with the European Parliament applicable. The European Parliament delivered its opinion at first-reading in November 20022.
Common principles of flexicurity - Council conclusions
In response to the 2007 Spring European Council mandate1 and following the Commission communication: "Towards common principles of flexicurity"2, the Council held a debate on flexicurity.
At the end of the debate, the Presidency underlined the consensual commitment of the delegations that allowed an agreement on common principles of flexicurity which guarantee a well balanced definition of flexicurity that respects stability in contractual relations and during employment transitions as well as the role of the social partners.
Thus, the Council endorsed a joint opinion of the Employment and Social Protection Committees (15320/07) and adopted the conclusions set out in 15497/07, defining common principles of flexicurity.
Future prospects for the European Employment Strategy in the new cycle of the Lisbon Strategy - Council conclusions
On the 10th anniversary of the European Employment Strategy, the Council endorsed an Employment Committee Opinion (15207/07) and adopted the conclusions set out in 15813/07, on the future prospects for the European Employment Strategy in the context of the new cycle of the Lisbon Strategy.
It was also informed by the Social Protection Committee's Chair about the report on mutual interaction between the common social objectives of greater economic growth and more and better jobs.
Social services of general interest
Following the Commission communication accompanying the communication on "A single market for 21st century Europe" – “Services of general interest, including social services of general interest: a new European commitment”, the Council held a policy debate, focusing, in particular, on the following issues:
the contribution of a European framework to maximise the potential of social services in promoting social cohesion, employment, economic growth and specific issues that should be covered by any such framework;
the specific features and nature of social services of general interest (SSGI);
further steps to be taken at the European level in this field.
It was the first time that this topic was discussed at this level and work should proceed. Some of the ideas resulting from the debate might be summed up as follows:
social services of general interest play a major role in the member states in the social and economic sectors;
the organisation, financing, and territorial level of organisation of social services of general interest are very different from one member state to another. However, that diversity should not be an obstacle to the EU making a contribution to promoting social services of general interest. The open method of coordination has an important role to play in this respect.
The relevance of social services has been the object of Europe-wide debates1. It is clear that there is an increasing overall awareness of the specific characteristics, nature and decisive importance of SSGI, which must be taken into account at the European level, while respecting national institutional traditions and policy options.
In particular, debates about SSGI2 have highlighted the need to develop a coherent framework which is able to clearly define the founding elements, principles and scope of social services and their relationship to the broader framework of services of general interest and the internal market. This is precisely one of the main goals of the recent communication from the Commission3 on this topic.
A common understanding around such issues would be important for enhancing the role of social services at the European level, creating better conditions for supporting their quality, modernisation and adequacy in the future. The capacity for finding adequate and balanced solutions in this field would be crucial for successfully facing the new social risks and needs of EU citizens and the challenges faced by EU economies.
Coordination of social security systems
Content of Annex XI to Regulation (EC) No 883/2004
Pending the European Parliament opinions at first reading, the Council agreed on partial1 general approaches concerning unemployment and family benefits in draft Regulations that will:
a) implement Regulation (EC) No 883/20042 (15512/07), and
b) determine the content of its Annex XI (15514/07).
Regulation (EC) No 883/2004 was the first step in a process aimed at modernising and simplifying EU rules on the coordination of national social security systems, intended to allow EU citizens to move freely within Europe, while maintaining their rights to social security benefits (health, pensions, unemployment benefits, etc.). This process is being supplemented by the adoption of an implementing Regulation3, to replace Regulation (EEC) No 574/72 and of a Regulation which lays down provisions regarding specific aspects of individual member states' legislation, which will form the content of Annex XI to Regulation (EC) No 883/20044. Those proposals are currently under examination.
Owing to the complexity of the file, and in accordance with the approach already adopted in discussions on the basic Regulation, it has been decided to aim for agreement on a chapter-by-chapter basis: for now, agreement would concern Chapters V (Unemployment benefits) and VI (Family benefits) of Title III and Chapter II of Title IV (Reimbursement of unemployment benefits).
