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Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council

Volume 506: debated on Friday 5 March 2010

The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council will be held on 8 March 2010 in Brussels. I shall represent the United Kingdom on all items.

The presidency will seek political agreement on a proposal for a Council directive which will implement a social partners’ framework agreement to protect hospital and healthcare workers at risk of injury and infection from medical ‘sharps’ (including needle sticks, scalpels and suture equipment). Most of the requirements are already covered in the UK by a combination of existing health and safety legislation and healthcare specific legislation, codes of practice and guidelines: the UK will agree to the proposal.

The main agenda item will be a Commission presentation, followed by a policy debate on the Commission Communication on EU 2020 (which replaces the Lisbon strategy) published on 3 March. The UK response to the preceding Commission Consultation on EU 2020—‘EU Compact for Jobs and Growth’—proposed creating new jobs and up-skilling or re-skilling the workforce as one of six priorities. I shall stress that the Employment and Social Policy Council must focus on active inclusion of those farthest from the labour market with ownership of the policy and responsibility for delivering results.

The presidency will seek adoption of the Joint Employment Report 2009-2010, and also the Joint Report on Social Protection and Social Inclusion 2010. These annual reports summarise evaluation of member states’ progress and the EU’s employment situation and also key lessons from member states under the open method of co-ordination for social protection and social inclusion. They also look ahead to further planned work. The UK is content.

The presidency will also seek adoption of Council conclusions on the eradication of violence against women, followed by an exchange of views. The UK Government have been working closely with European partners to support the work being progressed on tackling this issue at the European level and welcomes these conclusions.

There will also be an exchange of views, following a presentation by a delegation of Ministers for Research, on conclusions on European researchers’ mobility and careers adopted by the Competitiveness Council (internal market, industry and research). This item reflects work being undertaken under the banner of the European research area, which is designed to advance the so-called “Fifth Freedom”—the free movement of knowledge across Europe. One of its elements is work on researcher careers and mobility, intended to make research an attractive career option across Europe and promote cross-border mobility of researchers. The Competitiveness Council agreed conclusions on careers and mobility on 1 and 2 March; these include sections on social security and pensions issues and the intention is that some of the research Ministers involved will present the conclusions to EPSCO to raise the profile of these issues.

There will also be presentations from the Commission on the latest report on equality between women and men, which the UK welcomes, and also information from the presidency on preparation of the Tripartite Social Summit due to take place before the spring European Council.

Under any other business, the Chairs of the Employment Committee and the Social Protection Committee will give an oral presentation on their 2010 work programmes. There will also be information on conferences held under the Spanish presidency to date.