Legal basis proposed: Articles 42 and 308 of the Treaty – unanimity required for a Council decision; codecision with the European Parliament applicable.
Supplementary pension rights
The Council made progress towards reaching political agreement on a common position concerning a draft Directive regarding the minimum requirements for enhancing working mobility by improving the acquisition and preservation of supplementary pension rights (15515/07 ADD1, ADD3). However, following intensive discussions, it was recognised that the required unanimity could not be attained, certain issues remaining unsolved, in particular, the duration of the vesting period. Work on this file should continue under the forthcoming presidencies.
In a context where pension schemes established in the framework of an employment relationship –supplementary pension schemes – are becoming increasingly important for covering the risks of old age in the member states, the draft Directive aims to facilitate the free movement of workers, both between and within member states, by improving opportunities for those who change employers to acquire and preserve supplementary pension rights.
Legal basis proposed: Articles 42 and 94 of the Treaty – unanimity required for a Council decision; codecision procedure with the European Parliament applicable. The European Parliament delivered its opinion at first reading on 20 June 20071.
Active inclusion of people furthest from the labour market - Council conclusions
Following the Commission communication entitled "Modernising social protection for greater social justice and economic cohesion: taking forward the active inclusion of people furthest from the labour market", the Council adopted the conclusions set out in 15191/07.
Beijing platform for action - Council conclusions
The Council adopted the conclusions set out in documents 13947/07, on the review of implementation by the member states and the EU institutions of the Beijing platform for action, accompanied by indicators in respect of women and poverty, which is one of the 12 critical areas for action, and took note of the accompanying report by the Presidency (documents 13947/07 ADD1, 13947/07 ADD1 COR1).
Follow-up of the European Year of Equal Opportunities for All (2007)
The Council adopted the Resolution on the Follow-up of the European Year of Equal Opportunities for All (2007) set out in document 15383/07.
Balanced roles of women and men - Council conclusions
The Council adopted the conclusions on balanced roles of women and men for jobs, growth and social cohesion set out in 14136/07, 14136/07 COR1 .
MIGRATION, EMPLOYMENT AND LISBON STRATEGY
In the margins of the Council, Employment Ministers met Justice and Home Affairs Ministers for a policy debate on migration, employment and the Lisbon Strategy.
The debate focused on two main subjects:
Labour migration, integration into the labour market and the link to the Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs, and
Undeclared work and illegal employment as a pull factor for illegal immigration.
In the light of the debate, the Presidency concluded that:
there is a close link between migration, employment and the Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs. Well managed legal migration can continue to contribute to the realisation of the Lisbon Goals and should be aligned with skills shortages and labour market requirements;
work should now be taken forward on the proposed Directives on the admission of third country nationals for the purpose of highly qualified employment and on the single application procedure and a common set of rights for legally residing third country workers;
measures to promote integration are important, including in the area of skills and education and employment and social policies, as are the efforts of migrants themselves to integrate;
combating illegal employment of third country nationals and undeclared work is equally important and dissuasive sanctions and effective enforcement can contribute to this. Work should therefore also be taken forward on the Directive on sanctions against employers of illegally staying third country nationals and on the follow-up to the Commission's Communication on undeclared work.
Since the 1990s, positive net migration has become the largest component of population change in most Member States, reaching – over the last 5 years – a total of close to 2 million net migrants per annum across the EU.
Immigration flows towards Europe are not likely to diminish in the foreseeable future. The overall socio-economic context of the EU is increasingly characterised by skill and labour shortages (already noticeable in a number of sectors), competition for the highly skilled in an ever-more-globalising economy and accelerating demographic ageing of the European population, resulting in just a few years in the shrinking of the EU workforce.
As a follow-up to the 2005 Policy Plan on Legal Migration, the Commission submitted two legislative proposals on 23 October 2007: a Directive on the conditions of admission to the EU for highly-skilled workers and a Directive on the rights of legal immigrants in employment. These proposals are aimed respectively at making the EU attractive for an increasingly-needed category of workers and at ensuring that all third-country workers enjoy a comparable level of rights throughout the EU. The latter proposal also provides for a single application procedure with a view to obtaining a single permit encompassing both a residence and work permit. Three further proposals will be submitted in autumn 2008 and will cover the admission of seasonal workers, intra-corporate transferees and paid trainees.
The Commission also submitted a proposal for a Directive providing for sanctions against employers of illegally resident third-county nationals in May 2007. The aim is to ensure that all Member States introduce similar penalties for employers of such third-country nationals and enforce them effectively. It is proposed to require employers to undertake checks before recruiting a third-country national and to require Member States to conduct a minimum number of inspections of companies established in each Member State.
Health and Migration in the EU - Council conclusions
The Council held a policy debate on health and migration in the EU, focusing, in particular, on the following issues:
Integration of migrant's health issues into national policies, using the "Health in All Policies" approach;
Access to health care for migrants;
Paths already pursued by Member States; successes achieved and difficulties encountered;
Suggestions to sharing knowledge, relevant experience, good practice and lessons learnt on effective intervention.
At the end of the debate, it adopted the conclusions set out in 15609/07.
EU Health Strategy - Council conclusions
The Council held a policy debate on the Commission's White Paper "Together for health – a strategic approach for the EU, 2008-2013"1, focusing, in particular on the following issues:
EU Health Strategy’s priority themes and their reflection in the development and implementation of national health policy objectives;
Relevant experiences on priority setting, implementation and monitoring and their possible use for the implementation process of the EU Health Strategy;
Identification and implementation priority actions: role of the Member States and the Commission in this process.
At the end of the debate the Council adopted the conclusions set out in 15611/07.
Organ donation and transplantation - Council conclusions
Following the Commission communication "Organ donation and transplantation: policy actions at the EU level"1, the Council adopted the conclusions set out in 15332/07.
Strategy for Europe on nutrition, overweight and obesity - Council conclusions
Following a brief exchange of views welcoming the Strategy presented by the Commission in its White Paper and actions envisaged therein, the Council adopted the conclusions set out in 15612/07.
Combating HIV/AIDS within the EU and in neighbouring countries
The Council noted the progress report presented by the Presidency (doc. 15338/1/07).
This represents a follow up to initiatives taken by the German Presidency as part of the implementation of the Commission Communication, in particular the adoption of Council conclusions on 31 May 2007.
Information from the Presidency
Events organised during the Portuguese Presidency
(i) Conference of Experts on "Employability and Entrepreneurship – Gender Stereotypes" (3 and 4 October 2007) - 15971/07
(ii) Conference on "Trafficking in Human Beings and Gender" (8 and 9 October 2007) - 15972/07
(iii) 6th European Round Table on Poverty and Social Exclusion. Minimum Social Standards: a Strategy for Protection and Empowerment (16 and 17 October 2007) - 15973/07
(iv) ILO Forum on Decent Work for a Fair Globalization (31 October, 1 and 2 November 2007) - 15976/07
(v) Conference on "The Paths of Sustainability and the Reform of Pension Systems" (13 and 14 November 2007) - 15978/07
vi) Closing Conference of the European Year of Equal Opportunities for All - 2007 (19 20 November 2007) - 16012/07
Draft Council Resolution on new skills for new jobs (Education, Culture and Youth Council)
Information on the Presidency's Conferences on Health - 15781/07
Environment and Health - 15785/07
Information from the Commission
Communication from the Commission "Opportunities, access and solidarity: towards a new social vision for 21st century Europe" - 16052/07
Communication from the Commission – Outcome of the Public consultation on the Commission's Green Paper "Modernising labour law to meet the challenges of the 21st century" - 16053/07
Community framework on health services
Strategy on mental health for Europe - 15788/07
Health Security related maters - 15789/07
Commission's High Level Group on Health services and Medical care - 15790/07
Framework Convention on Tobacco Control - 15916/07
OTHER ITEMS APPROVED
Rue de la Loi 175 B – 1048 BRUSSELS Tel.: +32 (0)2 281 8716 / 6319 Fax: +32 (0)2 281 8026
16139/07 (Presse 284)